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All content by Kyle E. Mitchell, who is not your lawyer.

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I’ll Never Be a Super LawyerIn feigned ignorance there is no grace.

I’ll never be a “Super Lawyer”, a “Rising Star”, or any such thing. Three reasons.

First, the megaton legal publishing conglomerates, Thomson Reuters and RELX (formerly Reed Elsevier), run nearly all the lawyerly “Who’s Who” programs. Those companies have conspired, by means fair and foul, to keep American court decisions, regulations, and statutory law behind paywalls for decades. I won’t have anything to do with them.

Not every lawyer is so involved in the nuts and bolts of legal publishing, legal data, and distribution, or so primed to understand their implications. But I am. Armed with that knowledge, open access becomes a clear moral imperative for the profession in my lifetime. I can’t abide affiliation with its principle opponents.

Second, while reputation is mine to earn, it’s my clients’ to keep. Genuine statements of appreciation from them are my best moments in practice. I depend on my clients for my livelihood, a good name, and future prospects. That is more than enough. I won’t dilute the immediacy of those relationships with sycophancy or membership in any club, and certainly not with the follow-on “professional marketing” services hocked by the officiating vendors. I’m no “lawyers’ lawyer”, and certainly no “vendors’ lawyer”. It’s “clients’ lawyer” or bust.

Last, I sense in these programs the long shadow of the rankings, hiring cutoffs, and other artificial orderings that are the sad, guilty obsession of the legal profession. It’s a tangled web of insularity and expedience, and it contributes to the uneven outcomes and depression of many who might otherwise blossom in the law. Women, cultural and ethnic minorities, nonnative speakers of English, gays, those of humble beginnings, and others not so well entrenched in the culture can and do provide fine client service, especially to the majority of clients likewise alienated by how law looks and acts. Prejudgment by anyone but clients and for any reason but quality of client service only invites the kind of subtle self-selection that inspires so much collective hand wringing, and so little effective action, by the bar.

I’m not righteous; I’m not even wholly reformed. God knows I’ve benefited by imposed pecking orders in the past, from the rank of my law school to law review and the name of the Big Law firm I joined out of law school. I’m proud to have worked my ass off for as long I can remember, and proud of the hits I’ve taken to keep good conscience along the way. Anything more’s no source of pride.

It could all come crashing down tomorrow. And I fully expect I’ll end up desperate for some cheap publicity at some point down the line. But a bit of cheap publicity ain’t a high price for integrity, at least in my situation. Would that integrity always came so cheap.

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