Word has reached LP Towers that Chambers & Partners has ended its long-held policy of providing a complimentary copy of the directory to each lawyer recognized as a “Leading Individual”.
For years, Chambers has mailed a hard copy of the new edition of the directory to every “ranked” lawyer following publication.
After a couple of my clients got in touch to say no book had arrived, following the publication of Chambers USA 2011 in mid-June, it seems a new policy is in force:
This year we have limited the complimentary copies we send out to attorneys to those ranked *, 1 or 2.”
It seems an oddly divisive move to me.
Wouldn’t it have been better to go one way or the other: either scrap the policy of free books completely for everyone, or maintain the old inclusive policy?
After all, Chambers has for years been keen to point out that, even if you are ranked tier three or four, you are still part of an elite list as only a small percentage of lawyers in each jurisdiction are selected for inclusion.
Perhaps the rationale is that those lawyers at the top of the tree are those most keen to receive a book?
But the aspirational nature of a Chambers ranking has always been a key part of the allure – the desire to move up from the lower tiers to the top tiers.
To be the “best of the best” is a powerful motivator for many of the professions’ Type-A finest.
Of course, the wider issue is whether printing and distributing thousands of expensive hard copy directories can be justified at all – or is even necessary – in these lean economic times.
Many of the older directory publishers continue with hard copies because it allows them to maintain the traditional page advertising model.
Firms and lawyers continue to pay thousands of dollars and pounds for page profiles and biographies.
These directories fear that scrapping hard copies will reduce their advertising revenue, because clients are more willing to pay for something that appears on a page than a screen.
And less advertising revenue means a lower quality product.
But some directories have taken the plunge and dropped print entirely.
Best Lawyers is now online-only, and PLC Which Lawyer stopped publishing its annual yearbook a few years ago.
Legal 500 remains committed to print, but has launched a range of e-books for the Ipad and Kindle to appeal to an increasingly tech-savvy readership.
Newer legal directories like Avvo, formed during the modern internet era, are only available online.
But change is slow in the law business, and some directory publishers say there is still client demand for hard copies.
Sure, the same material is easily accessible on the company’s websites – but for the old-school, top-ranked lawyer, nothing strokes the ego better than a copy of an embossed, hulking tome landing on your desk.