Q: Our lawyers were invited into Best Lawyers and Who's Who. Are those good?
A: "Best Lawyers" is credible and, in my experience, the people who are selected generally belong there. Pick a practice area in your city where you know the names of the major players and I think you'll find that many of them in Best Lawyers. And in my experience, it's also a bit of a club -- where they occasionally use the books to refer business to each other in far-flung cities. Lawyers who are in it are generally very proud of having been selected.
However -- I believe that most of the "Who's Who" directories are just simple mailing lists with fancy titles -- if you fill out the form, you're in.
They want you to be in because they sell the data of the people on their lists. Therefore, more "honorees" means more money for them. (In other words, you're simply signing up to receive more junk mail.)
The "screening" process typically involves a high-pressure salesperson calling to ask whether you want the $200 wood wall plaque OR the $250 leather-bound volume that contains your name somewhere inside.
Further, I recall reading that the creator of the first "Who's Who" publication failed to protect the title, so absolutely anyone can create their own volume and call it a "Who's Who."
There's no real "honor" associated with the Who's Who series.
The problem for marketers is that few lawyers seem to know this, which means that many of them want to add this faux honor to their resumes.
The graphics illustrating this post are actual clips from the biography of a guy I know, one of the nation's leading experts in a law-related industry. He's an extraordinary professional with a prominent practice. And his biography includes three entire pages of miscellaneous Who's Who entries. (And he wonders why he gets so much SPAM.)
A recent former American Bar Association president currently displays two separate Who's Who listings on his firm's website biography. He's led a powerful 400,000-member association, yet wastes space and credibility showcasing a meaningless accolade.
As marketers we must explain this without embarrassing them.
It might be OK if your child wants to get selected for Who's Who Among Third Graders or whatever but, frankly, for high-level professionals, I think listing a Who's Who directory on their resume or biography makes them look dim.
My answer might be different for lawyers who have a personal injury, divorce, or other less-sophisticated lay-consumer audience. In those situations, these non-credentials may be used to suggest professional expertise. That is, you might want to hold your nose, fill out the form, get selected, use it in your marketing, and deal with the junk mail. Heck, go ahead and buy the plaque and trophy for your reception area. Bring another one home to temporarily impress the kids.
A number of years ago, just to double-check, we filled out the form and our 22-year-old secretary was promptly selected for Who's Who in the World or something like that.