IP Rankings, Credential or Kiss of Death?

In the IP Legal World Top Ten Lists are a staple of a culture obsessed with ranking. The IP legal world (patent attorneys, IP trial lawyers and their European counterparts) are used to do whatever it takes to show up on Top Lists of Best This And That, simply to stay competitive, to be known and, most of all, to get recognition from peers. Whether customers in fact choose any of their IP counsel by exclusively relying on those Top Whatever Lists is, as far as we know, the Big Unknown. Surely, many corporate counsel will check whether their choice who to represent them is also highly ranked in the Top Whatever Lists by peers in the legal industry. But will they make their final choice exclusively based on those “guide” rankings?

Publishing houses have, over the years, been shrewdly exploiting the highly competitive market for legal services and the hunt for recognition. No profession is so profoundly driven by rankings as the IP litigation oriented legal profession. Thanks to publishers, Europe did a good catch up with their US counterparts. These list flourish as we can see from the listings below (however, none of the legal competition lists ever made it to TIME’s “ Top 10 Everything”. Here is a selection of Top Lists for IP attorneys and IP law schools:

  • Legal 500 (best legal services providers per country, worldwide)

Among IP management firms, IP brokers and other organizations at the “other” – non legal – side of the IP market, such rankings and hunts for Eternal Fame are still rare. That seems to change as well, as the “monetizing community” is growing so publishers see a new market for their how-to-out-qualify-your-competitor-by ranking publications. However, Intellectual Asset Magazine (IAM) recently joined the Top Lists business with The World’s Leading IP Strategists.

It remains to be seen what the real value is of being mentioned in various rankings. Some of the “ranking” chasers seem to be the same guys that try to get as many “connections” on networking sites like LinkedIn. It is mainly a peer-to-peer comparison tool rather than an informative tool for anyone seeking either IP legal or consultancy advice or even experience. What does a ranking by a well known publisher in fact mean for the “customer”?

Maybe we would be better of having forced rankings. Forced ranking is a controversial workforce management tool that uses intense yearly evaluations to identify a company’s best and worst performing employees, using person-to-person comparisons. But that would require a DIN norm for “best quality” and that’s where it all will go wrong.

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