Throughout our experience as legal directory submissions experts, one question has consistently been asked by prospective clients and inquisitive legal professionals: “Are legal directories worth the investment?”.
On the 25th March, we sought to answer that question. Co-founders and former Chambers & Partners editors, Daniel Kidd and Jacob Aitken, and Gary Manning, a legal marketing and business development consultant, were joined by law firms from across the globe to debate if the efforts required to compile a legal directory submission are worth the desired outcome: a coveted ranking in a prestigious legal directory.
Here are some of the key takeaways from the event. If you missed the webinar, you can watch it in full by clicking here.
The process requires a lot of time and attention from both Partners and legal marketing – ultimately, are legal directories worth the investment?
It won’t be a surprise that our answer is “Yes, it is worth it”, but we should caveat by saying that the process is only worth it if you get it right. There are a number of different ways to make sure you embark on the process correctly:
So, yes, they’re definitely worth it. As long as they’re done right.
While there is no categorical answer, rankings do contribute to the decision to award work to a specific firm. As Chambers and The Legal 500 are well-established directories, many companies with in-house counsel, particularly those within the FTSE 500 and international organisations, do consult directories. Some companies or firms may not even consider Partners or firms who are not included in Chambers or The Legal 500. It is better to have a ranking than not, and those who do not have a ranking should aspire to achieve one.
You should absolutely try submitting to legal directories, but we would strongly advise managing expectations. Chambers uses a cumulative research approach, meaning that efforts can take as long as three years to come to fruition and for a firm to be ranked for the first time. Firms need to approach submissions with a long-term strategy and dedicate resources to it.
During the pandemic, we were asked by some clients if they should continue to submit during an ‘off’ year as their practice saw less work and therefore their submission might not be considered as strong. Our advice is not to miss a year, as current methodologies and internal processes are built around consistent submissions that influence final ranking decisions. There are ways to frame work during a quieter year to ensure the researcher will take it into account.
Partners may think that their work should not be included in one research cycle as it would reflect poorly on their previous submissions. But the message should be reinforced that submitting during a quieter year is better than submitting nothing at all and dropping off the researcher’s radar.
In recent years, Chambers in particular has been more proactive in making sure that their rankings reflect the changing market and its evolving nuances. This includes ranking more younger Partners, and taking diversity and inclusion into account. This can be an opportunity for non-ranked firms who want a ranking for the first time.
There are some jurisdictions where rankings are more established. Chambers originated in the UK, with the first UK guide published in 1990 whereas the Latin America guide was only launched in 2008. In these newer jurisdictions, the rankings generate a higher level of interest than in the older, more established jurisdictions.
There are also different perceptions of directories from region to region. Asia Pacific consider Legal 500 rankings to be at least on a par with Chambers. As opposed to the US which sees Chambers as having a higher standing in the market.
It’s often thought that a highly ranked Partner joining a new firm automatically gives a boost to that firm’s own rankings. However, directories normally reflect changes after a year or two. Once it is clear that the Partner is integrating well, you can expect to see the benefits of their individual ranking reflected in the firm’s practice ranking. Especially if they retain their casework and onboard their previous firm’s clients. The submission would need to address the Partner’s move so their work doesn’t fall through the cracks and is credited to other Partners at their previous firm.
Pay-to-play directories differ from directories that conduct independent analysis but each offer different opportunities. Pay-to-play directories can be thought of as similar to paid PR opportunities or advertising: if the directory is widely distributed, your firm will gain more exposure in your chosen marketplace. However, these directories are not to be considered equal to Chambers or The Legal 500 as they do not offer an independent analysis of your firm.
Much like any marketing activity, there is always a question around resource and value. How much of the former is needed to make the latter worth it? Legal directory submissions are just another example. They require a lot of time and effort but the value derived is immense. There are systems that law firms can put in place to help streamline the overall process. Collecting data throughout the year (case work and referee acceptances) can be advantageous to spread the workload and this information can also be used for other marketing activities during the year, not just directory submissions.
Recruitment and talent retention can be a big draw for firms when submitting. Law students and trainee solicitors often consult directories to ascertain work culture and quality of a firm. Being well-ranked assists with attracting the according level of talent. Even a small dip in ranking can have a knock-on effect on the calibre of student and trainee lawyer attracted. Equally, talent retention is a benefit. Firms value high rankings as a way to retain key talent and motivate teams, particularly at junior level.
We hope that those who participated in the debate found the event beneficial and that it helped to explore some of the lesser-known aspects of legal directory submissions processes. If you weren’t able to take part or would like to watch the webinar in full, you can view the recording here.
If you would like to find out more about how to strategise your legal directory submissions, you may find our new, downloadable Best Practice Guide to Chambers & Partners Submissions useful or get in touch to find out how Kidd Aitken can assist you and your firm.