Lawdragon, a legal media company based in New York, is best known for 500 Leading Lawyers in America, an annual list which it claims is “the most elite guide in the profession.” The company publishes the list each year in its print and digital magazine (the appropriately named Lawdragon Magazine) and an online guide. The ranking is open to all lawyers in all practice areas, including in-house counsel.
Lawdragon also publishes Legends of the 500, a list of attorneys who have been ranked in Leading Lawyers at least 10 times, and the Lawdragon Hall of Fame, a list of past Leading Lawyers who have made “remarkable contributions to the profession.” Additionally, the company recently rebooted its list of 100 Leading Legal Consultants and Strategists, and it publishes the Most Powerful Employment Lawyers in partnership with Human Resource Executive Magazine.
Among these rankings, 500 Leading Lawyers in America is Lawdragon’s most popular offering, and for good reason: it’s a valid award that does carry some weight.
Why You Should Apply (And Why You Shouldn’t)
Even though Leading Lawyers is quite similar to Super Lawyers in terms of how lawyers are ranked, Leading Lawyers hasn’t attracted the same ire that Super Lawyers gets from the legal industry. And to the average consumer, 500 Leading Lawyers seems legitimate—because, for the most part, it is.
Although Lawdragon sells paid online profiles and marketing materials, the application process is free, and nominees are not expected to make a purchase to be considered. This is by no means a pay-to-play scam, and the judging process seems like a genuine attempt to identify the best lawyers.
Still, the lesser-known Lawdragon name may not mean as much to the average person. For better or worse, most consumers recognize larger brand names like “Best Lawyers in America.” And of course, if you’re uncomfortable being recognized by a company that essentially created a ranking system as a way to sell marketing materials, the Lawdragon 500 isn’t the award for you (but then again, neither are most awards).
Lawdragon 500 Award Overview
Applications Due (typically): Applications are usually due in the fall, sometime in September or October.
Recipients Notified (typically): Lawdragon finalizes its list and notifies winners around January. The list is made public in March.
Award Recipients: Lawdragon lists individuals rather than firms. There is no rule against multiple attorneys from the same firm applying, and it’s not uncommon for a dozen or more attorneys from the same large firm to be selected. Interestingly, Lawdragon is one of the few awards that accepts submissions from in-house counsel, academics, U.S. attorneys, and even judges (including Supreme Court Justices, several of whom have made the list multiple times).
Annual Award: Yes, this is an annual award that lawyers can apply for every year, even if they’ve been selected previously.
Estimated Cost: There is no application fee, though Lawdragon does offer an array of paid marketing options for winners.
Award Recognition Promotion Options:
- Newsletter/Digital Magazine Inclusion: Yes
- Physical Magazine promotions: Yes
- Plaques: No
- Physical Awards: No
- Press Release Options: No
- Directory Inclusion: No
- Additional Advertising Options: Yes, there are advertising options available in Lawdragon Magazine and content marketing options available through the Lawdragon Press division.
- Branded Bragging rights: Yes, you can pay a $500 fee for the use of a digital Lawdragon logo.
- Expertise: Lawdragon is vague about eligibility requirements. They simply seek out lawyers who have done outstanding work in their area of expertise in the last year. The Lawdragon 500 includes lawyers doing every type of work imaginable, so it’s a safe bet that you are eligible to apply.
- Years of Legal Experience: Again, Lawdragon doesn’t specify a requirement, but most recipients have established careers with 10 or more years of experience.
- Limit on # of Attorneys Nominated from Firm?: No, there is no limit on the number of lawyers from the same firm who can apply.
- Case Results/Outcomes? Applicants should include examples of recent victories in their nominations, but “victories” is open to interpretation. Lawdragon doesn’t specify a minimum number of cases or type of outcome.
- Recommendations/Nominations? You do not need to be nominated to submit an application, and self-nominations are accepted. You don’t need to include a list of references, but Lawdragon judges may speak to people in your circle during the investigation process.
How to Win
Lawdragon judges base their selections on their own research, written submissions, and comments and recommendations from peers. The company says the decision is based mostly on their independent research, but don’t downplay the written application—it might be the factor that puts you over the edge.
The bulk of the application is a short essay that should focus on your recent achievements and career highlights. Don’t be afraid to punch up your essay with some descriptive language—this isn’t an overly formal application, and an essay that’s interesting to read will stick out in the judges’ minds. Be careful not to fill your application with meaningless fluff, however. It should still clearly explain your accomplishments, recent cases, and (most importantly) why they’re significant.
The Bottom Line
Lawdragon 500 Leading Lawyers in America is a legitimate national award that flies under the radar of Super Lawyers, which has benefits and drawbacks. You should apply if you have some juicy recent cases or accomplishments you can include in your application (and if you don’t mind being badgered to supplement your win with paid marketing materials).