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How to prepare for a client referee interview

March 21, 2023

How to prepare for a client referee interview

The client referee interview is a crucial aspect of the client referee process – it can be the difference between a firm or Partner being ranked or not. So, how can you successfully prepare for it, to help ensure that the leading legal minds are appropriately ranked?

Kidd Aitken’s Head of Coordination Angela Armitage gives her top tips for nailing the interview, from understanding your responsibility as a referee to refreshing your memory. Read more tips from Angela about maximising and completing the feedback process.

What is a client referee interview?

A client referee interview is the opportunity to discuss your experience working with the practice group or lawyer in question. Conducted by a researcher at the legal directory the firm has submitted to, you will be asked a series of questions about the practice group or lawyer’s expertise and your experience with them. You should speak openly and freely – your feedback remains confidential between yourself and the researcher.

Your interview will be one of many during the post-submission process. An important part of the overall submission process, it helps to substantiate the work highlights document and gives insight into the firm or Partner’s standing in the marketplace. This will support a final ranking decision. The client referee process is particularly important for many directories, including Chambers and Partners and The Legal 500.

1 – Understand your responsibility as a referee

When agreeing to an interview, you should have been told your responsibilities as a referee. Understanding them in the context of the entire client referee process will help you decide which insights are most useful to the researcher.

As a referee, you provide real-world insight into a practice group or lawyer’s expertise. You will have first-hand understanding of their knowledge applied in practice – this is exactly what the researcher wants to learn about.

If you want to learn more about how your interview fits into the rest of the client referee process, read our blog: ‘On the home stretch: Completing the client referee process’.

2 – Keep an eye on emails and safe senders

A common problem encountered when navigating the client referee process is the automatic deletion or bouncing of emails from the researcher. This means that they are unable to contact you to organise the interview and, therefore, unable to fix a time for the conversation to take place.

To avoid automatic deletion, we recommend that you add email addresses with the directory’s domain name to your list of safe senders. Similarly, checking your Junk folder when you are expecting to hear from the researcher is useful. If a team of post-submission coordinators is used to navigate the client referee process, they will also email to remind you of your commitment and when you should expect to hear from the researcher.

3 – Remind yourself of the work

The work that you will be quizzed about may have occurred 12-18 months prior to the interview. To give the most accurate portrayal of the experience, it is worth reminding yourself of the work undertaken and the lawyers you dealt with. Questions to consider include:

• Were you pleased with the outcome?

• Were you impressed by a particular area of knowledge?

• Were they doing something new, sophisticated or complex in the practice area or wider context?

4 – Consider unconscious bias

Great steps have been taken to make the legal sector, and legal directory rankings, more diverse and inclusive. Yet work remains – as a client referee, you can also make a difference.

Directories including Chambers and The Legal 500 are addressing the steps that firms can take to make their legal directory submissions more inclusive and representative. As a referee, rather than commenting on a Partner’s personality traits, you should focus on their work-related expertise. This unconscious bias disproportionately affects female lawyers.

For example, instead of saying “They were very friendly and nice to work with”, emphasis should be placed on their innovative capacity, areas of knowledge, and market insight.

By preparing ahead of the interview, you can help both the researcher and the firm make legal directory rankings an accurate, fair portrayal of the legal industry, so that firms and lawyers continue striving to be the best.

Kidd Aitken Legal Marketing has a dedicated team of post-submission coordinators who handle the entire referee process. This includes liaising with researchers, reminding referees, and keeping track of progress throughout research cycles. If you would like to learn more about how we can support your legal directory submissions, from strategy to post-submission support, get in touch with us today.

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