The Legal 500 2015 – An Interview with Lauren Hughes, Editor, The Legal 500 U.S.

What are you looking for in the written submissions that can get firms ranked?

The Legal 500 recommends that firms include an overview of the practice group in the submission. This overview should be written as if it were a pitch document, answering questions such as: What sets the practice apart from the competition? What makes this a national practice? Why should a client hire you?

The work highlights should support the information shared in the overview. The Legal 500 recommends 10 highlights as a guideline. When writing them, do not include lots of technical details. Instead, explain why you have chosen a particular matter and what makes it stand out (i.e. multi-jurisdictional, first of its kind, high stakes). There is no ideal length for the work highlights, as they can vary by practice. Generally, one paragraph is long enough. Also, the highlights should be written in plain English, not legalese.

Since The Legal 500 doesn’t have a limit on the number of references firms can submit, can you give any guidance as to what a good number is per attorney?

The rankings are practice group focused, so think of your references in terms of the group as a whole. Generally, only a quarter of the references respond so keep that in mind when compiling your list.

For firms that are concerned about reference fatigue (i.e. irritating clients by repeatedly asking them to be references), keep in mind that references do not have to be among your top 10 clients or even clients at all. Anyone who has worked with the practice group, regardless of title, can serve as a reference.

What is The Legal 500’s perspective on attorney interviews?

The Legal 500 believes that every group, ranked or not, deserves an interview. The aim is to interview an attorney from every practice area that wants to be considered, as attorneys are in the best position to tell the group’s story and bring the practice to life. In addition to securing these interviews, marketers should consider coaching the attorneys as to what The Legal 500 is looking for and that the attorneys need to talk about the group as a whole. It is sometimes useful for marketers to sit in on these calls.

What makes someone a Leading Lawyer? How do you determine which attorneys to list in your write-ups? 

With the exception of their Trial Lawyers ranking, The Legal 500 doesn’t rank individuals. However, the attorneys on the Leading Lawyers list reflect the names that are at the forefront of people’s minds within a given practice area: the “elite of the elite” as decided by the researchers.

If attorneys who are not listed as Leading Lawyers are included in the write-up, it is because they stood out to the researcher as being key within the group. Marketers can try to draw the researcher’s attention to key attorneys by mentioning that the attorneys led a matter or played a significant role. But when deciding which attorneys to mention in the practice group write-up, the researchers also factor in (1) which attorneys stood out in the submission, (2) comments they’ve heard during peer interviews, and (3) comments from clients when asked the question, “Who would you single out and why?” For example, there might be 25 key attorneys in a practice area, but The Legal 500 might not have the space to mention them all.

However, you should always keep in mind that The Legal 500 is most interested in learning about the group as a whole, and that while The Legal 500 lists recommended attorneys, individuals are not “ranked”.

There is no guarantee that the same attorneys will be listed as Leading Lawyers each year. A key reason that an attorney who was a Leading Lawyer might not be mentioned is if researchers receive feedback that the attorney hasn’t been as active in that practice area lately.

Are there any changes coming in 2014?

The Legal 500 is always considering new categories or different ways of categorizing legal services. Legal marketers are welcome to send the editors suggestions as to new practice areas to include. The Legal 500 has also been partnering with various law firms to do corporate counsel roundtables and welcomes the opportunity to work with more firms in 2014.

The Corporate Counsel 100, which launched for the first time in 2013, will be repeated again in 2014 and will feature up-and-comers in the in-house market. Legal marketers can get their firms involved in this by asking their attorneys to nominate clients.

Also, The Legal 500 is excited to be moving to new offices on Fleet Street in May. This will provide a location in the center of the legal district in London along with space for future growth.

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

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