For the last in our three-part blog series on US legal directory submissions, having given you the background and all the tips and advice for writing your submissions, we look at failed entries, improving ranking and ways you can go forward in the future…
The legal directory process can be extremely frustrating for some firms, what if you’ve followed the criteria, spent months putting your submissions together and you still haven’t been ranked? The most important lesson is so often overlooked. You can put together the most comprehensive evidence for why you think you should be included but if it isn’t supported by industry opinion then you won’t get a look in. It’s as simple as that.
The biggest mistake you can make is to think that your work starts with compiling the submission… that’s the easy part. That’s why we always start work with our clients early in the year. It’s not because we’re super organized. It’s because you have to do the groundwork –rather like preparing a vegetable patch. It’s important not to overlook:
• Relevant, recent examples. You may have worked on the most ground-breaking case the law has ever seen in a particular field, but if your work in the last calendar year has been dreary or un-noteworthy, you aren’t going to get a look-in.
• Reading the question. There’s a reason the clever people at the directories go to so much trouble to write out templates and forms and guides for you to fill in. It’s because nobody ever reads the questions properly. When they say there is a word count… it’s because they expect you to stick to it (within reason). When they say they want to understand why something is important, it’s because they want to see how you explain its relevance. When they ask for a certain number of recent examples, it’s because they want to see how current your work is. Come on, give them a break and play by the rules.
• Getting agreement. It is naive to think that the researchers are only going to talk to the people you provide as references. Part of the interview process is checking whether individuals and firms/sets are as ‘expert’ as they say they are. If they ask a recognized (and listed) expert their views on ‘John Smith’ and they’ve never heard of him… there’s a fair chance the researcher will draw the conclusion that his submission is, simply put, hot air. Which leads me on to the next point.
• Doing the groundwork. If you have particular people in your set/firm or a practice area that you’re keen to get listed, then it needs to feature in your marketing strategy early on. Work needs to start before the summer on making sure profiles are widely shared and supported by quality thought-leadership and external communications.
IN A NUTSHELL…
The legal directories try hard to represent the industry, not to interpret it. If you don’t get listed (and you think you should have) it will be because the industry doesn’t a) agree or (more likely) b) know. And that’s where marketing comes in. Setting objectives at this stage and working towards them is important. That means not only puffing out marketing and PR buzz but making sure the business development activity is generating the ‘right kind’ of work. That’s why the biggest lesson we’ve all learned, over the years, is the importance of the tail not wagging the dog.
What do we mean? So many firms try to get into the directories as a way of establishing a practice, rather than viewing them as validation of an existing, expert practice. Getting the strategy right from the first is the only way to do it. Then, making sure your submission is accurate and well-supported will ensure a successful (and deserved) ranking.
The value of involving a professional expert in this process shouldn’t be underestimated. Using a third-party to write your submission can help you gain that listing or ranking climb by addressing weaknesses that may need to be spotted by an outsider. Particularly if you wish to provide feedback on (as you perceive it) an unfair ranking in the previous edition, using a third-party to write your submissions for you could give you the upper edge in terms of addressing areas that need improvement.
With the changing legal sector more and more clients are recognizing the value of an impartial, academic review of expertise… and it’s one of the reasons why there has been a boom in firms from the USA seeking UK-based advice on how to get their submissions right.
If you want more information about what ELE Global can do for you email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
To get all 11 of our practical tips for writing your legal directory submissions, background information about the process and the publishers, and further details on getting experts to support this process you can download our free white paper on the topic: Chambers and Partners and Legal 500 – Professional tips for getting the most from your directory submissions. This is our most wide-reaching guide we have ever released, packed with free advice, checklists and comment.