Chambers 2015 – An Interview with Laura Mills, Editor, Chambers USA

How vital are the practice overviews?  Some attorneys seem to spend more time on them than might be necessary.

This is a question that Chambers is frequently asked. The overview should focus on the unique aspects of the practice area and doesn’t require a significant amount of time. The overview can be written based on a brief Q&A with the practice chair, answering questions such as: What are we best at within this practice? What are our most active industries? What clients do we most often represent? The answers should be relevant and recent. Ultimately, there should be corroboration between the key points mentioned in the overview, the work highlights, and client feedback.

So much time is spent fine-tuning the work highlights. What is the ideal length and what makes for a strong description?

The ideal length for the work highlights is two fairly short paragraphs, though Chambers realizes that some matters will need longer description. Be sure to omit extraneous details­ things that Chambers can learn through their own research, like biographical information or market share details of a company. Oftentimes in litigation and labor & employment submissions, firms provide a lot of information about related regulations, which makes the descriptions long and difficult to digest. It’s best that firms just ensure they’ve written the regulations properly so that the Chambers’ researcher can look them up. Don’t get bogged down in technical and legal jargon­­leave the description as clean as possible.

Chambers wants to read about the nuts and bolts of the work. Surprisingly often, firms neglect to state who their client was or describe their role in the deal. An example of the kind of information they are looking for is, “We represented client A in C’s acquisition of B. Client A was a subsidiary of B.” Chambers recommends that, in the second paragraph, firms explain what was interesting or compelling about the work.

Should we list every lawyer that worked on the matter or just the most “important” lawyers?

List all the attorneys who played a meaningful role. The order in which attorneys are listed does not matter, nor does the order of the work highlights.

Can you explain how a group has multiple attorneys ranked but not the actual group and vice versa (group ranked but no attorneys)?

There is no rule that once a firm has a certain number of attorneys ranked, the entire team will be ranked. When a firm has multiple attorneys ranked, and not the team, it means that the client feedback Chambers received was very much attorney-specific (i.e. I work with Maria but not the rest of the team.)

When a team is ranked and not an individual, it means that Chambers received feedback about the group and not enough about any individuals to get them ranked. This often happens if a firm doesn’t send in a submission and gets ranked based on ancillary client feedback. If firms have sent a submission and no individuals were ranked, then the firm may be spreading its references too thin or the reference response rate is too low; make sure that the partners’ references are willing to respond to Chambers.

Is it worth highlighting a matter if we can’t name the client?  Even though you keep confidential matters and names confidential, sometimes a client will not approve of any mention at all.

Yes, it is still worth it to mention the matter. Consider describing your client generically so Chambers has a general idea of the type of company they represent. But this is not required.

Chambers pointed out that they frequently see discrepancies regarding confidentiality within submissions. Sometimes a client will be listed as confidential but their work highlight will be listed as publishable. Chambers always errs on the side of caution and will not print something if they come across this discrepancy, but legal marketers should be mindful of this

Oftentimes, attorneys are reluctant to give the same references year after year, but they might not have new ones to provide either. What is the best way to handle this conundrum?

Sometimes client references who have previously participated in Chambers will tell Chambers to, “Use what I said last year,” and Chambers does, but the strength of the feedback is somewhat diluted if it’s not refreshed every year. You’re best served by ascertaining whether a client is interested in providing a new interview and choosing someone else if they’re not. Partners can also consider going “down the food chain”. Chambers isn’t interested in references’ job titles; they just want to speak with clients who can give detailed feedback on the practice and/or an attorney.

Chambers will not reach out to the same client reference within a six-month period to ensure that they are not too intrusive. Also, Chambers recommends asking references to participate so that a firm isn’t giving out the same reference year after year, and that reference never participates.

What changes can law firm marketers expect this year in regard to the new guide, submissions, or the schedule?

Chambers is revising their submission template. Major changes include increasing the number of work highlights from 10 to 15 and wording some sections more clearly.

For 2015, Chambers will be adding some new practice areas, and they are considering adding state tables in some small and mid-sized states. They have eliminated some nationwide tables – Equipment Finance and Banking, Finance/Structured Products (now individuals only). Generally, the research schedule will remain the same, though some smaller states might move around a little. Also, the June submissions will be due June 9, 2014The schedule is now out.

Finally, Chambers is making some changes to how they present their editorial in the USA Guide to make it more user-friendly.


By Aileen Hinsch, Knapp Marketing for the March/April 2014 Issue of the Capital Ideas Newsletter.




















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