Legal directories: are you getting the best return?

Perhaps you have an out-of-date copy of Chambers and Partners or The Legal 500 under your computer monitor, putting it at just the right ergonomic height. An ex-researcher for one of the directories tells me whenever a lawyer was interviewed in their office for the news, colleagues would look carefully to see if it was their directory or ‘the other one’ doing the job.

Now both books are digital/online-only, they’ll have to get their kicks some other way.

The old hard-copy directories were designed to look like traditional law books, so they could blend on the shelf with Halsbury, The White Book and a variety of authoritative OUP third editions.

In our latest white paper, based on surveys and interview with professionals in every global region, we ask if the directories offer true value in a fast-changing world, or if their utility has diminished. Also on the table, was whether they can face down more nimble ‘upstart’ competition.

Put simply, our conclusion was that the only directories gathering dust are the ones propping up computer monitors.

Following extensive research across a global cross-section of the legal sector, from lawyers, barristers and senior business development heads to GCs and the directories themselves, we uncovered the clearest straightforward benefit of the directories.

We also report the market’s view on the value of a ranking including the impact on global profiles and how much weight referrers place on a ranking when instructing in another jurisdiction. And the jewel in the crown, the percentage of clients reviewing legal directory rankings as part of the process of selecting external legal advisers.

They are part of the picture, but not of course the whole picture, in billions-worth of instructions – in a key minority a directory ranking in the big-two is a requirement.

Lawyers and business development professionals don’t seem wowed by the ability of the big two to innovate, but on innovation – new sections, new products, web and process design – they lead the field, with upstarts trailing.

So, no getting out of the leviathan annual submissions task yet.

There are challenges identified for the directories though. Can they reflect a wider set of criteria, such as equality and diversity, tech innovation and new models of legal services provider?

And where professionals have encountered an inexperienced under-briefed researcher, that memory sticks. Many comment that they would like more transparency about how decisions are made on rankings and better access to researchers and editors. Extras, like blogs by editors are appreciated where they exist.

Overall, Chambers and Legal 500 are here to stay, though, with submissions, references, rankings, and write-ups still the cornerstone of the process.

We note, however, that 56% are not happy with their ranking. If you’re one of them, I hope you’ll get in touch.

White paper and IBA conference: If you want to meet up at the IBA conference in Rome then please get in touch. On Monday 8 October I will be speaking at the session, ‘Legal directories: how to maximise the benefits and returns from a ranking’. I hope you might be able to attend and would be delighted to talk to you after the session and answer any questions. We will also be launching the 2nd in our series of white papers there on the future of the directories and you can pick up your free copy.

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