Per Legal 500’s new submission guidelines for its Europe, Middle East and Africa directory (and, I assume, other regional directories, going forward):
The rankings in The Legal 500 focus on the bench strength of the teams within law firms. Currently we highlight partners in the leading individuals lists and within the editorial.
Responding to feedback from GCs, who regularly assess the quality of the associates before they look at the partners – or simply look to the team as a whole – going forward we will be including a list of EMEA’s leading ‘next generation’ of partners (or experienced non-partners in smaller markets where partnership status is rarely bestowed).
We encourage firms to include information about senior associates and counsel in the submission whom they feel make a material difference to the practice’s offering, and who have a strong case to be recognized by The Legal 500. This should include client referees and it should include credit given in the detailed work highlights.”
Another directory editor that I spoke with recently said that she felt law firms held back from providing them with information about their rising stars.
Law firms are naturally nervous about highlighting associates and junior partners in directory submissions.
There’s a fear that you’re putting your talent in the shop window, and, being as mobile as they are, they will run into the arms of a rival firm, or fall prey to recruiters, who regularly trawl the directories for candidates.
Senior partners tend to control the direction of directory submissions, and they will gravitate to more established partners who manage client relationships, rather than junior partners who tend to act in a service role.
The other issue that holds law firms back from pushing younger lawyers is that in most practices there are several more senior lawyers that haven’t yet been recognized in the directories.
Given the space constraints, and the fact that you can’t push everyone for inclusion, firms will pull rank and focus on the more senior names first off before moving down the order to the juniors.
In smaller practices, where the senior folks are already on the board, it’s easier to drop down and mention junior partners and associates.
But there’s no doubt that buyers of legal services want to know who will actually be doing the work, so try to get a balance of senior and junior names.