Writing, editing and legal directories advice

Tag Archives: referees

Legal 500 EMEA Deadlines now live – and new submission process now in effect!

The new schedule for Legal 500 EMEA is online, with both referees and submissions due in August (see below for dates). It’s important to give yourselves plenty of time to get ready for this, as the new submission process is now in effect.

While the information required remains basically the same, the new form can seem fiddly to the unaccustomed eye, especially if you are used to just ‘topping and tailing’ your Chambers submissions. So give yourself plenty of time to prepare, and remember that it is vital that your referees are sent in on time to ensure they will be contacted.

You can find full details of the new process here:

For some simple tips on choosing referees:

10 questions to ask before you send in your referee spreadsheet:

From the Legal 500 site:


Client referees deadline: 13 August 2018

Editorial submission deadline: 13 August 2018

Firm interviews conducted: 17 September – October 2018

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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:

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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!  




5 mistakes law firms make when choosing client referees

Choosing the right referees is an essential part of the directories process. Here are some errors I’ve often seen law firms make – and why you should avoid them!

They assume, not ask: It might be surprising, in an era when client service is more vital than ever, but some lawyers still blithely assume that it’s OK to give someone’s name as a referee without checking first. Not only is this fairly rude, it can have catastrophic consequences to a lawyer/client relationship – clients can get very offended about the fact their details have been passed to a third party without permission. Also, some organisations have strict policies about not responding to directories: so unless you’ve checked your client is allowed to respond, you also risk wasting a referee.

They leave it to the last minute to ask: Lawyers should be thinking about their referees at the start of the submissions process, not the end, to leave plenty of time to obtain permission and, if a client refuses (for whatever reason), to find a suitable alternative.

They assume that permission is transferable: It isn’t. Asking a client to be a referee for one guide then assuming that means you can use them for others is, again, presumptuous. Make sure you are very clear in what you are asking and what they are agreeing to – some clients are happy to answer one set of questions but will be annoyed if then contacted by another directory.

They assume senior is better: While it’s great to be able to speak to someone with an overview of an organisation, be realistic. A referee not only has to have recent experience of working with the firm, but has to be contactable and relatively available. It can be better to name someone lower down the ladder but more accessible (and, often, with more direct contact with your lawyers) than naming an impossible-to-pin-down CEO. Likewise, should you have a more glamorous practice area, remember that it is highly unlikely that Oscar winning actress will take the researcher’s call, no matter how impressive her name looks on the client list.

They don’t explain the process: Directories are such an established presence in the legal world now that it’s easy to forget clients may not have dealt with them before. It’s important to let the client know the kind of questions to expect, what they will be asked to talk about, and stress that they won’t be identified and that the information will be confidential. Also, since a lot of research is now done via email, they need to be prepped to expect an email and not just ignore it as spam.

A longer version of this article is available as part of the Defero Law Directory Advice service. Should you require assistance with your submissions, please contact Tracey Sinclair on