It’s September, and for some of us in the UK, that means only one thing – yes, the UK directories season is looming! But while most firms put off even thinking about this until they have to (usually when the results are published or Chambers schedule is announced), putting a little time in now can save a lot of time (and money!) later. And even those firms without the interest in, or budget for, substantial outside help can benefit from some professional advice before they get started.
So here are some things to think about now, to save yourself pain later:
What worked in your process last year – and what didn’t?
Which submissions were in good shape, done on time and caused you least hassle – and can you replicate that in other departments? Some firms repeat the same mistakes every year and wonder why things never get easier. Not all problems can be fixed – there will always be other demands on your time, and client work obviously has to come first – but recognising that the same issues always arise and thinking about solutions NOW can help minimise them.
- Do your lawyers always leave choosing the referees till the last minute? If so, focusing on referees before the submissions are drafted might be useful.
- Are you expecting busy partners to draft submissions when this could be handed off to others in the team?
- Do you have simple guidelines in place to help those unfamiliar with the process?
- If your submissions are written by junior lawyers, have you identified who is doing this yet and made sure they are available? (I’ve seen firms blithely assume lawyer X will handle it again, without realising they were just about to go on secondment or maternity leave…)
Thinking about these questions in advance will allow you to get the ball rolling faster when you start the process in earnest.
What information can you prep now?
For most firms, certain parts of the submission will need little changing year on year and can be used with only minor edits and updates (the overview, lawyer bios etc.): the directories know you are busy, and they don’t expect you to reinvent the wheel every year.
If there are submissions where you know you fell down last year – things were left to the last minute, or the final version didn’t get your message across the way you wanted it to – you can use this time to make sure the same thing doesn’t happen again this year. I’ve seen lots of clients streamline the process by preparing or polishing their core text in advance so that it just needs minor updates once the work highlights have been chosen.
Can a professional consultant help?
Not every firm needs or wants – or has the budget for – a professional directories consultant, but here’s where spending a little can save a lot. If you consistently find you struggle to get the rankings you want, or your submissions never quite gel, or even if you have a nagging feeling you’re missing a trick, it may be worth speaking to a consultant. And while retaining someone to handle the whole process can be costly, there are some surprisingly inexpensive options available.
Submission review: If you’ve never used a consultant, having one or two of your submissions reviewed before you start the next cycle can identify recurring problems, and help create suggested text for tricky areas of the submission (usually overview, feedback, sometimes work highlights).
This is usually fairly inexpensive, and can be enormously productive: it can identify areas in the submission where you are including more information than the guides need – so help you cut back how long you spend on the damn things! – and offer a fresh perspective.
You may think your key messages are coming across clearly, but someone unfamiliar with your firm may not. The good news is most lessons are easily transferable across practice areas – having one or two submissions reviewed will help you eliminate issues across multiple areas – and the vast majority of problems are easily solved. I’ve worked with firms who spent a lot of money on Chambers Confidential reports (which can, of course, be useful in certain instances) to try and figure out why they weren’t getting the results they wanted, when a quick submission review at a fraction of the price identified obvious – and easily mended – problems. Once these were addressed, the firm saw their rankings improve, and cut down the time spent preparing the submissions.
Guidelines review: If you handle your submissions in-house, having a professional review your internal guidelines can also be useful. Most consultants will have both in-house experience with at least one guide and will have worked with multiple law firms – they will be able to highlight any tips and tricks you may have missed, again at a relatively low cost.
Need more comprehensive assistance? Start shopping now!
The most popular consultants get booked up very quickly and, though they may be able to squeeze in last minute help depending on their schedule, if you have a lot of submissions or require a lot of help, it’s important to book someone’s services in plenty of time.
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