White Paper: What Makes a Star Lawyer?

Topics: Diversity, Law Firm Profitability, Law Firms, Reports & White Papers, Surveys, Talent Development, Women’s Leadership Interviews & White Papers

Star Lawyer

What makes a star lawyer? Or more precisely, what attributes does a lawyer need to possess to be considered by his or her clients to be a star?

The attributes that a star lawyer must possess are discussed in a new white paper, “What Makes a Star Lawyer?” by Lisa Hart Shepherd, CEO and founder of Acritas Research Ltd.

In a new survey conducted by Acritas, respondents — most often general counsel — were asked whether they had worked with any standout lawyers in the previous year and then asked to give the reasons why they were considered exceptional.

Acritas’ CEO & Founder Lisa Hart Shepherd

The qualities most attributed to star lawyers by their clients can change across different work types; and there also appears to be a difference in what law firms see as star qualities in their lawyers to what clients see, according to the survey, which is described at length in this white paper.

Click here to download a copy of the white paper, “What Makes a Star Lawyer?”

The survey also showed that some attributes identified as star qualities can also change depending on the gender of the client identifying the star — female clients pay more attention to commerciality and responsiveness, whereas male clients focus more on the lawyer’s core expertise.


Star lawyers reflect many of the reasons why clients favor some law firms, with one key difference; the ability to be commercial is much more at the forefront. As within law firms, the core product of expertise is the most common reason people identify star lawyers — those who are seen as excellent within their field. But it is the ability to be commercial and all that entails which differentiates individual star lawyer qualities from firm qualities.

Like all lawyers, star lawyers also must have legal competence — they are subject matter experts, their experience has generated deep knowledge and understanding of their field, and they have strong legal ability. Whilst many good lawyers have these abilities, some star lawyers are seen to be the best in their specific field.