traceysinclairconsulting

Writing, editing and legal directories advice

Demystifying Directories – Presentations

The legal directories process can often seem opaque and confusing – as well as incredibly time consuming! But, as someone who has worked on both sides of the fence – as a UK and international senior researcher and UK editor at Chambers, and in-house at a Top 50 law firm – I understand the challenges facing law firms, but also know how researchers think; what information they want, how they want it presented, and how firms can minimise the work involved in the directories process and at the same time maximise their chances of getting the rankings they deserve.

My Demystifying Directories presentation has been developed to guide fee-earners and marketing/BD professionals through the directories process. Although it can be tailored to any timeslot, in response to client demand it’s been designed to fit into a lunchtime slot, and includes a presentation, handout and Q&A. It’s designed to be a standalone presentation, so can be of use even if you do not wish to use a directories consultant for your submissions. It’s a quick, easy, affordable way to make the process smoother, less painful and more effective.

The presentation covers frequently asked questions such as:

How do the guides actually work?

What goes into deciding the rankings?

Do submissions really matter – and what information is required?

How do you get the best from your referees – and who should you choose?

So far, I’ve done presentations for major law firms in several UK and European cities as well as London. You can find out more by contacting me at traceysinclair23@gmail.com – but please note, due to my heavy directories commitments, this service is only available April-October.

Spring forward – work roundup: Dark Dates live, Legal Directories Presentations and a new book in the pipeline!

As ever, from November-mid-March my life has been dominated by the UK directories season – while I do a lot of international work, that tends to be a bit more spread out, and UK firms are still my biggest customer (and, besides, a lot of international work also falls within this season – making me a very busy girl indeed!). Because I am so heavily committed, everything else tends to take second place, but with the last UK deadline under my belt and the arrival of spring, I get to take a bit of a breather (this year, as ever, celebrated by the annual ‘getting really ill as soon as the deadline is over’ ritual, from which I am only now recovering) and look at the bigger picture, assess what else is going on in my life, and what I want to achieve before the UK season swings round again…

Magazine work: I still review and occasionally write articles for theatre magazine Exeunt, and write a regular column on freelancing for Better Business magazine, and this is certainly something I would like to explore more of over the next few months. Last year, I had a piece published in writing magazine Mslexia, so it was nice to add another title to my CV, which is something I’d like to expand on this year.

Directories presentations: One of the nicest surprises over the past year or so has been the success of my ‘demystifying directories’ presentations, which I have now given to law firms in Europe, London and the rest of the UK – in fact, I got to the stage where I was having to turn people down as I was so heavily booked up! I really enjoy doing these – it’s great to be able to answer people’s questions face-to-face – so hope to do more over the coming months.

Books: This time of year is typically when my writing projects move into full swing and this year is no exception! I’m currently working on a slew of projects, including getting Wolf Night into print and writing the sequel, compiling a collection of Dark Dates stories and exploring a potential new publishing venture. Watch this space!

Zoe Cunningham as Cassandra Bick

Zoe Cunningham as Cassandra Bick

Dark Dates Live: Possibly the most exciting development has been the creation of a one-woman show An Audience with Cassandra Bick, with actress Zoe Cunningham and director Peta Lily. After opening to great reviews in the First 2015 at the Tristan Bates theatre in London, it’s coming to the Brighton Fringe in May, with further touring possible. Zoe and I are also collaborating on another project at the moment, so, again, hopefully there will be more news soon…

Throw in a bunch of international directories deadlines and suddenly the summer doesn’t look so quiet after all. The hard work is over – let the hard work begin!

Chambers UK and Legal 500 deadlines looming

Chambers next UK deadline is Monday February 16 – and the London Legal 500 deadline is hard on its heels (March 6) – and they are being very strict, so make sure you are ready in plenty of time!

Chambers Europe Deadlines live

Chambers Europe has now published its research schedule with the first batch due on February 24. Remember, there’s a new template this year, so give yourselves plenty of time…

Chambers deadlines and new UK guidelines for Legal 500

I hope you all had a great break – but now January is upon us, and that means, for many people, a whole new batch of deadlines looming. Probably the most important thing to remember for UK folks is that, hard on the heels of the new Chambers submission template, Legal 500 has substantially revised its guidelines, as well as changing its deadlines slightly – and remember, they are being strict about late referees, so it’s important not to leave this till the last minute!

You can find the new guidelines here.

Chambers UK schedule now live

Chambers UK have sent out the schedule emails today, confirming their deadlines. The first deadline is December 15, with the second 16 February. So I would recommend you start working on your submissions as soon as possible!

The key points – other than the new submission template – are that they have changed how they are researching the regional/city tables:

“For this year’s research, we are asking for regional, not city, submissions for the following practices only:
Banking & Finance, Construction, Corporate/M&A, Employment, Environment, Information Technology, Intellectual Property, Licensing, Litigation, Pensions, Planning, Real Estate, Real Estate Litigation, Restructuring/Insolvency, Social Housing, Tax.

Submissions for all other practice areas should be provided by city.”

For full details, check out their website.

Legal Directories Consultants – What do they do, and do you really need one?

Love them or loathe them, legal directories like Chambers and Legal 500 are an influential part of the modern legal landscape. And, as they become more ubiquitous, so a new brand of professional has emerged: the legal directories consultant. So what is a legal directories consultant – and do you need to hire one?

What does a legal directories consultant actually do?
This answer to this is, generally, whatever you need them to do. It’s a field mostly populated by individuals and (very) small businesses, most of whom offer a service that is bespoke to their clients’ needs – this could be as extensive as handling the entire directories process, from writing the submissions to sitting in on interviews and coaching lawyers, or as little as giving your final submissions a review and ‘tweak’, or even doing a one-off talk to your partners or BD staff on how to make the process more efficient – I do a ‘demystifying the directories’ presentation that I’ve now done to a number of firms in the UK and Europe which can be used to kickstart the process, either as a one-off or as part of my wider offering, and I imagine others offer similar services. There are also companies that offer a less bespoke but more affordable package aimed at making it easier to handle the process in-house, or firms which offer directories advice as part of a wider outsourced communications or PR package.

Is it expensive?
As the above answer will indicate, that is a ‘how long is a piece of string’ question: it depends on the level of service you need. You may be billed for individual submissions, by the hour or a flat ‘package’ rate: this will depend on the consultant and the level of support you require. But most consultants will aim at significantly reducing the amount of time fee-earners have to spend on submissions, which can mean they virtually pay for themselves.

Who is a typical consultant – and why should I listen to them?
Most consultants will have considerable experience of working on submissions, and many will have worked in-house in positions of authority in the major directories. My own experience – which is not atypical – is several years at Chambers, working across their books and including editorship of the UK book, followed up by a stint in-house at a Top 50 law firm. This kind of background means that a consultant will know – from bitter experience! – what it’s like to be a researcher, what the guides are looking for in terms of information, and how best to present it.

They also bring an objective eye and an authoritative voice to proceedings: because they are free from the kind of internal politics that even the best law firm will have, they can look at your submissions clearly and tell you whether you are presenting your strengths to the best effect, and can also give you a realistic view of your chances. Because they are experts – and you are paying them for their expertise – their opinions will often carry more weight with fee-earners.

Can they definitely improve my rankings?
Absolutely not. There is no magic wand here, and hiring someone who used to work at one of the directories doesn’t buy you special favours. What they can do is maximise your chances of getting a better ranking by improving the way you communicate with the guides – and in my experience, better submissions and clearer information help the researchers learn more about your firm and can lead to more recognition, but this is in no way guaranteed.

So do I really need to hire a consultant, or is this just a sales pitch?
Obviously, if you feel you need a consultant, please do get in touch! But to be serious, only you and your firm know the answer to that: the first step is identifying what your issues are. If it’s resource, then hiring a temp to handle the admin might be a better idea, or looking at improving your internal systems so that information is collated over the year rather than pulled together in a desperate rush. Check you are not making obvious, easy to fix mistakes, such as sending submissions in very late, or not telling your referees you have put them forward. Join free forums such as Defero Law and LinkedIn, where professionals discuss these things; you might find you have not being doing something that is very obvious! If you want feedback from the directories themselves, try contacting the editors direct or, for Chambers, attending one of their Meet The Editor sessions. Chambers Confidential – while not cheap – can also be a useful way of identifying what the market and your clients are saying about you, and finding out if there are issues that you need to address.

There are lots of options out there: a directory consultant can be invaluable to some firms, but might be the wrong fit for others, so it is worth considering what you need and shopping around. One thing is for certain though – the directories aren’t going anywhere. I know from my own in-house experience that clients are increasingly asking for rankings in pitches, and independent verification from the directories can be a powerful marketing tool. Dealing with them in the most effective and cost-efficient way possible should now be part of every law firm’s marketing and business development plan.

[Note: This is an updated version of an earlier post]

Legal Directories: What to do if you think they got it wrong

Legal 500 UK was just published and Chambers UK will launch shortly, so here is some advice on what to do if see the results and you just aren’t happy…

Is it an actual mistake?
The first thing to do is assess whether what you’re unhappy about is actually a factual error, or just a take on information that you don’t quite agree with. Naming a corporate lawyer in the real estate tables, incorrectly identifying a client, referring to a deal your firm didn’t act on: these are mistakes. Saying that your firm is, for instance, best known for its expertise in employment work when you’re pushing yourself as a corporate practice is their interpretation of their research; it’s not necessarily wrong. You need to react to these differently.

Incorrect category rankings
Here’s where Chambers’ practice of sending out interim notification of the rankings wins out over Legal 500. If you get notification that Lawyer X is mistakenly ranked in employment when he should be in insurance, or Lawyer Y is ranked in the North West when she now works out of London, simply email the editor, or profiles contact (the person the notification will have come from), and let them know. It’s important to be aware though that this may not simply be a matter of switching tables: someone who gets enough feedback to appear in a regional table may not be included in the far more crowded London market, and some tables are more competitive than others, so the lawyer in question may end up not being included in the final guide.

Factual errors post-publication
Email the relevant editor immediately. In such enormous books, it’s inevitable that some mistakes will slip through, but both guides will quickly make amendments to the online versions of their guides if there are genuine errors in the text. You can also email them personnel updates if partners have left.

“That’s not us!” What you can do when you disagree with the editorial
The short answer is, not much. You can email the relevant editor and ask just why they’ve said that, and explain why you disagree, and often they will be willing to give feedback on their decisions, though this may be limited, and this willingness will vary between editors (and if you disagree with everything, you may have to accept that it’s their guide, and you’re stuck with their opinions). Frustrating as it may be, the best thing to do is address this in the next round of submissions and interviews – remember, the guides want to get it right, so they are happy to listen to your feedback, providing you are reasoned in your approach. Sending furious emails/shouting down the phone at the editor is pointless and counter-productive.

“Help! The guide has named a client who wanted to be kept confidential!”
This is a situation that is as unfortunate as it is mercifully VERY rare. Again, it’s easy to rectify swiftly online with an email to the editor. In rare cases, where the mistake has been entirely on the directory’s side (in all honesty, this is not usually the case – these mistakes most often happen because cases or clients are incorrectly or inconsistently labelled in the submission) it may be worth asking that the editor or researcher contacts the client to apologise for the error, though again this is up to their discretion. Whatever happens, there’s pretty much nothing to be done about the hard copies, so it’s worth adhering to the guiding principle that if it would be absolutely catastrophic to have a case or client identified, don’t include them by name in the submission.

Avoiding a repeat of mistakes
Bear in mind that often during the research process the following year, the researcher may be working from the hard copy of the book, not any amended online version. Make sure you clearly state in the submission that an error was made last year and how it was corrected, and draw attention to the fact in any telephone interview (nicely, of course!).

New Chambers template

You may not be aware, but Chambers have updated their FAQ page on submissions, and created a new template, which is basically a streamlined version of their old template, but has stricter limits on the amount of information you can include for highlight matters (one page per matter only – so no more very wordy descriptions!). It also allows you to include up to 15 work highlights, rather than the previous 10. The referee spreadsheet remains unchanged.

You can download the template and see the guidelines here.

Directories deadlines – Chambers Europe and Legal 500 USA

First off, I am loving Legal 500′s new monthly timetable – an ‘at a glance’ guide to what action is needed on different guides each month, which makes it much easier to keep track of what you need to do throughout the year to keep on top of the directories process. This month sees the publication of the UK and Latin American guides, ongoing EMEA and Caribbean research, while firms submitting for the US guide should start prepping now.

Meanwhile, over at Chambers, the next Europe deadline is September 15 while a number of US states have deadlines this month also.

Need help? If you find the process overwhelming or are looking for ways to streamline it, feel free to get in touch! You can contact me at traceysinclair23@gmail.com