Directories, key questions: referees and extensions

Referees are key to the directories process. However, they also provide the source of the widest range of questions we receive from clients who sometimes struggle to get to grips with the way the things work. It doesn’t help that different directories have different rules. So, let’s start with the basics for the two big ones:


  • 20 referees per submission, max
  • Submitted using an Excel spreadsheet downloaded from the Chambers website

Legal 500

  • Unlimited referees
  • While Legal 500 doesn’t have a pro forma submission document, it does have a set referee spreadsheet that you can download from the Legal 500 website

Referee tips

The first stage of the process with referees is collecting all the data to fill in the above spreadsheets to send off to the directories. Many firms assume that’s where the task ends. However, making your referees work for you requires a little bit more effort.

Don’t always go for the most senior person. Think seriously about whether the name you put down is someone who is likely to answer a directory request for feedback or whether, however much they may want to help, it may just get forgotten. Choose someone accessible who will respond – directories don’t reduce the impact of feedback if it hasn’t come from the top of the tree.

Prep your referees. By this we mean warn them that a feedback request is coming (we don’t mean call them and give them a script). You can find out from a researcher or editor when feedback is likely to be collected (this often follows in the month or so after the submission deadline) and ask your referees to keep an eye out for the message.

Choose referees who will talk specifically about you. The problem with opting to have some of the larger institutions as a referee is that they may be working with multiple firms. If they’re asked to talk about firms they work with, yours may not be the first name out of their mouths, so sometimes it’s smarter to choose referees whose feedback will be more focused.

Split referees between directories. Don’t submit the same referees to both directories or they will be contacted twice and you’re much less likely to get responses to both researchers. You could also end up with irritated clients.

Directories deadline extensions

Missed submission deadlines are not the end of the world. Directories are normally willing to offer extensions to firms (even repeat offenders), however, the starting point for every firm we work with is to assume an extension won’t be available and submit on time.  Worst case scenario, at least make sure the referee spreadsheet gets there on the due date.

However, it’s also worth remembering that, while you may succeed in getting an extension, this shouldn’t become a habit because doing the directories this way can damage your chances of getting the ranking you want.

Mike Nash, former Editor Legal 500:

“the “don’t be late” advice is crucial because being late limits the researcher’s time for fact-checking / validation, which then inhibits the strength of conclusions which we can draw.”

Alex Marsh, Editor Chambers Unpublished:

“I would stress to firms that they can’t rely on directories granting extensions, as there will be times when this will simply be impossible. Furthermore, if a research period has already started then even if a firm does receive an extension, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the late submission won’t be harmful to the directory’s ability to accrue the maximum possible amount of information on a practice.”

If you’d like any advice on your directories submissions, whether you’re already ranked or looking to be, our expert team is here to help.

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