The legal directory question: can a ranking help your reputation in a crowded market?

People buy people was one of the main areas of discussion on the IBA panel yesterday and also a key conclusion of our second white paper looking at the role and utility of the legal directories.

Lest you think that’s unsurprising, consider the sheer amount that general counsel must consider in selecting the law firms that advise them.

There’s often the involvement of the procurement department, with a close focus on price. There’s the downward pressure on legal budgets, which leads GCs to take a close interest in how a firm might deploy automation and ‘northshoring’ to save money.

A ‘robot’ can do hundreds of searches a minute, and blockchain holds out the prospect of a ‘single version of the truth’.

Legal work is broken down, delegated, done in a low-cost environment, automated – and then price-checked. Then there’s the need to look at the ‘supply chain’ of firms and demands on firms’ equality and diversity data.

If law firms’ biggest spend is still people, for some big ones, the second biggest is now IT, where traditionally it was property.

What place in all this for a guide that asks clients if they rate their lawyers and why?

A pretty big place is the answer.

While there are a lot of boxes to ‘tick’ in modern instructions, in many cases one such box is a directory ranking. The coldest bean counter doesn’t want to be the one responsible for putting the CEO opposite a lawyer they take an instant dislike to.

What we term ‘legal IT’ has had an exciting few years, rapidly reaching a point where 40% of the top-100 are using artificial intelligence tools. But with a few IT vendors emerging as the big winners, and consolidation taking place, technology is less of an ‘edge’ for firms.

Just as ‘having email’ long ceased to be a differentiator.

Technology, legislation and regulation it seems are acting together to make the world more legally complex – increasing, not decreasing, the importance of having the right lawyer to guide you through the resulting maze.

Hence the value of the legal directories going up, not down.

All that should mean firms and chambers care more about their ranking and write-up, not least as part of their wider business development and PR strategy.

If you’d like to see how we can help with that, I hope you’ll get in touch.

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