Mar 14 '16
There’s been some big news in the professional services sector this month. Leaders in law firm rankings Chambers & Partners, have announced that for the first time it will be expanding its research beyond simply the legal sector into professional services firms generally.
This would include providers of accountancy, tax, private banking, wealth management and fiduciary services firms as well as estate agents and buying agents in London, yacht brokers and specialty superyacht shipyards worldwide.
Chambers and Partners will be researching and publishing the High Net Worth Guide (which will of course include the top law firms and lawyers for high net worth and ultra-high net worth clients), however it will also include all the new sectors listed above.
So at Elephant Creative, as experts in the field of writing directory submissions, we thought it was worth talking again about the topic of getting those submissions right. We bang on about it every year! But it’s so important for every firm – and so for all those joining the submissions this year – here are some of the highlights from our previous posts on the topic:
In an article written last year, owner of Elephant Creative Helen Hammond, who has written thousands of directory submissions for US and UK law firms, said: “Like it or not, 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.
“The submission process usually consists of three parts: the submission itself, client references and (sometimes) an interview with the researcher compiling the directory.”
Follow our tips below to make your submission successful:
Meet the deadlines
The sooner the researcher receives all of your material the easier it will be to deal with any issues or omissions that could crop up during processing. This is especially necessary with the referee spreadsheet as the researcher could begin contacting your clients before they speak to you. You want to make sure there is enough time to correct any contact details and guarantee that glowing quote. You can find the deadlines on the directory websites.
Do your homework
The days of cloak and dagger researchers are long gone, with publications making it clear who will be editing each directory. In the case of Chambers & Partners you can even see them in action with a video. Learn as much as you can about the key individuals, how they work and if necessary ring them up and ask them what they like best in terms of format and approach. At the very least make sure you’ve read through their methodology and information pages.
Clearly structure your submission
Chambers & Partners very kindly publishes a pro-forma template for this, that you need to use. This is a great place to start for any submission. As a basic rule you need to plan to include:
•Basic information about the firm/set and contacts.
•Department information including contacts, head count, hires and fires etc.
•Feedback on your ranking in the current edition (as well as an opportunity to comment on other firms).
•Practice area overview and selling points.
•Key achievements within that practice area in the last 12 months.
•List of key individuals already ranked by the publication you are working on (by order of year of call or PQE).
•List of specialists seeking rankings by that publication (again, ordered by year of call or PQE).
•Specific reference to overseas experience or ‘foreign desks’.
•Information on each specialist (in order as above), including (in addition to what they do and when they started) USPs – what makes them different? Niche expertise, relevant past experience outside their practice, landmark cases in the last 12 months they have participated in – what role did they play? Why was the case important?
•Work highlights – include up to five noteworthy cases handled in the last 12 months. Include any press links.
•Any supporting information, for example awards, league tables, press etc.
•List of publishable clients (as well as any that must remain confidential).
•List of new client and panel wins over the last 12 months.
•List of key clients that you’ve had for over three years.
•Details of industry specialisation, within that practice area.
Plan your references
You’ll need to provide references in a clear format. Once again, Chambers & Partners provides a handy spreadsheet for you to fill in.
Select a sponsor
Each submission usually has a lot of contributors which can become confusing and time consuming. Assigning a sponsor to coordinate each submission individually can make things simpler, as they become the main point of contact for any enquiries regarding the submission. The sponsor should be somebody who has a good overview of things taking place in the department and is knowledgeable about the submission process.
Keep it short
Researchers have a lot of information to process so keep your submission short and sweet! Ideally, no more than two A4 pages per practice area should be sufficient to get across your key messages and examples without bombarding the researcher with irrelevant information.
The researcher will have the tough task of condensing the information about your practice into one or two sentences. Why not help them and try to write it yourself, this way you can convey the key message of your practice.
Choose reliable referees
Ensure the referees you put forward can easily be contacted and are happy to give you a glowing reference. If the researchers are unable to contact your chosen referees they will give up and this could harm your submission. Referees can be clients or anyone that has worked with the individuals listed.
Request an interview
Although interviews are becoming less common, if you request an interview with the researcher it is unlikely to be declined. The interview is a brilliant opportunity to make sure that the key messages about your practice have been communicated correctly to the researcher, so it is wise to assign this task to those who will best represent the practice area and the firm.
Give it to someone unconnected to check
Getting a spare pair of eyes to review your submission is crucial. They won’t be involved so may well pick up areas of confusion or conflict that you can improve (as well as the random typos you’ll have missed by draft 43).
And, of course, never underestimate the value of involving a professional expert in this process. Particularly if you wish to provide feedback on (as you perceive it) an unfair ranking in the previous edition, using a third-party to write your submissions for you could give you the upper edge in terms of addressing areas that need improvement.
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. Contact us if you’d like to discuss yours. The fact is they’re time consuming and fiddly and if they’ve read this whole list of tips and felt a headache developing then it may just be worth contacting us to discuss using our expertise.
You can also read more on the topic here