In the first of our series of interviews with the Editors of the main legal directories, we spoke to Legal 500 Asia-Pacific Editor Hayley Eustace about the key things firms need to know about the research process. Thanks again to Hayley for her time. We’re looking forward to getting started on Legal 500 submissions again with these points in mind.
Q: What do you see as the main trends in the legal markets across Asia Pacific? Can we generalise about common trends across the continent?
A: In many ways it is hard to generalise such a diverse and extensive geographic region, but there are definitely key themes that run throughout Asia Pacific. Economic growth (whether it be in developing or developed countries), legal market liberalisation, influx of foreign law firms and price competition are the main trends that I see. You could link the last three to countries becoming more and more saturated with firms looking to expand market share.
Q: Why should firms take the time to participate in the research process? What is in it for them?
A: Firms stand a better chance of moving up the rankings or maintaining a ranking if they submit. Without a submission or evidence of recent work, it’s more difficult for us to fairly reflect the strengths of a practice. Also, whether you love us or loathe us, clients do read our editorial and rankings, so if law firms care what clients think about them, they should care about the directories!
Q: What about the research team? Who makes the key ranking decisions?
A: Researchers conduct market analysis and interviews independently, but every change to the rankings needs to be explained and justified by the researcher in their report. At the editing stage, the editor will then approve the ranking decision or request further discussion with / analysis from the researcher.
Q: Legal 500 seems to employ researchers with a range of backgrounds. How do you ensure that they are fully up to speed on the legal markets they are researching?
A: We do indeed have a diverse team. All researchers have university degrees, and most have either a journalism or legal background, both of which are equally important in what we do. For the 2016 directory, the majority of the team researched The Legal 500 Asia Pacific in previous years. In order to ensure researchers are aware of the nuances of practice areas as well as varying legal markets, we have an ongoing training programme carried out both internally (by editors) and externally (by law firms).
There is a page online (here: http://www.legal500.com/assets/pages/about-us/meet-the-team.html) where law firms can view researcher bios before interviews, should they wish to.
Q: It makes a big difference when researchers are familiar with their markets. Do you agree that it is desirable for researchers to repeat sections year after year if possible?
A: To a certain extent, yes, and we do try to keep the same people on the same sections, however it also helps to have a fresh pair of eyes sometimes. So firms may find that the researcher they have spoken to in recent years has moved on to cover a different jurisdiction, they will be replaced by someone with similar length of experience at the company, who may well have researched the country at some point before.
Q: What are the main changes we can expect in the next edition?
A: I’m afraid it’s too soon to say! There will definitely be new practice areas introduced in many of the jurisdictions we cover in the guide but we are still finalising what these will be. Now is a good time for firms to make suggestions for any new ranking tables. The best way to do this is to email firstname.lastname@example.org
Q: What are the biggest mistakes firms make in their submissions?
A: I’ll talk about the three main ones….
Firstly, resending submissions originally written for other directories. It’s important that these are adapted to reflect our guidelines and rankings. For example, there will be variations in how we break down our categories and geographic areas. There is also information that other directories request that doesn’t apply to us (and vice versa).
Secondly, sometimes firms leave out key partner departures in their submissions in the hope we won’t find out. Just be honest with us. It’s far better that researchers hear it directly from the firm involved (and that the firm has the chance to explain the situation in interview) rather than leaving it for the researchers to find out (which they will!) from another firm.
Lastly, it’s important that when describing work highlights, firms are focusing on the standout aspects. They should think about why they have chosen the deal/case. What is particularly unique or complex about it? What did the firm bring to the matter? There can be a tendency to send too much technical detail, which dilutes the points of real importance. This can also apply to firms’ submissions on the whole – try not to send too much extraneous detail and instead focus on the key messages the firm wants the researcher to take into consideration.
Q: We all know that client referee feedback is an important part of the process. How should firms approach this side of the research?
It’s important that firms are putting forward individuals who are likely to respond (rather than only focusing on the more senior, and generally busier figures). It is also helps if firms make referees aware we will be contacting them by email so they know to look out for us. There is no limit as to how many referees firms can send us; as long as they come in on time and are in the correct spreadsheet format, they will all be contacted. As a guide, I suggest sending around 15 people per practice area.