Here’s some suggestions to make sure your submissions hang together:
Link Matters to Highlight Lawyers
Submissions should have a thread running through them.
The matters you include should – in the main – link back to the lawyers you highlight.
Law firms often approach submission preparation as a matter gathering exercise, and seek to assemble what they believe is the best collection of work.
That’s perfectly natural – of course you want to show off your best work.
But this approach often ends up in a loose assortment of matters handled by a variety of partners, some of whom are highlighted in the submission, some of whom are not, and some from other practices who happen to have done a deal in the area.
To avoid this issue, start by identifying the lawyers you want to push.
That will include both those who are currently recognized by the directories, and two or three additional (as yet unranked) names.
Then make sure each of those lawyers you’re putting forward is credited on at least one or two matters.
Sure, if there’s a huge case or groundbreaking deal that was led by someone other than one of the highlighted lawyers, don’t leave it out.
But 90% of your matters should link back to your highlight lawyers.
By approaching submissions this way, you avoid the situation of having nominated partners
with no accompanying work to support their inclusion, or matters spread around too wide
a group of lawyers – both common scenarios.
Link References to Highlighted Lawyers
When selecting client references, make sure that each one links to at least one of the following:
- A matter highlight in your submission
- One of the nominated/highlighted lawyers in your submission
- Longstanding/legacy clients with whom you have a strong relationship
- Other professionals who have experience of working with your lawyers
Although there are exceptions, in essence, researchers are looking for firms who have done significant work over the past year, for significant clients who will be happy to praise the service they received from the firm.
Overall, you are trying to convey to the reader of the submission:
“Here is a group of lawyers we think deserve recognition, here is some interesting work they’ve done to support their inclusion, and here are some references that speak to their abilities”.
Concentrate on Important Submission Sections
Allocate your time on submissions roughly in this way:
- Matters: 50%
- Overview: 15%
- Feedback: 15%
- Bios: 10%
- All other sections: 10%
Spend around 90% of your time on the “core” submission sections – matters, overview, and feedback.
The matter highlight section is the largest part of the submission and will suck up at least half your time.
The directory staff will also read the overview and the feedback sections.
A concise overview, free of tired “marketing speak”, is helpful for a researcher who may not be familiar with your practice and wants to know the key features, strengths, and characteristics of the team.
Likewise, when opening a submission for the first time, the Chambers folks will often read the feedback section so they know whether your firm was happy or not with the previous year’s coverage.
A good feedback section injects some candor and “voice” into the submission, and enables your firm to tell the directories whether you think their assessments have been fair, and where you think they should focus their efforts this year.
Both the overview and feedback section are important narrative sections that enable you to inform the directories of the latest developments at the practice.
The bios are useful but keep them short.
You may want to add in a link through to the partners’ official bio page, so the
researcher can click through for more if necessary.
Don’t Spend Too Long on Secondary Sections
Section B11 on the latest Chambers form has become a vortex, a black hole into which everything that doesn’t fit neatly into any other section is dumped.
Most firms spend far too long on B11.
I saw a submission the other day in which B11 stretched to six pages, yet the matter entries, overview, and feedback sections were threadbare.
Most researchers will glance at B11, but will not spend much time – if any – poring through every seminar write-up, academic paper, or list of accolades.
Yes, some of this information is interesting, but researchers simply do not have time the time to digest it all.
Anything really important that you want the directories to read should go somewhere else where it’s more likely to be seen.
Another area where firms get tied up in knots is working out the number of lawyers per practice.
Don’t kill yourself by going through HR records and timesheets.
A close estimate based on the number of partners and associates that spend more than 50% of their time in this area is sufficient.
Don’t waste time agonizing over which industry sectors to put down in section B12.
Just enter the key ones.
It’s Not A Box-Ticking Exercise
Part of the problem with any form is that you feel compelled to complete every box.
We’ve all that had experience with a government agency or company where we’ve had a form rejected because we didn’t fill it out correctly.
Chambers submissions are not prescriptive in the same way.
Yes, fill out as much as you can, but don’t spend ages trawling for every detail if that information isn’t readily known or available.
I saw a submission recently in which each box on a matter description was dutifully filled out.
There was a list of about 20 lawyers who had all worked on the matter, including legal assistants and trainees, and a long list of all the opposing counsel.
There were court citations and case references.
But the matter description itself was thin, and didn’t tell you anything.
Creating an overall impression is more important than trying to be inclusive.
You want the researcher to immediately grasp the nature of your work, rather than overload them with secondary details.
Pictured: Section B11 on the Chambers form has turned into a black hole.