5 ways to improve your legal directory submissions

30 April 2023

It’s that time of year again – the deadlines for legal directory submissions are in full force. Some directories, such as Chambers and IFLR1000, open the season in February, and depending on the directories you cover, you may be preparing and submitting information on your firm’s work well into October. We’ve all been there – we know how time-consuming and laborious it can get.

In this post, we explore 5 ways to improve legal directory submissions, maximise their impact, and increase your chances of high rankings.

Understand the criteria

Legal directories use specific criteria to evaluate law firms and lawyers. It’s important to understand these criteria and tailor your submissions accordingly. For example, directories may look for evidence of high-profile cases, client feedback, and professional accomplishments. Make sure your submissions provide the information that the directories are looking for.

In addition, it’s essential to carefully read the applicable practice area definitions, as they may vary from one directory to another. For instance, one directory may include financing, regulatory, and insolvency in their Banking & Finance section, while another may focus solely on financing transactions. It’s important to understand the definitions used by each directory and adjust your submissions accordingly to ensure you present the correct work highlights and information. This will help you avoid submitting irrelevant information and increase your chances of achieving a favourable ranking.

Gather information and supporting evidence year round

To be fair, this tip isn’t just for the moment you put together your submissions, but it’s so important that we can’t leave it out.

To improve legal directory submissions, you should be gathering information throughout the year.

Whenever you secure a project, make a note of it in your CRM or an Excel spreadsheet. Include any relevant details about the project, such as innovative legal constructs, important clients, or multijurisdictional matters, and designate a contact person for it. This person can later act as a referee for legal directories.

In addition to work highlights, a significant portion of your submission focuses on presenting your firm as a whole and your team for each practice area. Therefore, in addition to documenting work highlights, you should also collect evidence to support your aspirations for high rankings. This could include any pro bono, added-value, marketing, or ESG initiative your firm undertakes throughout the year. Make sure to document these initiatives in your legal directories files, so that you have everything ready to include in your submission when the time comes.

Make the most of all sections

This point builds upon the previous one. You may have some impressive work highlights to submit to legal directories, but unless you are in an uncompetitive market, your peers likely have illustrious projects themselves. So, what will distinguish your firm from the rest in the eyes of a researcher?

Client feedback is undoubtedly the primary winning point. However, besides positive opinions from your clients, you can use general information sections (such as Information regarding lawyers, Department/Practice information, Innovations, etc.) to pinpoint your strengths, differentiate yourself from the rest, and make a case for why you are the best there is (without explicitly stating it!). This is where all the evidence you gathered throughout the year comes into play. Client statistics, added value, ESG commitment, innovations – everything that showcases your firm as forward-thinking, modern, and client-centric should be included.

By highlighting your strengths and unique selling points, you can make a strong case for why your firm stands out and deserves a high ranking. Remember, legal directories are not just looking for a list of projects, but also a comprehensive picture of your firm, including its strengths and values.

Don’t get lost in technicalities

Legal professionals often assume that everyone understands legal terminology. This is not only a common issue in the legal industry, but for anyone whose work involves specialized jargon.

Even though directory researchers may have a general understanding of most terms, it is not necessary to inundate them with legal concepts and figures. If you want to explain the complexity or significance of something, try to use more commercial language. The ability to explain legal complexity in simple terms is a valuable quality for lawyers. If you can do this for your clients, why not demonstrate it to researchers as well?

Lastly, keep in mind that the significance of legal terms may vary from country to country due to differences in legal systems or varying translations of native legal terms into English. To avoid any confusion, it is best to tone down strictly legal explanations and replace them with language that is more easily digestible for a wider audience.

If you are interested to learn more about the importance of content for a law firm’s marketing efforts, check our articles How to improve your law firm’s insights and client alerts and LinkedIn guide for law firms.

Don’t boast, substantiate

Yes, it’s all about language, as you may have noticed if you made it this far. Ultimately, in a written document to a complete stranger, it all comes down to how you express yourself.

Going back to descriptions in the generic sections – we are talking about hard evidence here, not just boastful words. You may be a small firm in a market where ESG and innovation don’t have the same reach as they do in, say, the US legal market. So obviously, your country-specific context greatly defines your quantity of supporting evidence.

If you don’t have much to add besides your firm’s expertise and experience, it’s better to keep practice-wide descriptions short and to the point. Don’t go overboard with self-praising adjectives. Actually, our advice is to spare them altogether – whether your services were ‘excellent’, ‘first-class’, ‘first-rate’, ‘expert’, and so on, is for clients to decide, and they will have the opportunity to do so in their feedback.

The same goes for work highlights – stick to objectively describing matters and stay away from marketing talk. If you want to accentuate the significance, innovativeness or scale of a project, do so by mentioning specific things that make it significant (for example, it involved a market-leading company), innovative (for example, it involved the implementation of a pioneer transaction structure) or large-scale (for example, it involved multiple jurisdictions).