Rankings in legal directories and how to improve them

During the autumn both Legal 500 and Chambers will publish their rankings of the top law firms in the country. For many firms this will be a time to celebrate the improved positioning and rankings of both teams and lawyers, but for other firms there will be disappointment and to a certain extent a degree of frustration.

According to legal directories consultant, Stephen Goddard, the key question that any firm needs to ask itself is what it can do to improve its rankings next year. For many, the legal directories are an important endorsement of a firm’s improvement and the independent review that they provide can be a powerful marketing tool.  Furthermore, the directories are a very good way of understanding what your clients really think about you. During the submission process the researchers will communicate with clients to learn more about firms. 

Careful planning

The temptation for many firms is for the marketing team or partner to leave the submission to the last minute which can lead to a mad chase with marketing teams chasing partners for information about relevant cases and referees. It is time-consuming to extract details of cases from a firm, as well as details of the referees and to complete the document in the correct format. Sometimes what the directories actually require is overlooked.

However, throughout the year firms should be collecting information about cases for the next year’s entry, as well as sounding out referees, so that much of the submission can be prepared in advance. Spreading the work over a year will take the stress away from the frantic period just before submission, as well as avoiding unnecessary mistakes and missed deadlines.

Sound planning

At the beginning of July, firms will have been emailed by Chambers and Partners with an update of their submission. Whilst editorial commentary and ranking positions are not disclosed until the book is published, Chambers do reveal those fee earners who will be ranked as Leaders in their Field as well as which teams will be ranked in the forthcoming guide.

It is a chance to review the most recent submission to see which teams and fee earners have been ranked. It is also worth considering which lawyers have been missed out this year and to devise a strategy for their inclusion in future years.  Review the cases that were put forward, what was particularly notable, different or unique about them. 

The submission

Researchers see hundreds of submissions and as with tenders firms need to consider how their document can stand out. Their submission must not ignore the instructions issued; furthermore they must think of how the researcher will read the document and view the cases. A researcher may be irritated by a submission that is longer than requested and includes irrelevant information.
It is vital that firms use the online submission portals, follow the guidelines for completing the forms and meet the deadlines. They should also contact their referees.

The referees

It is important to give details of your clients to the directories. The submission, whilst a key component of the process is only part of the answer. Increasingly the emphasis is on the research.  Try to include referees who can comment on the cases submitted and /can discuss the strengths and weaknesses of your team. Include only those who are likely to respond and seek their permission in advance.  You will be surprised to know how many referees ignore the request for information.

The Interviews

Once the submission has been completed many marketing teams move to their next projects, leaving lawyers on their own for the interviews. However, they need support.

Every lawyer should have access to the submission during the interview, as well as details of the rankings for both the practice area and the individuals in the last year. The lawyer needs to be familiar with all the cases that have been submitted, not just their own.  It is important to be aware of the feedback that has been given by the firm and how your competitors are ranked (firm and individuals). Without knowing this, it is difficult to argue where your firm and the lawyer should be ranked.

Firms should attempt to build good relations with the researchers. They are there to assist you and working together should improve results. Do follow up with any information that the researcher requests and do forward relevant information about developments in cases or new work wins. The key here is quality and not quantity.

Put together the above should assist improving your rankings.

Stephen Goddard works for Berners Marketing who provide marketing solutions for ambitions law firms. He was previously business development director at Ashton KCJ and has also worked for PwC and KPMG. Contact stephen.goddard@bernersmarketing.com for comments or questions on legal directories.

‘This article originally appeared in professional marketing magazine. For further details go to http://www.pmforum.co.uk/ '

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