Jul 21 '16
Every year, lawyers and law firms across the US pore over a huge guidebook to see who made the cut in Chambers USA. Being selected for the guide means you’re the one of the best in the business and puts you in the rankings amongst other legal stars. And no sooner does the guide come out that the submissions process starts all over again [cue loud sigh].
We’ve put together our articles, old and new, into a guide that highlights why you should make a directory submission to Chambers USA and if you already are, how you can make yours stand out.
Start at the beginning…. the Chambers USA?
We probably don’t need to tell you that the Chambers USA Guide is essentially the Lonely Planet guide to the legal world. But what does UK-based publisher Chambers & Partners know about identifying the best lawyers and law firms in the US, and now the globe? In short… everything. Their editors have been ranking the very best of the legal profession since 1990 and those in the USA since 2002. And did you know that, from their London base, they rank the best of the best in more than 185 jurisdictions? When you’ve spent that long rigorously analyzing and measuring skills and expertise across the globe, it’s easy to understand why they are considered the experts in what’s going on in the sector.
But is it really worth it?
Short answer, yes. Long answer, yes yes yes.
The Chambers & Partners guides have become an essential tool for clients and in-house counsel looking to find the best law firm (or barristers’ chambers) for their needs in any of the 45 different practice areas covered. Because the editors take the time to test submissions against peer review and industry opinion, the rankings are considered a fair reflection of the industry and worth a considerable amount in terms of brand awareness and client acquisition.
There are huge benefits to making a directory submission to Chambers USA, even for a firm that is not selected for the guide. The rankings are important and provide valuable collateral for marketing, tenders and bids and even PR. They’re global and, particularly if you’re an overseas firm, provide a valuable insight into your key personnel and approach to work.
How can I make my submission stand out?
If you’re hoping sit down with a few tick boxes, you’re going to have to go back and make a bigger pot of coffee. As most will know, the submission process is long and laborious, and must be done scrupulously to ensure any kind of ranking, let alone a top one.
The competition is high for the Chambers USA Guide – and, as we’ve mentioned, the editors won’t believe everything you put in your submission. If you have particular people in your set/firm or a practice area that you’re keen to get listed, then the hard work starts way before you write your submission. These areas and people need to feature in your marketing strategy and work needs to start before the summer on making sure profiles are widely shared and supported by quality thought-leadership and external communications. The biggest area people fall down, in our experience, is in making claims that aren’t backed up when the editors test them in the wider marketplace.
Having looked over previous years’ entries, we’ve noticed it’s also very important not to over-look:
Relevant, recent examples. You may have worked on the most groundbreaking case the law has ever seen in a particular field, but if your work in the last calendar year has been dreary or un-noteworthy, you aren’t going to get a look-in. It’s always amazing how professionals grounded in a ‘proof and evidence’ forget to back up the claims they’re making with relevant examples.
Reading the question. There’s a reason the clever people at the directories go to so much trouble to write out templates, forms and guides for you to fill in. It’s because nobody ever reads the questions properly. When they say there is a word count… it’s because they expect you to stick to it. When they say they want to understand why something is important, it’s because they want to see how you explain its relevance. When they ask for a certain number of recent examples, it’s because they want to see how current your work is. Come on, give them a break and play by the rules.
Getting agreement. It is naive to think that the researchers are only going to talk to the people you provide as references. Part of the interview process is checking wheth-er individuals and firms/sets are as ‘expert’ as they say they are. If they ask a recog-nised (and listed) expert their views on ‘John Smith’ and they’ve never heard of him… there’s a fair chance the researcher will draw the conclusion that his submission is, simply put, hot air.
Why shouldn’t you do this yourself?
The value of involving a professional expert in this process shouldn’t be underestimated. Using a third-party to write your submission can help you gain that listing or ranking climb by addressing weaknesses that may need to be spotted by an outsider. Here at Elephant Creative our team of experts have been writing (successfully, we might add) directory submissions for chambers and firms for more years than we care to remember. Most importantly, we’ve worked closely with the editors, across the different global directories, both as in-house marketing people and Elephant Creative consultants. Directory submissions (and strategy) are time consuming and fiddly. But when there’s a team available that knows how things work… well… involving us might just take your headache away.