It’s a neat product, but its rollout caused a stir among the legal marketing community, some of whom thought that Legal 500 wrongly put sensitive firm information into the system.
While it’s true that Legal 500 trawls submissions and drops clients names into the new database, publishing director David Burgess is keen to stress that only information that has been cleared by firms for publication will be used, and anything marked confidential will not go into “Who Represents Who”.
David confirmed to me earlier this week:
“The Legal 500 takes client/law firm confidentiality very seriously, and I can assure firms across the world that confidential clients are not added to the Who Represents Who (WRW) data set.
When compiling the data, we manually check every submission and if a relationship is confidential, it is not added to WRW.
Often, due to space constraints in printing The Legal 500, we aren’t able to show all the publishable clients the firm provides.
WRW, which clients use in conjunction with the rankings, allows all of the firm’s publishable clients to be marketed to potential new clients.”
David also explained that Legal 500 will make it clearer in future submission guidelines that information provided for the regular directory research could also potentially be used for WRW as well.
That will address the concern that some legal marketers raised over not being aware that material they thought was exclusively for the regular directory research would also be mined for a separate commercial product.
Once these issues are ironed out, there are positives for law firms here.
A perennial issue with directories is that a lot of labor goes into submissions, but only a fraction of that information is published.
This now affords firms, who in the main are hungry for their achievements to be more widely communicated, a further platform to promote their client relationships.
Reflecting their print heritage, legal directories are not easily searchable products, and this facility will enable users to filter by client name, location, and practice.
For example, you could type in “Pfizer” and the system throws up all the law firms that advise Pfizer, whether that’s for employment or securities law.
You can’t search in this way on current directory websites, and I know from experience that firms often seek out information like this to prepare for pitches, business development activities, and client meetings.
Within law firms, you have research departments, competitive intelligence teams, libraries, knowledge managers, marketers/business development people, and lawyers themselves, often scrabbling around multiple sources to try to assemble this kind of data.
Naturally, Legal 500 is a business, not a charity, so this comes at a price.
WRW is free for in-housers, but firms must cough up for a subscription, although discounts are available for firms that already advertise with Legal 500.
There’s currently 800,000 client records on the system, with the database set to top a million entries by March 2017.
Contact David Burgess (firstname.lastname@example.org | +44 20 7396 5665) to try out the service.
Some screenshots (click the images for more detail):