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On the home stretch: Completing the client referee process

January 26, 2023

The client referee process is arguably the most overlooked aspect of a legal directory submission. Many firms direct much of their concentration and resources to the other varied facets of a submission, like work highlights and lawyer bios. But positive referee feedback is vital to a successful ranking in the most prestigious legal directories. Particularly for Chambers and Partners, where client feedback has a 60% weighting across the submission. It is vital that the client referee process is maximised to help secure the ranking that your firms and Partners deserve. Kidd Aitken’s Head of Coordination, Angela Armitage, discusses the ways of how to best use the process to your advantage, through cultivating positive relationships with the researcher and referees and effectively briefing Partners.

Navigating referee and researcher relationships

The entire referee process is notoriously complex. The numerous rules and parameters require an agile combination of organisational and interpersonal skills to keep the process operating smoothly. From monitoring the various research dates, schedules and response rates, to ensuring that relationships with researchers and referees are maintained but not overburdened. There is far more to the process than at first glance. Chambers’ ‘three-month rule’ further complicates matters. If a particular referee is overused – contacted by Chambers on behalf of any firm in your jurisdiction in the past three months – they will not be contacted again. It is therefore vital to keep track of who you have included in previous submissions’ referee lists.

When steering these relationships, it is important to remember that both researchers and referees are extremely busy. A researcher will not appreciate an onslaught of emails – and some do not like direct contact. It is important to navigate the process with tact and care for the individual at the other end.

Chambers have launched a Referee Management Tool (RMT) which allows you to see when research begins and ends, your referee response rates and the Contact Statuses in real time. This enables you to get in touch with referees to ensure the researcher's email has been received and encourage them to respond within the timeframe. It also shows if the referee has been contacted within 3 months so will not be contacted again. This is an additional paid for product but could be beneficial in areas where you are not getting the feedback you expect.

Response rates and building referee lists

One of the biggest ‘pain points’ is the difficulty in getting referees to respond. Many emails from researchers are automatically deleted or moved to spam folders – not to mention the lack of time in already busy schedules. It is important, therefore, to not only keep a record of the referees who have responded to interviews or surveys, but also to choose referees who are more likely to respond. A common misconception is the belief that having the Founding Partner or CEO of an organisation as a client referee will impress the legal directory researcher. In fact, having a referee who can speak to their personal, hands-on experience and who will respond to a feedback request in a timely manner is much more important than their position in an organisation’s hierarchy. Therefore, it may be helpful to put forward referees from within the same organisation who are on a more junior level. They can give similar – if not more helpful – feedback than their senior colleagues and may be less likely to have been put down as referees by other firms. It is useful to brief any potential referee before they are contacted by the researcher. For example, helping them understand the objective of their call with the researcher and acting as an intermediary between researcher and referee will help to keep the process simple.

The importance of the client referee process

For Chambers and Partners, since referee feedback is so heavily weighted, and is important for any prestigious directory, careful management of the client referee process can hold the key to a successful ranking. It is vital to work with the client referee process in order to optimise the chances of successfully securing or improving a ranking. Although it can be complex, success from its intricacies also makes it one of the most rewarding stages of the journey but despite the process’s complexities, any disruption to both the referee and the researcher can be minimised with thorough preparation. Both making their lives easier and maximising the chances of a referee response. Kidd Aitken is the only legal directory consultancy with a dedicated team of post-submission co-ordinators, who liaise with researchers and referees post-submission. Allowing busy business development and marketing teams to focus on what they’re best at, and lawyers and Partners to concentrate on their billable hours.

We've put together a useful post to help your clients understand the referee process, and what's expected of them, here.

Get in touch with us if you would like to learn more about how we can help with your legal directory journey. From strategy to post-submission support.

Angela Armitage, Head of Coordination

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