traceysinclairconsulting

Writing, editing and legal directories advice

Category Archives: Uncategorized

Ten questions to ask before you submit your referee spreadsheet

Referee feedback is one of the most important elements of the directories’ research, but many law firms stumble when selecting referees.

So before you send in that spreadsheet, ask yourself the following questions:

1.Have you asked them (and have they said yes)?

It’s easy to assume a client will be OK with it because you have a good relationship, but they might already get asked a lot, or there might be a company policy in place against giving external feedback. Also, it’s just polite!

2.Have you worked for this client in the last year?

It looks suspicious to a directory if the last good feedback you can muster up is from 4 years ago…

3.Can they talk about more than one lawyer/department?

This isn’t essential, but when referee numbers are limited you can get more ‘bang for your buck’ if someone can comment on more than one person.

4.Are you SURE they are happy with your service?

Really, really sure? And if they are a client of more than one department, are you sure they are happy with the firm as a whole? A grievance with another team can spill into your feedback.

5.Will they answer emails?

A lot of research is done by email. The most positive feedback in the world is no use if the client never gets round to sending it…

6.Have you put them down for more than one directory or award application – if so, do they know and are they OK with that?

‘Referee fatigue’ is a real danger: clients can get very sick of being constantly asked for feedback, so you need to ensure you don’t overuse them.

7.Are they from different organisations?

Providing multiple contacts from one organisation can backfire as it may annoy the client (‘you already spoke to my colleague!’) or can look to the directories like you only have one good client. This isn’t a hard and fast rule, but still something to consider.

8.Are they referees for lawyers you wish to get into the tables/move up the rankings?

Remember those at the top of the tables will likely get plenty of peer recognition so may be less reliant on client feedback (though this will depend on how individual guides work, so again is not an absolute rule).

9.Do they come from a client you have mentioned in your highlight deals?

If you can’t provide any clients that match your big deals, the directories may wonder why. (This will of course vary from practice area to practice area – in areas where deals are very sensitive, it’s to be expected clients will be reluctant to be put forward as referees.)

10.Will they have any frame of reference with regard to other firms?

If you work in a sector where many of your clients are individuals rather than organisations (eg, family, private client, personal injury, trusts and estates) you may be better off putting forward other clients or professional contacts who are more able to compare your services with those provided by competing law firms. This is especially true if your clients are individuals who are not legally sophisticated (for instance, in the clinical negligence or personal injury spheres, where you may be the only lawyer they have ever instructed): they may agree to be a referee out of obligation to you, but may find the process upsetting or intrusive, and their feedback is likely to be of limited use.

Final bonus question: Are you using the correct spreadsheet? 

It sounds obvious, but every year I stop clients from sending Legal 500 spreadsheets to Chambers and vice versa (or have spreadsheets where information is copied across from one to the other, with little or no attention paid to the difference in formatting). You need to send the directories the info they need in the format they request, so it can be properly uploaded onto their systems.

If the answer to any of these questions is no, you may need to think again.

Need help?

For further advice on choosing and managing referees, or any aspect of the directories or legal awards process, feel free to contact me: traceysinclair23@gmail.com

Tracey Sinclair Final Logo Web quality

What is a Directories Consultant, 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 (often 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. Some specialise in particular jurisdictions or for particular Guides, based on the experience of the consultant (say, Asia, Latin America or the US), or may target particular firms (for example, some specialise in working for barristers’ chambers). 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 (so covering most jurisdictions) 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 – often 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. Looking at my own client list, almost if not all have seen some improvement in their rankings; many have achieved best-ever rankings with my help, and generally see year-on-year improvement. A consultant can also help if you are generally satisfied but have one or two areas that you just can’t seem to crack: sometimes it takes as little as a one-off submission review to identify where you are going wrong.

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 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, setting up meetings, and attending talks, such as Chambers’ 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.

Further questions?
If you think a directories consultant might be the right option for you, why not drop me an email: traceysinclair23@gmail.com

 

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

Chambers UK- making sure you’re on track

Now that both this year’s Legal 500 and Chambers UK are published – and the first deadlines for the latter suddenly seem awfully close – most UK firms will have started their submissions process for the next round (you have started, haven’t you?). So what should you be thinking about?

Make sure you use the new Chambers template: it’s quite a change from last year, so it’s important you use the correct one. (And remember: follow the instructions. If they say they want a work highlight to be a page long, they don’t mean ‘except if you think it’s really important’. They’ve designed the template to give them what they want, so stick to it!)

Know how many referees you can send – and start contacting them now! You’re allowed 20 referees for almost all UK areas (see the research schedule for exceptions). Even if you can’t fill the quota (not all practice areas or teams will justify the full 20), make sure you’re maximising your chances by contacting your referees and asking for permission now, not a couple of weeks before Christmas when everyone has a lot else on their mind!

Check out the new Practice Area Definition page: this is especially important where categories have changed, such as Litigation and International Arbitration.

Need help? Be quick! Most good directory consultants get booked up far in advance, so if you are despairing of the whole process and want someone to manage it from start to finish, you’ve likely missed your chance, sorry! But if you need help on a few submissions where you’re struggling to finesse your message or you need some advice, they might be able to squeeze you in, so why not ask? I always do my best to accommodate clients who come to me only after Chambers has been published, and am sure it’s the same with most of the other established consultants. And you may need less help than you think: sometimes the problem is an easy quick fix, or you just need some guidance on how best to get your message across, or some editing to get your information within the guidelines. So now is the time to ask – it might save you some time and stress later down the line!

Start thinking about the next deadline BEFORE the holidays: Remember, the regional deadline for Legal 500 and the next batch of Chambers deadlines will come around sooner than you think! And everyone tends to be swamped when they come back in January, and suddenly you don’t have long at all to get everything done. At least start thinking now about referees, work highlights, etc. so you don’t have it all to do when you’re still recovering from Christmas…

Need some help? Contact me!  

 

 

 

New Chambers and Partners submission template

Chambers has created a new submission template for their directories. The ‘front end’ remains much the same, but the client lists and work highlights are split into Publishable and Confidential, and you can have up to 10 work highlights in each: good news for those who want to include more work examples, though perhaps those firms whose work is by necessity all confidential may feel slightly chagrined to only be able to submit 10 highlights. (Or possibly relieved, depending…!)

If you’re in the middle of prepping your submissions for the next set of deadlines, don’t panic: they say they will accept the old templates for now. The good news is if you want to transfer that content to the new template, the basic structure is the same: it shouldn’t require too much work.

You can download the new template here.

If you need any assistance with your directories submissions, don’t hesitate to contact me to see how I can help: traceysinclair23@gmail.com

 

 

 

New Year, new services – a look back at 2015 and forward to 2016

I’m not a fan of New Year’s Resolutions, or January fresh starts – January is a miserable month, why make it harder for yourself? But, that said, I think doing regular audits of where you are and what you have achieved – both on a personal and professional basis – is an incredibly useful habit to get into. With that in mind, I’ve been looking at how my business has grown and progressed over the past year, including expanding into new areas. Of course, since it is a business, this is also to highlight new services I offer – so if you think I can help your business at all, do let me know

‘Demystifying Directories’ presentation – this continues to be a popular option for law firm clients who want to get to grips with the Legal Directories process, and I’ve now done this in front of fee-earners and marketing/BD staff in several European countries as well as to a number of London and regional firms.

Expanding client base – the bulk of my work comes from personal referrals and recommendations, and I have seen a significant influx of new law firm clients in the past 12 months. I have now advised, or continue to advise, regional, City and international UK law firms, as well as those in Europe, the US, Asia (China, Singapore), Australia, Africa, the Middle East and offshore jurisdictions. If any Canadian or New Zealand firms fancy helping me tick off those countries, do give me a shout…

Awards applications – this has been a real area of growth for me over the past couple of years, and, pleasingly, several of my clients have been shortlisted for or won awards. This can seem a very straightforward job – since most application forms are so short – but distilling your key message into a concise format can be very tricky.

Websites – I have been involved in the overhaul of a major City firm website, as well as doing smaller, ad hoc pieces for other firms.

Magazine work – as well as my credited work, which includes articles for Better Business and GC Magazine, I’ve expanded my ‘ghost writing’ repertoire to a number of other legal, technical and business publications, as well as securing a regular editing gig.

Corporate Comms – again, a growing area for me, with work this year including drafting annual reports, and editing practice area guides. I’ve also done some corporate blogging.

Pitches – while I’m rarely involved with the early, information gathering stages of these, I have been seeing more work doing a ‘final polish’, particularly where international clients – for whom English is not their first language – want to ensure they have the correct tone for English language pitches.

As well as this, the more ‘creative’ side of my business continues to thrive – I’ve published two new fiction books this year already (!), and continue to write for theatre website Exeunt; I’ve also co-written a play which was performed at the Tristan Bates Theatre and Brighton Fringe, and seen one of my previous plays revived, at the White Bear and (again) the Tristan Bates. So all in all, a pretty good 2015 – let’s hope 2016 is even better…

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000026_00027]

Legal 500 EMEA deadlines are looming!

Hopefully if you’re submitting for Legal 500’s EMEA Guide this year your submissions are already well under way – but do remember that the deadline for referees is a week earlier. So you need to send in your referees by 3 August, and the submissions are due on 10 August.

For more information, click here.

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…