Best Lawyers, the U.S-based legal directory, has been around for more than 25 years, but a number of new initiatives in the last five years have significantly changed the company and raised its profile.
I caught up with co-founder Steven Naifeh recently to talk over some of the key developments.
US News & World Report Joint Venture
Best Lawyers’ tie-up with US News & World Report has been transformative.
The marriage combines US News’ long association with rankings, with Best Lawyers’ established name in the legal sector.
Launched in September 2010, the “Best Law Firms in America” survey quickly established itself as one of the most influential in the US market.
Many law firms, particularly larger ones, which previously did not engage much with Best Lawyers, now participate in the annual survey.
The survey requirements were somewhat onerous in the first two years but have slimmed down this year to ease the burden on law firm marketing staff.
New York: Moving Custom Publishing In-House
Arguably one of Best Lawyers’ boldest moves was to open an office in New York in 2011.
The South Carolina-based business had always operated from a single site in Aiken.
However, Best Lawyers decided to bring its custom publishing operation in-house after years of cooperating in a joint venture with ALM, the publishers of American Lawyer and Corporate Counsel.
Previously, Best Lawyers handed its research over to ALM, who packaged up its lists in inserts and supplements in legal, business and city magazines.
Advertising revenue was shared between the two partners.
Now Best Lawyers prepares its own custom publications, and has hired a sizeable team of production people.
What started off as a couple of sales people in a loft building in the trendy DUMBO section of Brooklyn (pictured) in 2011 has grown to almost 20 people involved in all aspects of magazine production.
Five years ago Best Lawyers was predominantly a U.S publication.
Canada was added to the mix in 2006 – its first international list.
Now the online site offers lawyers lists in 65 countries world-wide.
Kristen Greer is the key contact point for Best Lawyers’ international projects.
New Management Team
The new-look Best Lawyers management team is led by Elizabeth Petit, managing editor and director of research and development, and chief operating officer Phil Greer, the company’s former IT director.
Although he is still active in the business, co-founder Steve Naifeh is less involved day-to-day than in previous years.
After years in the works, he authored, along with fellow Best Lawyers co-founder Gregory White Smith, the definitive biography of the artist Vincent Van Gogh.
The book was published in October 2011, followed by a comprehensive round of promotional tours and public appearances.
Staying on the same theme, The Columbia Museum of Art in South Carolina begins an exhibition next week of Naifeh’s paintings and sculpture.
[Disclosure: I spent six months consulting for Best Lawyers in 2008. I worked on the development of the US News survey, and the expansion of Best Lawyers in Europe]
Tamara Bergstrom says
Thanks for the info, Lloyd. I’m one of those marketers who appreciates the “slimmed down” requirements this year. I was unaware of Steven’s background in the art world and as an author. Fascinating!
Lloyd Pearson says
Thanks for your comment, Tara. Yes, there’s an inspiring backstory at Best Lawyers. I’ve always admired that Steve Naifeh was a legal publishing pioneer (forming Best Lawyers in the 1980s, and before that, Best Doctors) but at the same time pursued a parallel career in art history and literature. It’s some achievement. Regards. Lloyd.