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Preparing them involves many hours of time, and sometimes money, so we wanted to crunch a few statistics, facts and figures to see if we can explain why these pains are worth enduring.

So, why bother?

In the legal sector return on investments of time and money can be tricky to quantify. It isn’t purely about how many new clients walk through your doors the day after the directories are published. When the media requires expert advice it needs go-to specialists, and these are not drawn exclusively from big, multinational firms. Furthermore research shows that significant numbers of overseas clients in need of legal services in jurisdictions new to them turn to directories as a first port of call. Finally, let us not forget that when other professional services are looking to refer their clients on for legal matters, your directory rankings may prove hugely important to them.

Don’t underestimate the importance of directories as an annual line in the sand, against which to judge the performance of your own firm internally and against the competition. Ambitious firms should be competitive, but internal morale and enthusiasm are also massively important, and directory rankings can be excellent motivators. In an International Bar Association (IBA) webinar, David Burgess of Legal 500 observed “Use the directories, both the submission process and results when they come out, as your own internal audit. So you’re able to sit down and find out what it is that defines you, what you could do differently and what it is that might make a client use [your law firm]. You can see where you’re ranked, you can see what the directories say about you. […] It’s an honest reality check as to how good you are. The vast majority of partners you’ll speak to will think they’re slightly better than they are.”

A survey conducted by Legal 500 showed that 77% of visitors to the website viewed the law firm profiles and 74% viewed the profiles of individual lawyers. Such statistics would be rare levels of achievement indeed on individual firms’ websites. Moreover, on a directory website they come with evidence of genuine excellence in the practice of law, rather than just excellence in the practice of copywriting on law firm websites.

So how might all of that be summarised?

Legal directory submissions can help determine what you’re doing well, how you’re doing it well, what could be better, what sort of story you are telling the public and the media, and how your individual lawyers are perceived both internally and externally.

What more do you need to know?

Here at ELE Global we are obsessive about legal directory submissions. We write them, talk about them, and advise on them, not just for UK firms and chambers but for US and other international firms as well. We have published numerous articles, e-Books and infographics, and over many years, working with many clients, we have acquired huge levels of expertise for those seeking advice on how to get their submissions perfect and achieve that all-important ranking. But along the way we have come to understand just how much of a chore the process can be, and we can entirely understand those lawyers we encounter every year who question why the process is even worth it. If what’s above hasn’t convinced you yet (seriously?), here are four more reasons you need to bother with them this year:

  1. There was a time when the directories ranked firms and lawyers irrespective of whether they put in submissions. That changed in 2019 and 2020 when certain leading individuals (and in places entire firms) in particular fields suddenly found themselves unranked because they had not put in submissions. So, our advice is don’t be the one not included because you couldn’t be bothered.
  2. Legal directory submissions are peer and expert reviewed extensively before the ranking is decided upon, and going through the process offers a wonderful opportunity to share news with clients and to raise your profile (and relationship) with them. You see, when we’re working with firms/chambers on directories we don’t just do the submissions. We help to produce briefing notes and supporting marketing that will back up the submissions with evidence and help those being asked to support claims made.
  3. UK-based private practice lawyers may not use directories to select counsel, but those in other jurisdictions or not working regularly in the field rely heavily upon them, and for public sector work, where procurement often requires detailed evidence of expertise, directory rankings are invaluable. So, our advice is why would you want to miss out on this?
  4. Finally, let’s go there and talk about marketing. Directories provide excellent content that can be used in marketing, both for chambers and your own practice, but more important is that a directory ranking generates content on the directory website that is highly ranked by Google. If linked to your own website profile this will get a Google boost too. Our advice is not to think that being on one of the directory websites is the same thing as being on your firm or chambers’ own website. It really isn’t. Added to which, what is written on a legal directory website is very valuable when linked to from your own site or social media. Why would you risk appearing lower down the Google search results than someone who is less good at what you do than you are, just because you bothered to do your submissions?

In a nutshell

The legal directories try hard to represent the industry rather than to interpret it. If you don’t get listed it will be because the industry either doesn’t agree or, more likely, know. Yes, that’s right – we’ll say it again. In the majority of cases that someone isn’t ranked it is because the researchers can’t find enough evidence to include them, be that the submission, referrals or peer review. It isn’t because they aren’t actually any good at what they do.

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. But it should go beyond this and include supporting you with choosing and briefing referees as well as developing marketing plans that further spread the key messages. 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 help with the submission process could give you the upper edge in terms of addressing areas that need improvement.

If you want more information about what ELE Global can do for you email us at