Over at some of the more conservatively inclined blogs, like Overlawyered, there’s some interesting discussion over whether conservative judge and jilted Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork betrayed his conservative principles by suing the Yale Club for $1 million (both compensatory and punitive damages) for injuries sustained following Bork’s fall from a dais a speaking event sponsored by the club. The discussion is interesting enough, but what captured my attention even more is Bork’s choice of representation: Randy Mastro, a partner at Gibson, Dunn . Indeed, Bork’s choice defies the advice of lawyer ranking systems like Avvo which advise clients to examine whether a lawyer has experience with cases similar to theirs. Mastro’s firm bio doesn’t indicate that he has any PI experience, and indeed, his Avvo rating is 6.5 (Apparently, the default ranking . Yet Bork chose Mastro anyway, which raises the question: Why?
The answer is easy. Because when clients choose lawyers, above all, they want someone who makes them feel comfortable, someone they know and believe they can rely on. I’m certain that Bork has some kind of relationship with Gibson, Dunn (through some kind of Ted Olson/former Solicitors’ club affiliation, if nothing else). And even though Gibson, Dunn apparently has no experience bringing personal injury cases, Bork has enough confidence in their work that he must believe that they’re up to the task.
So what does all of this mean for lawyer rating services like Avvo? That in spite of efforts to objectively rank lawyers, a lawyers’ ranking is probably the last thing that a client cares about in making a hire. Clients will choose lawyers based on
their expressed opinions or as in the Bork case, a personal relationship. I’ve been hired for both reasons (my writings and personal recommendations) myself. In both cases, I wasn’t necessarily the best lawyer for the job, but I was the right lawyer for the client. And at the end of the day, that’s what matters – and what we can’t lose sight of – when we market.