4 Ways to Improve Your Legal Directory Submissions

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It’s that time of the year again – deadlines for legal directory submissions are in full force. Some directories such as Chambers and IFLR1000 open the season in February and, depending on which ones you cover, you may go well into October preparing and submitting information on your firm’s work. And we’ve all been there – we all know how time-consuming and laborious it can get. And the worst thing is, even when you think you’ve put it all into a submission, the end ranking result might not be what you expected. Obviously, rankings are not solely a question of good submissions. That said, there are several things you can do when prepping your directories info to make sure you seize the opportunity to its fullest potential.

Gather information and supporting evidence year round

OK, in all fairness, this is not a tip for the exact moment of putting together submissions. But we believe it is so important that we can’t really go without it. You should be piling up information for your submissions year round.

Whenever you secure a project – put that down somewhere (your CRM or an excel). Make note of any particularities about it (maybe it involves some innovative legal constructs, or the client is quite important, or it is a multijurisdictional matter) and designate a contact person for it, who will later hopefully act as your referee for legal directories.

In addition to work highlights, a great deal of a submission is dedicated to presenting your firm as a whole and your team per each practice area. So beyond pure work highlights, you need other evidence to support your aspirations for high rankings. Any pro bono, marketing or ESG initiative you undertake throughout the year should be reflected somewhere in your legal directories files. This way, when the time comes, you will have it all piled up and ready to be included in your submission.

Make the most of generic sections

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

Obviously client feedback is the principal winning point. But besides positive opinions from your clients, you can use generic 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 (though not explicitly saying it!). This is where all the evidence you gathered throughout the year comes to action. Client statistics, added value, ESG commitment, innovations – everything that shows you as a forward-thinking, modern and client-centric firm should be included.

Don’t get lost in technicalities

Consciously or not, legal professionals are often led by the misconception that everyone understands legal lingo. This is a common problem not just among the legal industry, but for anyone, whose work involves a sector-specific vocabulary. And though directory researchers may have a general understanding of most terms that doesn’t mean you have to flood them with legal concepts and figures. If you want to explain just how complex or important something is, try to do that with a more commercial vocabulary. After all, a valuable quality for lawyers is the ability to explain legal complexity in simple terms. If you are able to do this for your clients, what better way to demonstrate it than to do it for researchers as well.

Lastly, remember that the significance of legal terms may vary from country to country. Firstly because of differences in the legal systems, and secondly – because of varying translations of native legal terms into English. To avoid any confusion, just tone down the strictly legal explanations and replace them with language that is easier to digest by the wider audience.

Don’t boast, substantiate

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

So going back to descriptions in the generic sections – we are talking 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 that 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, spare them overall – 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 the specific things that make it significant (for ex., it involved a market-leading company), innovative (for ex., it involved the implementation of a pioneer transaction structure) or large-scale (for ex., it involved multiple jurisdictions).