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Best, top, or super lawyer designation in Montgomery County, Maryland

The second most deceptive marketing technique used by attorneys is the use of the designation of best, top, or super lawyer in Montgomery County, Maryland, as determined by a local magazine or an advertising insert.  These rating guides attempt to identify the best or top lawyers in Montgomery County, Maryland in various practice areas, including family law, business law, personal injury, civil litigation, criminal, trials, and appeals.  There is no scientific validity to the selection and rating process used to identify these so-called best or top lawyers in Montgomery County, Maryland.  In fact, these rating guides usually contain a disclaimer stating the same.

The disclaimer in the 2012 edition of Super Lawyers magazine for Maryland candidly states: “THE HIRING OF AN ATTORNEY IS AN IMPORTANT DECISION THAT SHOULD NOT BE SOLELY BASED UPON ADVERTISING OR THE LISTINGS IN THIS MAGAZINE.  NO REPRESENTATION IS MADE THAT THE QUALITY OF THE LEGAL SERVICES PERFORMED BY THE ATTORNEYS LISTED IN THIS MAGAZINE WILL BE GREATER THAN THAT OF OTHER LICENSED ATTORNEYS”.

Unlike the ranking of colleges or the quality of life in different cities, there is no objective criteria to rate lawyers.  At most, the designation of top, best, or super lawyer signifies that the attorney has obtained some degree of popularity in Montgomery County, Maryland.  But you wouldn’t want to choose a football league’s MVP based upon the player’s popularity.  Instead, you would want to award this honor to the player who had the best season based upon measurable metrics, such as touchdowns thrown, points scored, passes caught, or yards gained.

In fact, the use of the designation of “best attorney” or “top lawyer” in advertising actually violates Rule 7.1(c) of the Maryland Lawyers’ Rules of Profession Conduct.  This rule prohibits an attorney from comparing “the lawyer’s services with other lawyers’ services, unless the comparison can be factually substantiated”.  According to Maryland Bar Counsel, a Maryland attorney should never use superlatives, such as “top”, “super”, “premier”, “best”, “most aggressive”, or “most successful”, because “it is almost impossible for the lawyer to factually substantiate” such claims.  My advice to clients is to disregard all print and internet advertising that claims that the attorney is the “best”, “top”, “greatest”, or “most” when searching for an attorney in Montgomery County, Maryland.

Articles
Article by Stewart A. Sutton featured in the Maryland Bar Journal:
Emotional Distress Damages - Recoverable in Legal Malpractice Actions
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Law Office of Stewart Andrew Sutton, LLC
8 Executive Park Court
Germantown, Maryland 20874
Telephone: 301-916-5000
Fax: 301-916-1201
E-Mail: stewart@stewartsutton.com

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