Essentially an AV rating for a law firm is all about the legal ability rating of the firm and it is a serious rating that indicates the ethical standards of the law firm and its professional excellence.
Achieving an AV rating is therefore prestigious – and sought after. Given that most new clients check law firm or lawyer reviews before retaining a lawyer, the lawyer ratings are exceptionally important.
And the Martindale-Hubbell AV rating, Peer Review system is one of the most prestigious given the Martindale-Hubbell certification procedures, which comprehensively examines the lawyer’s discharge of professional responsibilities, professional standards of conduct and achieving the overall height of professional achievement, it is a valuable tool for any lawyer (and their law firm) to have in their law marketing arsenal.
Fewer than five per cent of lawyers in the US receive an ‘AV Preeminent’ rating, which is the highest level of professional excellence and provided by the legal peers.
It takes into account factors such as not only professional standards and general ethical standards rating, but also reliability, diligence and professional competence.
What Does ‘AV’ Stand For?
The peer rating system is based on high ethical standards, assessed by members of the legal community. The ‘V’ in the rating standards for ‘very high’. Once endorsed, the rating can be A, B or C.
Thus, an AV rating or an ‘AV Preeminent’ rating is the highest available and is a highly prestigious rating.
The attorney must have 10 years’ experience to achieve a rating, but with an AV attorney rating the lawyer is ranked as having high integrity and skill.
A ‘BV’ rating would be for a ‘distinguished’ attorney with considerable skill, while a ‘CV’ rating is above average skill – which is like a stepping stone towards the AV rating, or the AV preeminent rating, being the highest rating.
In 2017 Martindale Hubbell also introduced a new, ‘client champion’ award that set out three different award levels, based upon the client reviews and described by the company as follows –
Platinum: Has received at least 10 client reviews and maintains and average client rating of 4.5 or higher.
Gold: Has received at least 6 client reviews and maintains and average client rating of 4.2 or higher.
Silver: Has received at least 3 client reviews and maintains and average client rating of 4.0 or higher.
Client Reviewed: At least one client review.
Right back at the end of the 19th century, going back in fact to 1887, Martindale-Hubbell developed a peer-review system which permitted attorneys to be reviewed by other attorneys on a confidential yet objective basis using confidential questionnaires.
The point was to create the trust necessary to establish a system that identified attorneys trusted by their peers, which in turn meant they were attorneys who could be trusted – and used – by clients.
The moves to establish a credible and authoritative rating system was a significant rating accomplishment. It does not involve Martindale-Hubbell making their own judgments, but rather facilitating the peer ratings that have the necessary authority to permit people to know more about the lawyers they may be retaining for specific fields of law or for any legal advice.
The ratings apply to law firms in the United States and Canada.
The AV rating is intended to demonstrate publicly that the attorney has reached the heights of professional excellence and will typically involve lawyers who have practiced for many years with appropriate recognition of their ethical and professional standing, which involves a high level of legal knowledge and high ethics.
How To Become An AV Rated Law Firm
The ratings apply to lawyers, rather than firms, but the rating for an attorney will clearly have a benefit for his or her law firm.
To obtain the rating it is necessary to by applying to Martindale-Hubbell for the rating. They also require the attorney or firm to have a profile on the Martindale-Hubbell website and for attorneys to have been admitted to the bar for at least three years. However the initial rating will normally occur after five years’ Bar admission.
The legal ability rating assessed as part of the process are based upon those solicited, confidential opinions from members of the Bar and the Judiciary and will include those who are rated and those who have no rating.
Martindale-Hubbell then assess the opinions they have, which may sometimes involve obtaining professional references and other third party input to arrive at the final rating.
The concept is to monitor the career of the attorney over their career to ensure the rating reflects the highest level of professional excellence of the rated attorney. Clearly the law firms involved will achieve appropriate ‘reflected glory’ from av rated attorneys within the firm.
The evaluation of the particular attorney will be under reasonably regular review, including the situation where there may be some question arising regarding professional ethics that is brought to the attention of Martindale-Hubbell representatives. This includes information sent to Martindale-Hubbell by Law Society or Bar authorities regarding attorneys.
The Key Components of The AV Rating
The legal ability rating will look at the attorney’s professional skill and ability, looking at the specific area of practice along with ethical standards.
Many senior lawyers (which is most lawyers who are qualified for the av ratings) will have specific practice areas and the peer review ratings will be based on their abilities and knowledge in those areas.
The ratings used by Martindale-Hubbell law directory include a range of five factors taken from lawyer’s peers, from legal knowledge, analytical capabilities, communication ability, judgment and legal experience.
What Are The AV Ratings Themselves?
The ratings range from A to C, which range from the highest (A), for very high or preeminent standing, to high to very high standing (B) and then from good to high rating (C).
The General Ethical Standards Rating relates to the attorney’s ethics and overall standing, including questions that will be asked about reliability, diligence and the overall manner in which an attorney handles his or her professional responsibilities and roles.
The general recommendation rating is V, which is very high. The Legal Ability Rating will not be given unless the lawyer has been endorsed for ‘V’.
Once the General Ethical Standards rating and the overall rating under the Peer Review Ratings are confirmed the lawyer will receive the ‘V’ endorsement the lawyer will receive either a CV, BV or AV rating.
The pinnacle is the AV Peer Review Rating, which is the AV certification for top ranking showing the lawyer has achieved the highest level of professional excellence and competence. These are the people with preeminent legal ability and the highest ethical standards.
The initial peer rating is the CV Peer Review Rating, which is the initial rating showing ability that is above average and excellent ethics. It is also the highest achievement for more recently admitted lawyers who have been admitted in the 3 to 4 years period.
The BV Peer Review Rating is an excellent rating for lawyers more experience than the CV ratings and applies to lawyers admitted to the bar in the 5 to nine year period who have shown their legal abilities and their high standard of professional ability and ethics.
How Does a Firm Acquire AV Rating Status
A law firm will qualify for av rating status even though the ratings apply to the individual lawyer and the lawyer’s practice, rather than the firm itself.
But the law firm can achieve AV rating status by virtue of having an AV rated attorney within the firm, displaying the lawyer’s expertise and superior ethics.