traceysinclairconsulting

Writing, editing and legal directories advice

Tag Archives: Legal Directories

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.

Tracey Sinclair Final Logo Web quality

Advertisements

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.

Tracey Sinclair Final Logo Web quality

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

Tracey Sinclair Final Logo Web quality

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

 

 

 

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…

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.