Legal directory submissions are very much viewed as a “love it or hate it” part of marketing. It doesn’t matter whether you’re law firm management, marketing or an individual solicitor… they’re an ‘eyes-rolling’ time of year… and, whilst EVERYONE says they’d like to just miss a year and see what happens… nobody is quite brave enough. So… are they really worth the paper they’re printed on and, more to the point, are they worth the many, many hours of time (and sometimes money) that you put into them?
We wanted to look at some actual statistics, facts and figures to see if we can work out why you might want to bother with the directories this year… and, indeed, figures from a research paper released by the Legal Marketing Association (LMA) and the Law Firm Media Professionals (LFMP) gave us some good insight… In the report, it stated that ROI on submissions was just 10%, yet 80% of all law firms still bother putting in submissions… So… should they?
Before we start we need to agree what we mean by ROI. Obviously money makes the wheels go around (go on now… we defy you to get that tune out of your head for the rest of the day, now) and so the ultimate ROI = instruction… and, in particular, instruction from new clients.
But ROI doesn’t necessarily mean focusing on the number of clients acquired or a straight ‘GBP-related’ ROI. There are three other, important, measures:
- The directories are used by press, when they’re searching for an expert in a specific area of law. Press won’t just opt for the big multinational firms either – small boutique law firms listed in the legal directories may also be approached by the media. Making sure you’re ranked as experts in your chosen field gives you a greater chance to become the go-to “Ask an Expert” for major news outlets such as the BBC, News UK and so on. You could consider measuring Net Promotor Scores for brand awareness, or measuring the amount of coverage you’re getting over a year.
- Let’s not forget foreign clients seeking a lawyer when they’re facing unfamiliar laws and jurisdictions. Clients from overseas are highly likely to make use of legal directories when choosing a law firm, meaning they can be an invaluable resource. Data published by the Legal 500 showed that up to 19% of visits to their legal directory were from individuals seeking “a firm in a jurisdiction outside of my own.” People from other countries are relying, and trusting, the legal directories to help them find the right law firm for their needs. You could consider measuring an increase in overseas enquiry or instruction.
- Finally, let’s not forget referrers. Whether it’s conveyancers being referred work through estate agents, or M&A specialists working with VCs and banks… when you’re looking for the best person to send your client to, having a ranking and write-up really helps you make a choice. Measuring referrals would be an excellent way of measuring the ROI of your directories work.
But what about internal measures?
So, we’ve established that you could measure:
- Changes in enquiries generated
- Changes in instruction levels
- Changes in brand awareness and press coverage
- Changes in levels of international instruction
- Changes in levels of referrals
- (and all of the above split down by areas of law)
But there are a number of other reasons for law firms to continue their involvement with the legal directories.
The biggest – and in many ways most important – is that these represent an annual ‘line in the sand’. They’re a way of assessing perception of your team’s performance, both generally and in as far as your clients are concerned. Whilst it is a bit of a wet reason to carry on, if you’re ambitious then you should be keen to see how ‘the outside world’ considers you are performing, against your peers.
Linked to this the LMA & LFMP paper stated that the most effective benefit of legal directories for law firms is they ‘improve morale internally’. Your team sees their hard work reflected in a move up the rankings… and they’ll probably feel a significant amount of self-worth and achievement. This, in turn, can boost motivation and output throughout the team. And, should the worst happen and you see yourselves sliding back down the slippery pole… well, that can be an incentive to be a little more proactive about business development and client care.
Furthermore, visitors to the legal directories want to read both the law firm profiles on the whole and individual lawyer profiles. In the survey conducted by Legal 500, 77% of visitors viewed the law firm profiles and 74% viewed individual lawyer profiles. This is quite interesting… particularly when you view it within the context of your website analytics. Few firms can boast an equal number of visitors viewing both areas of law and lawyer profiles… so maybe there is some benefit to being on the directory website? And for this being linked to a validation of expertise (as opposed to the blind statements contained on all law firm websites)… and this is before we even start looking at the click-through rates from directory profiles to law firm websites. Or before we start considering that directory rankings and profiles all show up in Google searches, thereby making sure you have a wonderful Page 1 of Google, full of your name and links through to your information.
We’re also huge advocates of using the directories for strategic insight. That means using your legal directory submission as a form of SWOT analysis. In a 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.”
Legal directory submissions can help you…
- Determine WHAT you’re doing well
- HOW you’re doing it well
- What could be better
- What sort of story are you telling the public and the media
- How your individual lawyers are perceived both internally and externally
How can I make the most out of legal directories?
We have years of experience in writing successful legal directory submissions for law firms and chambers. Over the years we’ve written several articles about getting submissions right, and the key requirements. This might be a few years old but our top tips for preparing a legal directory can be found here, and the details haven’t changed!
And one last point… Quite often, smaller law firms are worried about making a submission to legal directories, whereas this shouldn’t be the case! Chambers & Partners actively encourages small specialist and boutique law firms to make a submission. So what are you waiting for?
Get in touch to find out how we can help you write your law firm’s directory submissions.