David and Goliath: Highlighting complexity in your Chambers submissions

September 7, 2021
Posted in Blogs
September 7, 2021 Matthew Cripsey

A challenge faced by many law firms when producing Chambers submissions is how to explain the significance or sophistication of their work highlights. It is easy to say, “This was the biggest M&A deal of the year,” but what if you are a leading lower- or mid-market firm?  Or you specialise in a practice area where matter values are not as relevant?

Framing the matters in other terms can be an invaluable tool, providing detail of equal importance to the legal work itself. Matthew Cripsey, a Kidd Aitken Senior Legal Directory Specialist, explains how to present work highlights to maximise their efficacy in a Chambers submission.

Common misconceptions

Over the years, our team has frequently fielded questions and concerns from clients. They wonder if their cited work highlights are as significant as those of the high-ranking, more established law firms and if they can compete on the same level in legal directory rankings.

Larger, international firms might have more immediately impactful matters at their fingertips to include as work highlights in a submission. But this does not have to be a barrier to other firms obtaining a ranking in a Chambers and Partners guide. There are many ways to emphasise the significance of a matter, whether through the relative complexity of the legal work, the market context or the importance of the outcome for the client.

In recent years, Chambers has amended its assessment criteria, and researchers now score firms on the complexity and sophistication of work highlights. Regardless of size, firms can compete on a level playing field in this respect.

What to concentrate on in your Chambers submissions

Many clients initially provide only surface-level descriptions for their work highlights. As a second step, detail concerning any novel legal issues or transaction structures should be included, as well as any information about matters being landmark within the market context. This is particularly important given that Chambers’ new assessment framework evaluates the sophistication and complexity of the matter.

It is helpful to explain these innovative, complex and significant elements in simple terms. Having introduced the matter in outline, follow up the description with:

“It was significant because of these reasons…”

Or:

“It was innovative because of these elements…”

Reasons might include a matter being an industry first, or how the firm resolved a complex regulatory issue in a unique manner.

Of course, not every matter can be novel or landmark. There can be just as much value in including matters that demonstrate a successful outcome for the client, particularly if the context can be made engaging for the researcher and convey other complexities, such as challenging negotiations or business-critical disputes.

One Kidd Aitken client employed this methodology in a work highlight regarding a land use matter for a Chambers Canada submission. They were concerned that the matter on its own would not be as significant – or interesting  – as matters submitted by other law firms. We questioned the submitting Partner about the case, gaining insight into the real-world issues raised by the dispute. These included its importance to the client and the local community.

In the final submission, we helped them frame the matter as a David vs. Goliath narrative, explaining how it was a complex case in which the law firm successfully fought on behalf of its small client against a large conglomerate. This approach of providing wider context to what might initially seem less impressive matters has been a successful one, including during the most recent Chambers USA submissions round.

Additional tips to engage the researcher

Highlighting the complexity and innovation of a matter is important for firms to factor in to their submissions, but other steps are also required in order to retain the interest of the Chambers research team. As a legal directory consultancy employing former Chambers researchers and editors, we are especially well-placed to advise on submissions best practice.

Writing a work highlight with technical terms and legalese might seem like a useful strategy on the surface, perhaps offering an opportunity to impress the researcher. However, even though Chambers researchers and editors are highly skilled in their field and jurisdiction, many do not have formal legal training. Using technical language may make your submission harder to analyse. Instead, focus on using simple terms and language that make the matter easy to understand.

Engaging final submissions

Outlining the sophistication of a matter and incorporating an engaging narrative is key to attracting and maintaining the attention of the Chambers researcher. When combined with clear, jargon-free language and strategic hyperlinks, a law firm’s final Chambers submissions become instantly more appealing – ultimately helping to secure improved rankings in its Chambers guide of choice.

For more guidance on Chambers submissions, take a look at our Best Practice Guide on Chambers and Partners Submissions or get in touch for more personalised advice.