If you are someone who works in law, chances are you are well familiar with legal directories. They could easily be defined as the most essential legal marketing tool. However, the complexity of legal directories and the fact that they are an independent source of industry insight makes them somewhat tricky in comparison with other typical marketing channels.
What is a legal directory?
Broadly speaking, a legal directory is a website, which lists law firms and lawyers. To be more precise, we need to distinguish between two main types of legal directories:
Catalogue types serve to purely list a lawyer or law firm with a profile, including contact details, location, practice areas, etc. These are mostly paid. Some may include an option to leave reviews and feedback.
This type of directory ranks lawyers and law firms together with their competitors in the respective market. The rankings are based on extensive research into the firm’s work, as well as on client and peer feedback, and this is exactly what makes them so valuable. They serve as an independent source of verified information and frequently are what determines whether a potential client contacts one firm or another.
Ranking types also provide the option to purchase firm and lawyer profiles, as well as marketing materials, but this is not related in any way to whether a firm is ranked or not.
We will focus mainly on the ranking type as it clearly involves a larger effort and has multiple implications for a law firm’s marketing and business development strategy.
How do legal rankings work?
Legal directories elaborate rankings of leading lawyers and/or law firms across jurisdictions, practice areas, and industries. These rankings are based on information submitted by lawyers or law firms, on one hand, and on the other – on substantial research carried out by legal directories. The standard steps in this process are the following:
✓ The law firm submits work highlights (usually going back 12 months) and other useful information regarding its practice and experience
✓ The firm also submits client referees
✓ Legal directory researchers review the submitted information and reach out to client referees, as well as to peers for feedback on a given law firm and/or lawyer
✓ Rankings are published (usually between 6 and 12 months following the submission of information)
Which are the main legal directories?
The two principal directories and the ones you should be focusing on the most are Chambers and Partners and
The Legal 500. These two cover a wide range of practice areas and industries. However, the exact coverage varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.
Additional directories, but with a practice-specific focus include IFLR1000 and others from the same publishing group (Euromoney Institutional Investor Plc) – IP Stars, Benchmark Litigation, ITR World Tax, LMG Life Sciences. Who’s Who Legal is another popular legal directory, elaborated on the basis of peer feedback.
Why are directories essential?
Legal directories, and especially legal rankings, are a primary reference point for any business looking to retain a law firm. This makes them crucial for attracting new clients and, therefore, an essential part of the overall marketing and business development efforts.
The fact that legal rankings are elaborated as a result of independent research and client feedback makes them a key source of recommendation together with word of mouth. They provide an unbiased review and credibility to any legal practice.
Legal directories are also an excellent digital marketing tool for law firms, even more so than websites or social media. This is because legal directories have high domain authority, meaning they are indexed highly by search engines. For example, when looking up “real estate law firm Spain” in Google, the first two non-paid results are legal directories. So if you are a law firm, your chances of being organically discovered on the web are way higher if you are featured in a legal directory than if you just count on on-page SEO efforts (on-page SEO: factors on your own website, off-page SEO: factors occurring on external websites).
How to get involved?
Carry out a competitor analysis: Where are your main competitors listed or ranked?
Generally speaking, anywhere your main competitors are listed, you would want to be listed as well. This is because whenever a potential client ends up in a particular directory or ranking, it will only be a matter of whether you are there or not to determine if they retain you or any of your competitors.
You can run a quick search on the web and see where your main competitors appear or check their websites for references to legal directories.
This is not to say you should blindly follow whatever everyone else is doing. Once you have the directories where your competitors are present, weigh in the authenticity, requirements and potential benefits of being listed and see whether these are applicable to your practice and resources.
Check out the requirements: What do you need to do to get listed or ranked?
Legal directories usually have a dedicated section on their websites, explaining in detail how to get listed or ranked. This includes deadlines, description of the whole process, practice area definitions and jurisdiction coverage, submission and referee templates and others. It is essential that you review these requirements carefully and follow them at all times if you decide to participate.
Identify your strengths and goals: Which practice areas are you active in and which directories are worthy of your time and efforts?
Plenty of new legal directories have been appearing lately while established ones have been expanding to new markets and practice areas. There are many rankings and listings out there that claim to be the ultimate source of reference for potential clients and GCs. It is important to take such claims with caution and dedicate your efforts to directories with proven authenticity and standing. Being included in a spammy directory may not only make you invest resources in the wrong direction, it can even hurt you marketing strategy.
Once you have decided which directories are in line with your goals, be realistic about your capacity to participate in them. Outline the practice areas you are active in, as well as the volume and nature of your work. Think about who on your team can manage the whole process with submissions, interviews, profiles and so on. Depending on how many directories you take part in, it can be quite a time-consuming task, which runs year round. Also consider the internal organization you would need in order to involve everyone on your team and obtain the best possible data to present to the directories.