The Best Of The Best 2019

Peer review method highlights established experts in major practice areas

Each year, Law Week covers the three major attorney rankings: Super Lawyers, Chambers USA and Best Lawyers. For attorneys, these lists are often viewed as a crucial marketing tool to get their name out to potential clients and to establish their reputation. But for us at Law Week, they are useful to establish a picture of who has clout around town.

For instance, when our staff is looking into a new subject and our internal source lists don’t turn up the right person for it, these rankings do actually help us determine whom to talk to from a particular practice area.

Part of the reason for that is because of the rankings’ research methods; although Best Lawyers researchers don’t have the boots-on-the-ground view that Law Week’s reporters might, Best Lawyers builds its list with the help of other attorneys who might be working side-by-side or across the table with the attorneys.

Best Lawyers is based on peer review to build its list of attorneys. The ranking relies on other attorneys to give a snapshot of who attorneys trust for client referrals, who they respect on the other side of a case or who they would rely on for co-counsel. The idea of using peer review to establish a ranking essentially creates a Rolodex of big-name attorneys in a geographic region. 

Once the peer reviews roll in to the ranking company, it reviews the results and Best Lawyers comes up with its list of attorneys who have established themselves in an area. It specifically looks to build a list of lawyers who have been practicing 10 or more years in order to have a list of established attorneys. Paired with the peer review, the outcome is a group of lawyers whose names carry some weight in the community.

After meeting with the former Best Lawyers editor, Meredith Hinshaw-Chaney last fall, I had the chance to discuss how the publication uses its Rolodex appeal to connect attorneys with clients. Those referrals from other attorneys can be a useful tool for corporate counsel as well. 

In separating itself from the other rankings, Best Lawyers does away with any other strata within its listing; there is no Top 10 or recognition for young attorneys. There are no qualifiers, so the distinction indicates a stamp of approval for any attorney with the only other distinction being its Lawyers of the Year — the one attorney in any practice group who stands out with the best peer review. 

As a differentiator, Super Lawyers takes a more by-the-numbers approach by giving its accolade to the top 5 percent of attorneys in a geographic region and indicating a Top 10 among all of those. Chambers conducts independent research and develops a listing of “bands” of law firms and attorneys for each practice area. In comparison, Best Lawyers seems almost egalitarian instead; with the exception of the Lawyers of the Year, attorneys are simply on the Best Lawyers list or they are not. 

In looking at the list, it’s interesting to see the breakdown of practice areas; some are dominated by a single firm while others are spread out. In the following pages, we skip the list itself — for that, you’ll have to visit Best Lawyers or see for our recognition for firms that shared their news with us — and instead we dive into some of the practice areas that stand out in Colorado. 

For instance, the growth of the intellectual property practice in the region in recent years caught our attention, as did other practice areas that have a strong Colorado presence, such as oil and gas — for obvious reasons, water law — which thrives in the West and not many places elsewhere, and construction law — which might seem to be bustling with Colorado’s growth lately but has a long history of tricky construction projects and legislative developments. For each of these practice areas, we talked with some of the attorneys who have built their reputations up and received the Best Lawyers recognition this year and found out what it takes to succeed in their area of the law. 

— Tony Flesor

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