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Tag Archives: Legal 500

Legal directories: what to do when the results come in

Legal 500 UK is out this week and Chambers UK will launch shortly. It’s a rare year when anyone will be completely happy with their results, so here are some steps to take if you have an issue with the rankings.

Take a deep breath and ask – do they have a point?

It’s easy to have a knee-jerk reaction to the rankings, especially if you haven’t been included or haven’t got the rankings you think you deserve. But it’s important not to over-react – firing off a furious email in haste risks souring any future relationship with the guides. Consider this: are there obvious factors that have impacted on your ranking? The guides have such long lead times that it’s easy to be angry the ranking doesn’t reflect recent growth, etc, which may have happened during the course of the research, or personnel changes which have not had the chance to bed in, and the like. Sometimes, you just have to accept that some things take a while to filter through and they won’t be reflected till next year.

Did you make obvious mistakes in the process?

Again, a long time between the submissions process and the publication date means it’s easy to forget, but before you rage at the directories, ask yourself: did we contribute to this? Sending submissions or referees late can hamper the process and affect rankings, as can sending in a small number of referees or a partial submission (particularly for a competitive section). There may be an obvious – and easily fixed – reason for a disappointing showing.

Is it an actual mistake?

Before contacting the guides, it’s important to 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 straight away and make sure your email has a subject heading that makes it clear there is a factual error that needs addressing. (Immediately post-publication, the editors are inundated with emails asking for feedback or explanation, but they will try to prioritise fixing any errors). In such enormous books, it’s inevitable that some mistakes will slip through – albeit impressively rarely – but both guides will generally make amendments to the online versions of their guides if there are genuine errors in the text as quickly as they can. 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(s)) 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 mention them by name in the submission.

Avoiding a repeat of mistakes

It may be worth stating in the next 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!). Review the information you are sending the guides to ensure it is clear, and that all guidelines re: confidentiality are consistently adhered to.

Get a head start on next year!

While there is never a guarantee you will get the ranking you want – the hard fact is the guides’ research may never agree with your self-assessment, or you may never quite fit into the way they categorise certain practice areas – the best way to maximise your chances of getting a fair ranking is to engage proactively with the process. Give yourself time to prepare a clear, concise submission that highlights your key points and to compile a list of referees who will be responsive and positive, and get all of your information to the guides in the format and time frame they outline.

Need help? Contact me at traceysinclair23@gmail.com to see how a consultant can help.

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Why spending time on your directories submissions NOW can save you money later – and how a professional can help

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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Can I help? Contact me at traceysinclair23@gmail.com

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

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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.

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 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.

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!).

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

 

 

 

 

Legal 500 EMEA – what you need to know now

The Legal 500 EMEA deadlines are fast approaching – with referees being due by 4th August and submissions by 11th August – so if you haven’t started the process yet, you really should. But there have been some changes to the Guide that you need to be aware of, so here’s a handy checklist.

Things to note:

  • Extended coverage: The Guide’s coverage is being expanded this year, both with the introduction of regional summaries and with a raft of new countries being added (Albania, Armenia, Angola, Ivory Coast, Kosovo, Monaco, Montenegro, Mozambique and Tanzania).  There are also new categories for some of those countries already covered.  So firms in those newly added countries or with strong regional presences should make sure they check the guidelines to ensure they are giving themselves the best possible chance to get ranked. Those who are used to submitting for the same sections every year should check that no new additions have been made for their country so they don’t miss out.
  • New referee process: In an attempt to limit the amount of times referees are contacted, the Guide is changing the way they contact referees who are sent in late – this means it really is vital to get your spreadsheets in on time (and properly formatted) or your clients may not be contacted. Again, check the guidelines for the full explanation, but prioritise getting your referees sorted on time.
  • New guidelines: In what looks like an effort to minimise work for the firms – and recognise that people won’t want to substantively change submissions they have already pulled together for Chambers – Legal 500 have changed their guidelines for submissions, making them closer aligned with Chambers and hopefully reducing the workload for those involved in the submission process. However, while this is a move to be applauded – it really should cut a lot of unnecessary duplication of work – it does mean if you’re simply sticking to the Legal 500 template you have been using for years you may be passing up the chance to include extra information that could be helpful to your case.
  • New website: While the new website looks great, it can take a little while to figure out where everything is – so if you’re looking for the guidelines, they can be found here: just click on the relevant guide for the information you need.

Need help? Whether it’s assistance in drafting submissions, negotiating the new guidelines or simply some feedback on what you did right or wrong last year, I offer a range of services to suit your budget. You can contact me at traceysinclair23@gmail.com

Chambers Europe is out – and the next deadline is pending

The new Chambers Europe and Legal 500 EMEA are both now available online, so I thought this an opportune time to repost an old piece on what to do if you didn’t get the results you wanted! It’s also worth remembering that getting your submissions in on time is an important part of the process, and the next deadline for some countries for Chambers is May 12, so if these dates apply to you, you should be looking at getting your submissions finalised ASAP.

If you have been less than thrilled at your results and want to know how to maximise your chances next year, don’t hesitate to get in touch – traceysinclair23@gmail.com

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