What are some of the most pressing issues marketers face with law firm directory submissions, and what are some of the hidden benefits?
Richard Pinto is the owner of RMPC Legal Marketing – consultancy for Directories and Awards, MarComms, Content, and Media incl Social Media. For the past decade, he has been helping law firms bridge their marketing communications efforts with their Business development activities with directories and awards marketing at the core. Website: Richard M. Pinto | Twitter: @RPintoRMPC
Bob Robertson is the Head of US Marketing & Business Development for Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer. His career has touched nearly every aspect of business development and marketing for nearly every size of firm and practice area. LinkedIn
In this episode of the Legal Marketing 2.0 podcast, legal marketing leaders with decades of experience in the industry, provide super useful insight and advice on the process of law firm directory submissions. Chambers and Partners and The Legal 500 directories play a prominent role in the discussion.
Let’s get the big question out of the way: In today’s world, do you even need a directory listing?
To answer the question our esteemed guests provide a list of benefits of the submissions process that go beyond being listed and getting ranked:
- Third party affirmation – You get an independent and objective look at your practice and your lawyers as compared to your peers
- An opportunity for an internal practice review as you’re putting everything together to see whether or not you’re hitting your benchmarks.
- The submissions process is an information hygiene exercise and provides a framework to organize your information and keep it up to date. A big frustration partners have is: a matter may have opened, there is an initial description of what was going on, and then over time, the matter progresses, then closes, and the information wasn’t updated on the firm’s website and other places. The process forces you to have the latest information.
- Increased client contact opportunities since you’ll need to reach out to them to use as referees – a great opportunity for partners to keep in touch with their best clients. Clients appreciate spending time with the partner.
- During the process you get market intelligence about your practice and where it stands. Firms get to see where the market sees them and how clients perceive them.
- Provides a wake-up call. References may not turn out the way you anticipated. Clients you thought would be champions of the firm may provide negative feedback. This provides an opportunity to work on client relationships.
- All of the effort that goes into a submission can be repurposed in other ways.
The process of awards submissions is like getting on a scale. If you haven’t done all of the exercising and careful eating before you get on the scale, you can’t get mad at the scale for the number that if reflects back up to you.
There’s a whole lot of work to be done before you get to the directory submission. Like raising your profile, making sure that you’ve been targeting and developing business so you have the deals and the cases that will impress the researchers, and selecting and preparing your referees.
How do Legal 500 and Chambers submissions differ?
A big difference is how each engages with the firm. Legal 500 is very proactive about reaching out the marketplace, meeting with the firm’s lawyers and marketers, and gaining information about the firm and practices in a personal way. The researchers generally have longer tenures, bringing with it, a wealth of knowledge about the firm.
The tenure of Chambers researchers may be just as long but they tend to rotate their researchers to different practice areas, handling different parts of the book. Chambers does that deliberately to get a fresh take on a particular area of practice.
Another difference is Chambers ranks many more individuals than Legal 500 which tends to focus more on teams.
Rankings are more volatile year to year in Legal 500 because they’re focused on the work that occurred during the current year. Chambers tends to be more stable and conservative, making it harder to get on (or off) the list.
Using your references wisely
You only get 20 references.
If you have lawyers who are very highly ranked in Chambers, when you’re thinking about giving out references for that section of the book, you should seriously consider whether you want to spend your references on that person who is likely to get highly ranked again. Or, whether you’re better off spending those references on some other people who may be borderline and could use the boost.
Pick the 1-3 partners you want to get on the list or push up the list and focus on them because the other partners already on the list are not likely to move from one year to the next.
TIP: Get to know the deputy editors who are often less visible.
Managing the client/referee process
- Put your entire referee list together before the submission process begins for the entire book for a better response rate from clients.
- Find out if there are conflicts between one practice area and another related to the same person so that even if one partner is listed for more than one practice area, the client is contacted only once. Clients may respond to the first request but less likely to respond to the second or third.
- If you know which of your clients are going to be used as referees, it gives you a pretty good sense of which deals and cases you have to promote during the written submission.
- Don’t assume before proceeding with the submission process. Ask your referees whether or not they’re willing to do it.
- Practice overview should reflect the deals you’re doing for the past 12-18 months.
- References you’re highlighting should be ones that are current. References don’t have to be clients only. They can be people who know your work and can speak intelligently about what you’ve done. Keep this circle tight.
TIP: Fudge the deadline to lawyers at your firm so you’re not scrambling the day before submissions are due to get and clean up the information. You don’t want to submit a “C” paper.
In the ideal submission, everything ties back to the key points you want to make about the practice, the deals, the references. Researchers have a lot to cover. Make it easy for them.
An extension of a couple of days may be granted but you should be aware that it may cost you: Researchers are already reading submissions and setting up the other interview and you are falling behind.
Does social media play a part in the submissions process?
This goes to heart of why directories shouldn’t be a separate entity from other marketing services. Using social media as a way to raise your firm’s profile including blogs, Twitter, LinkedIn, and so on — all of that should be feeding your knowledge and understanding of the practice and the partners. It’s circular. A well managed directory submissions process informs other areas, including social media. It can contribute to raising the profile of the practice.