What to do now to reduce legal directory deadline stress

From March of this year, as the impact of COVID-19 became more and more pronounced, we braced for firms opting out of legal directory submissions.

It’s no secret that directories place a huge strain on resource at the best of times. However, as reported in our third directories white paper “How general counsel are changing legal services”, legal directory rankings and eye-catching editorial continue to be a globally understood differentiator and validation of quality and capability. Understandably then, we have seen jurisdictions around the world continue to submit and are now in the lead up to the UK law firm and bar submissions.

Follow our checklist of tasks for September and October to put you ahead of the usual stress of the UK’s traditional December and New Year’s deadlines and create impactful submissions.

Audit your list

With increased pressure on internal resources this year, the need to identify ROI on all BD activities has ratcheted up.

Firms often treat the directories as a repeat exercise, submitting to the same practice areas each year without question. However, capability and direction within firms can change over time and indeed, submission categories presented by the directories change over the years.

Take time now to assess the practice areas you’ve submitted to previously and your results over the last few years. Are there practices areas where you are on a clear downward trajectory? Why is this? Are there really strong practice groups and individual lawyers not currently represented in the rankings? Why aren’t they?

Review current business plans and any revise your list of submissions.

Interrogate your content

If you continually tendered for the same piece of work but never won it, a good bids team would debrief with the procuring body and review previous submissions to identify the improvements to be made. The same goes for directory submissions.

To save time, we regularly see teams repeating much of the proposition and content from the previous year, and just updating matter highlights. This risks submissions losing impact and focus and becoming a bit ‘meh’.

Where teams truly believe they are not achieving the right results, take a critical look at your process and content. Interrogate a selection of previous submissions (good and bad results), or even better engage an external and objective pair of eyes to help you map out efficiencies and improvements for your next set of submissions.

Put in some groundwork on matter highlights

Now is a great time to take stock of key transactions and cases that are likely to feature in the next round of submissions.

Whatever is available to you (and all firms are different) matter highlights (and referees) are often stress points and barriers to meeting deadlines. You know the period the submission will cover, a lot of the work has already taken place – there is no need to wait for the next set of rankings to be released to start compiling your matter highlights.

If you have one, speak to your bids team or go to the firm’s bids library and look for case studies or recent bids and pull out useful content. Speak to PSLs about key highlights for the relevant period and start pulling together details.

Ultimately, if you can make recording details for matter highlights intuitive and a habit, this can be done on an ongoing basis throughout the year. You will also have an easier time pinning down why a matter is significant and tracking down missing information while work is fresh in everyone’s minds.

For added ROI, read of our blog on using directories data to support other BD and marketing initiatives.

Build relationships with the directories

By and large, editorial teams and account managers at the key directories are very happy to and want to have a dialogue with firms. From their perspective, being open and sharing feedback leads to better crafted and useful submissions and more responsive referees. It also helps support a better understanding of the products and opportunities they offer.

Speak to your account manager to check in on any likely updates this year or to discuss any thoughts or queries about submitting to a new practice area or indeed, your own market observations. Involving partners in calls with editors and sub-editors can also help with buy-in when it comes to preparing submissions and builds team and specific partner profiles with the directories.

Update your website

Your website is often one of the first places researchers will look. If information about a particular practice area isn’t readily available (or doesn’t exist at all – which does happen) it won’t look like a key practice and focus within the firm and you put a question mark in their minds. Is this really a strong practice area, or a punt at a submission?

Use this time to make sure you have updated content available on your key practice areas – something as simple as writing a new blog post or adding recent cases to your site can help back up your submissions.

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