Legal directories strategy – don’t fight the process

Our head of directories Linsay Leslie discusses the big question: is the focus of your work meeting the deadline, or presenting a strategic submission?

With slightly later than expected Chambers and Partners UK deadlines, our directories team has been enjoying some great strategic planning sessions with firms. It’s hugely rewarding to help inform and coach teams, compiling focused submissions that will make an impact with researchers, rather than feeling on a constant treadmill of deadlines. 

Firms often highlight the pressure and drain on resource and miss the value, not just in terms of a good result but the strategic benefits of analysing where a team truly sits among their peers, and importantly, what their clients think they do really well. I’ve blogged about this before, but the scoping and writing process itself should be seen as a valuable piece of BD and client analysis and research for a firm. Make a change this year – follow our tips and be more strategic.

Challenge your firm-wide approach

Most firms qualify bid and pitch opportunities before committing resource to the process, but very few firms extend this rigour to directory submissions. 

There are plenty of articles out there giving views on how long it should take to write a submission. Most underestimate the time required to scope and compile concise, impactful and effective submissions that give readers (researchers and editors) what they need. Multiply the time needed to get the most from each submission by the number of practice areas being submitted, and it’s a significant BD project to undertake annually.

The smart BD and marketing team will challenge and hone their master list of submission. Use the time and resource wisely to focus on practice areas, jurisdictions, states and even selecting specialist guides that are aligned with firm-wide or sector-specific business plans. Continually ask, ‘why are we doing this?’

Manage expectations and avoid directories fatigue

We frequently hear from heads of department who didn’t get the team and all the individual rankings they think they deserve when results come out.

As external consultants, it can be easier for us to manage expectations about what can be achieved from one submission. There will not be seismic leaps from a team in Band 4 to Band 1 in a year, and every single partner and senior associate is unlikely to soar through the rankings in a year. Work through the feedback on your results and the body of work for the year objectively, and then identify realistically what you are likely to achieve. 

Like most things in life, you can have it all but just not all at the same time. There may not be sufficiently strong evidence of growth for a team to move up the rankings, but some individuals may have seen an uptick in work, significant new clients and garner strong enough feedback to move up the individual rankings. Each incremental gain is a step forward, and the directories are a year-on-year process. You need to be in it for the long game.


We can’t stress enough how important it is to pay attention to your referees. The referee spreadsheet looks like the easy bit to complete, and firms often leave selecting their list of referees until last, or worse, recycle the list from the previous submission. Your directory strategy should include how you select your referees. For more tips and best practice download our referee guide.

Don’t fight the process, embrace it

Requirements for directories are fairly straightforward. The information needed doesn’t change drastically year to year, submission deadlines generally follow a pattern, and new guides and practice areas are introduced gradually in response to market developments, user feedback and thorough research by the directories part. 

There is no secret formula or silver bullet. A clearly scoped, presented and evidenced review of your year and a list of effective referees will give researchers key details they need to review and validate the practice area within a specific region.

For more recommendations and best practice, download our guide Legal directories: get better results and improve your ROI.

How we can help

We work with lawyers and barristers around the world, guiding them through the directories process from creating impactful submissions to managing and getting the most from referees. Firms who work with us save time and resources, enabling them to focus on client work and other critical projects to the firm.

Download an overview of our services

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