For early-career attorneys, the Super Lawyers’ Rising Stars distinction can help build their reputations with name recognition. Attorneys with years of experience can land on the Rising Stars list, because the honor goes to attorneys under 40 or in their first 10 years of practice.
“Super Lawyers, I think, has been branded so well that people know what that means,” said Broxterman Alicks McFarlane co-founder Kyle McFarlane. “Not just lawyers, but I think laypeople understand if you’re a Super Lawyer, that means something.” Her co-founders, Margot Alicks and Heather Broxterman, are also on this year’s Rising Stars list.
Attorneys said the peer-reviewed nature of Super Lawyers carries weight. “You work hard every day, you want to do right by your clients, but you never really know how you’re doing,” said Drew Unthank, a litigator at Wheeler Trigg O’Donnell in his 13th year of practice who has received the Rising Stars distinction each year since 2011. “There’s just that adversarial nature of everything that we do, and so to be recognized as somebody who’s leading their peers in that area and is somebody who’s delivering excellent results for their cli- ents, it’s just hugely rewarding to me.”
For this year’s class of Rising Stars, Law Week talked with a few Colorado attorneys named to the list about their practices, ranging from commercial litigation to family law, and how they think about client satisfaction as separate from the outcome of a case.
The attorneys had a range of insights on how they think about performing well for clients in ways separate from how the cases turn out. Unthank said he’s always asking himself whether he’s considered all possible angles and counter-arguments in a case.
“Regardless of the outcome, if I’m not surprised by what happens in the case, that’s when I know I’ve done a good job for my client,” he said. “Because our job is to make sure that we are anticipating all of the potential is- sues that we may have to deal with, and devising strategies to help neutralize them as best we can.”
As a family law attorney, McFarlane has to play a distinctive role for her clients because cases tend to carry so much emotional charge. She said she at times ends up acting as their therapist as much as their attorney, and it’s important to help them understand what’s worth fighting for.
“Sometimes people are so caught up in the emotions … that they can’t see the big picture,” McFarlane said. “So we oftentimes have to be good therapists in telling them the reality of the situation, and what their life is go- ing to look like in five years, and how they’re going to feel in five years about the actions that they take.”
The exact combinations of criteria that put attorneys on the Super Law- yers list is something of a black box. But young attorneys earning the Rising Stars distinction have an array of intangibles in addition to their regular practices to set them apart.
Wheeler Trigg O’Donnell associate CiCi Cheng stays involved with the legal community and she said young lawyers may underestimate how name recognition can come from getting involved.
“It builds on itself, and I think that’s part of my strategic thinking about my career too,” she said. “It’s also really fun to get out in the community.”