Future Leaders Program Review: Surviving Submission Season: Tips, Tricks & Techniques to (Hopefully) Get Results

At the LMA Future Leaders SIG Brownbag on May 26, 2016, Chay Rao, Marketing Content Manager at Steptoe & Johnson LLP, presented key tips, tricks, and techniques to attain the best results from submissions to Chambers USA (Chambers) and to The Legal 500 US (The Legal 500), the two most established and highest ranked directories.  

Chay first presented four reasons to participate in submissions to directories:

1. Lawyers want to participate because they like to be recognized for their work.

2. While there is no straight line to ROI, submissions nevertheless are a useful business development tool because they:

  • Can increase the recognition of a practice or firm and may help to win new business.
  • Help practice groups establish benchmarks when setting and re-evaluating their goals.

3. Content from well-written submissions can be re-used in marketing materials such as pitches.

4. Submissions reaffirm credentials to existing clients. 

Chay then discussed several tips and techniques, described in detail below.   

TIP #1:  When Preparing Submissions, Be Strategic from the Start

  • Don’t raise lawyers’ expectations – be honest with them and manage their expectations. For example, a first time submission for an attorney/practice probably won’t get ranked – it’s just to get your “foot in the door.”
  • Decide if you have enough matters that are strong enough to support a submission.
  • Establish your goals. For example, how many lawyers do you want to get ranked -- is it just one or more than one? Do you want to get the practice ranked? You may want to rank an individual lawyer, even if the practice is not that strong. For example, it could be a first time submission for an attorney who just joined the firm from another firm. Start small: For example, focus on state jurisdictions or DC first, then nationwide submissions, and then global.  

TRICK #1:  Get Organized

  • Create a spreadsheet that includes all of the deadlines for Chambers and The Legal 500. This can save you time by not having to search for this information on the directories’ web sites.
  • Use a document management system (DMS) to house all pending documents and to capture all edits efficiently. By using a DMS, there is no need to track down the most recent draft, a mistake that can diminish your credibility with an attorney.
  • Assign one person to send the final submission to the legal directory. 

TIP #2:  Write to Your Audience

  • Be sure to write a submission for a directory researcher rather than for a lawyer. Don’t include a lot of technical jargon.
  • Lay out the facts in the first paragraph of the submission. Demonstrate why the matter was important.
  • Apply the “So what?” test regarding the matter. Make it compelling. If there is press coverage surrounding a matter, you can add press links to the submission to highlight a matter’s importance.
  • If a submission is too long, it probably won’t be read. Be concise and use bullets to catch the reader’s attention. Write no more than four to six sentences for the practice overview section. Don’t copy text from your web site.
  • Be specific. For example, in the feedback section, draw a comparison to the firms you want to be ranked alongside. Give specific examples such as showing why you should be in Band 2. 

TRICK #2/GOLDEN RULE:  Stay within Format

  • Per Laura Mills, editor of Chambers, keep your matter descriptions to one page and don’t add pages to the submission form.
  • For The Legal 500, which does not provide a form, make your format consistent with the editorial guidelines that are posted on their web site. 

TIP #3:  Use Referees Who Will Talk

  • Referee feedback (feedback from a reference) is probably the most important feedback used to justify rankings, so it is advantageous to find referees who will agree to talk with the researchers. Attorneys should get permission from referees before putting their names forward.
  • Referees should be able to speak about the practice.
  • Chambers and The Legal 500 have different limits on the number of referees and different approaches to contacting referees. Chambers permits no more than 20 referees per submission and they will call each referee first and follow up by email. The Legal 500 has no limit on referees and they will send out a blast email to all referees. Because referees may miss this email, have your attorney write an email (you can even write this) to tell referees that they should be on the lookout for a blast email from The Legal 500 or a call from Chambers.
  • Do not ask referees to reach out to Chambers or The Legal 500 directly without first being prompted by these organizations.
  • Referees should be accessible. Response rates from referees are about 1/3 for Chambers and less than ¼ for The Legal 500.
  • You can use a client relationship management (CRM) system to track how often you are asking someone to be a reference to determine if you are using someone too often. 

TRICK #3:  Don’t Worry About Everything

  • Get your referees in by deadline. That’s when the research starts. You have the rest of the month to submit the submission.
  • According to Laura Mills at Chambers, the industry check-box is useless. Leave it blank. Also, the arrivals and departures section is helpful, but not mandatory.

By Miriam Kawin, Founder/Owner, Bergene LLC for the May/June Issue of the Capital Ideas Newsletter.

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