Back in 2007, when local attorney William G. Schwab was the first Super Lawyer to be named from Carbon County, he was floored.
"I thought to myself, 'how could anyone pick me, why am I so special?'" he said.
Then he was named again in 2009.
And for a third time earlier this year.
Needless to say, Schwab no longer questions the selection committee's judgment.
"It's kind of unusual coming from a small area and still being named," he said. "I think it talks a lot about our professionalism and our depth in handling cases."
Super Lawyers is a directory of attorneys from all across the United States that have garnered significant recognition from their colleagues, in addition to other high levels of achievement. Each year, lawyers from more than 70 practice areas nationwide are nominated through one of three ways: formally by other accredited lawyers, through the Super Lawyers research program called "Star Search" or informally by clients, readers and anyone else that feels he or she is worthy of the accolade.
The Super Lawyers research department then combs through the scores of nominations, grading the lawyers based on a series of criteria, including experience, verdicts and settlements and representative clients. During the final stage, the lawyers with the top scores are judged by other high-ranking attorneys from their area.
"There are a lot of rating services out there," Schwab said, "but this is one that is totally pure. Only other attorneys are able to make the final decision."
When all is said and done, only five percent of the original lawyers from each state are left. These exemplary men and women are listed in the Super Lawyers printed supplement, which is featured in most major newspapers and magazines.
If nothing else, this national publicity has earned Schwab respect from his big-city peers.
"When I deal with larger firms now, I get a different level of respect than I used to," he said. "They see me as somebody they can't push around or hoodwink."
"I think a lot of times, small town lawyers are seen as easy to manipulate by the metropolitan firms, and that shouldn't be the case. Some of the best lawyers I know come from small areas."
But Schwab isn't sitting back and resting on his laurels. Currently, he is in the middle of his first Supreme Court case, one that has the distinction of having the longest pending decision this term.
The case deals with a dispute over the right to claim property in exemption and how to properly read the bankruptcy code. Although the case was first heard in front of the Supreme Court last May, the decision has been pending since November.
"Previously, the decision was split between 30 other courts," Schwab said. "We hope the Supreme Court will be the final step, but it's been discussed so much, I doubt a unanimous decision is possible. Still, it's been a fabulous experience."
There is one thing, however, that needs no deliberation: After 34 years, Schwab still loves his job.
"Every day is exciting for me. Every day presents a new problem," he said. "I can't imagine doing anything else."