With the latest Best Lawyers guide being released in Australia recently, I've seen a lot of chatter on LinkedIn about the pros and cons of legal guides/ directories. Having worked on submissions for more guides than I'd like to count across Australia, the UK, Asia and Africa, I thought I'd share my perspective on whether lawyers and law firms should bother pursuing these!
In short, I do believe it's worthwhile, as I think external endorsements are powerful and should (in whatever form) be part of your overall marketing strategy (PART, not all... the outcomes of true business development cannot be achieved with a directory listing!).
But the type of directory listing you should pursue will depend on a few different factors, which I'll cover in this article (originally published on my LinkedIn profile).
Your legal practice size, location and niche
I've worked for large international firms, mid range firms with departments of varying size and reputation, and boutique practices. Some lawyers get frustrated when they're not ranked in the top tier in major directories, but there are so many different factors at play, which I cover below.
(It's also important to note that you need to understand the criteria and methodologies of each different directory. If you can't find information on their websites or it's unclear, get in touch with their editors. I've always found them to be very helpful).
Large law firms
In the bigger national and international firms, legal directory submissions are pretty much mandatory. But these firms have scale:
offices in every major city (and region/country for the multi-nationals!)
multiple practice groups and industry groups
clients involved in multi billion dollar transactions, and
large teams with a number of partners and lawyers at all levels.
For those firms, it makes sense to put effort into the major directories like Chambers and Legal 500 as they fulfill the criteria and frankly are expected to be ranked in the top tiers. An accolade like "Listed in the top tier of Chambers in 38 countries" is bloody impressive to slap on the home page of your website.
Oh, and they have huge marketing teams to do the work to get all the submissions in!
Mid range firms
Here's where it gets tricky. Mid sized firms that have inconsistent practices or locations will struggle to get consistent rankings across the firm.
They may have smaller practice groups that are at the top of their game in their particular city, but lack representation beyond that location. For a nationwide legal directory, it makes it very difficult to rank in the top tiers unless you have a consistently strong practice across the major cities.
I've always thought that these firms should focus on making submissions for those practice areas for which they can realistically rank in the top three tiers, and focus their marketing efforts for smaller practice areas on other activities that are more appropriate for their size/stature.
Boutique firms and solo practitioners
Unless you are working in a highly specialised niche for which there is a category, chances are it will be difficult for you to get ranked in Chambers and Legal 500 as a boutique firm or solo operator.
My recommendation is to aim for guides like Best Lawyers, which are peer reviewed (so they don't involve time intensive submissions) and recognised globally as an independent (ie not "pay-to-play") publication. Guides like this that list individuals are more achievable for smaller practices.
If you operate in an emerging area of law that is not yet included, put in a case to see if it can be added to the legal directories/guides you want to be recognised in! I've seen new categories being created for very discrete areas of law. The beauty of this is you'll have little competition and likely to be ranked in the top tier - and deservedly so!
It's not worth obsessing over!
And of course, these accolades should be only one small part of your overall marketing plan, so obsessing over these things is just unhealthy in my opinion.
In the law firms I've worked in, frustrated lawyers (ie the ones who weren't ranked as highly as they would've liked) would from time to time ask the question "Does anyone actually care about these listings?". It's a valid question and I think the answer is that the legal profession does. So having these listings is great for building credibility among your peers, who are potential referral sources. This includes international firms, who may use the guides to find lawyers in a specific jurisdiction their client may be operating in.
And clients will always be happy that they're working with a "best lawyer" too!
But if you do get listed, milk it.
If you do get listed, make the most of it. Write a blog and post it on socials (but include some commentary or message of value and congratulate all of your peers who are listed, rather than just boast), add the listing to your website profile, LinkedIn profile and speaker bio, and include it in new business proposals.
Are you a boutique law firm owner interested in getting recognised by a legal directory? I've worked with all of the major directories and know how they operate! Get in touch if you want to discuss by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.