Rising Stars Useful as a Marketing Tool for Young Attorneys

Attorneys say listings help build a brand and develop a practice

For many early-career attorneys, partnership is the ultimate goal. And reaching that involves building a book of business and making a name for one’s self. The Rising Stars ranking from Super Lawyers is seen as a big help along the way.

Thomson Reuters awards its Rising Stars recognition to 2.5% of attorneys under 40 or who have been practicing 10 years or less. The distinction is typically seen as going to up-and-comers in their practice areas. And for attorneys in that group — who are often still on their way to becoming partner and building that book of business — that recognition carries some weight.

Among law firms, ranking submissions are seen as a necessary task — many in the legal profession might see submissions as not worth the return on investment. A Legal Marketing Association white paper from 2016 found that most law firms thought the return on investment on submissions was under 10%. And yet law firms continue to participate.

Younger attorneys might be in the group most advantaged by rankings like Super Lawyers, and they say it’s a boon for them when seeking partnership or trying to collect other accolades to make a name for themselves.

Super Lawyers builds its list through nominations and peer review. Many attorneys interviewed by Law Week for this issue say that the peer reviewed aspect is important — being recognized by other lawyers shows that they’ve earned their reputation.

“Rising Stars is one of the first opportunities for practitioners in their first 10 years or so to truly be recognized publicly as being judged among their peers as one of best coming up in the profession. It’s meant a lot to me personally to be included on that list,” said Karam Saab, a partner at Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton who has been on the Rising Stars list for several years and appears on it again in 2020. 

“I look at that list and see a lot of people I went to school with at CU and know they earned the recognition too, knowing their character and abilities.”

Chris Johnson, an associate at Armstrong Teasdale, agreed that the recognition is useful for young attorneys. “There are not a lot of peer-reviewed recognitions that are open to folks at the associate level,” he said. “Having something like this, that is peer reviewed and independently researched, is helpful in distinguishing yourself. Especially in a competitive market like Denver, which was competitive even before recent economic developments. Now in the current climate, any means of distinguishing yourself is important.”

Both attorneys said it’s crucial to have a recognition like the Rising Stars to market themselves and stand out. 

Saab practices in patent prosecution and works with individuals and large companies seeking to secure patent protections. He works with cutting edge technology and software such as Internet of Things devices, automation, battery technology and AI innovations. Some of his clients are individuals who are hiring intellectual property counsel for the first time in their career. He said the first stop for many people in that position is searching the Internet for “who’s known, who’s talking and who’s been given awards.” 

Many people might initially be looking for an attorney who is older and has a longer history. “Something like Rising Stars establishes that these younger people coming up have the skill set they can use to help these clients,” he said. “Certainly, I’ve had clients from smaller companies note that I’ve obtained Rising Stars after seeing the published list. … Some people are reviewing, seeing and using it to help make decisions.”

He said credentials like Rising Stars can help younger attorneys who are just coming up show that they know what they’re doing and shift clients from only searching for older attorneys and giving younger attorneys a look.

Johnson similarly said that Rising Stars helps attorneys build a personal brand and describes it as a helpful “feather in the cap.” He has been at Armstrong Teasdale since last year but has worked in corporate and business law for about eight years; he’s been on the Rising Stars list since 2017. He described his practice as representing large and small businesses in all phases of the life cycle, including formation and entity selection, capital raises, commercial transactions, financing, M&A and exit strategies.

Rising Stars is helpful for credibility as well as to gain other recognitions down the line that might be more partner-focused. “Having that on your resume goes a long way down the road as well.”

— Tony Flesor

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