Chambers USA: Preparing strong legal directory submissions

Chambers & Partners is scheduled to releases its Chambers USA 2019 guide on April 25, 2019, and with its release it will kick off a new season of Chambers research.

In the United States, Chambers USA is generally considered to be the crème de la crème of legal directories — it’s one of the most exclusive (rating only about 2% of the country’s private practice lawyers) and in-house counsel frequently cite it as a trusted resource when developing shortlists of outside counsel.

While we won’t know the Chambers USA 2019 rankings for another couple weeks, we do know that the new guide ranks 18,293 lawyers and 6,126 law firms, and includes several new city, state and regional tables, as well new nationwide rankings of cannabis lawyers and practices.

Chambers USA 2020 updates

For those law firm marketers who missed the company’s earlier announcements, the Chambers USA 2020 research schedule has been published, and next year’s guide will include a number of new city, state and nationwide categories

Chambers has also changed the submission due dates for a handful of categories in Illinois and Texas, as well as several nationwide categories.

Tips for your Chambers USA legal directory submissions

As part of the publicity leading up to the April 25 release of the Chambers USA 2019 guide, Editor Toby Eccleshall recently published a Q&A that contains some useful tips and reminders for those who draft Chambers submissions. Among them:

Chambers USA referees

  • Strong referee feedback is critical. In fact, a written submission, while invaluable, is optional, and references have the biggest influence on a lawyer’s or practice’s final ranking.
  • Be thoughtful when selecting Chambers referees. Law firms should strive to include 20 referees with each submission, with an emphasis on clients who have recently worked with the practice and lawyers being put forward for rankings. (If a firm has fewer than 20 clients, it’s OK to include non-clients who can speak to the lawyers’ and practice’s work.) Seek permission from referees before sharing their names with Chambers, and send reminders to referees as the research season begins.
  • Know that Chambers will share very little information about referee outreach. Chambers will not tell a law firm if a referee is on its do-not-contact list, or if the researchers have spoken to specific referees.
  • Extensions aren’t a thing; prioritize your referee spreadsheet. If a submission will be late, I always recommend sending a note to the editor and research. However, I know that the gist of the response will be, “We don’t grant extensions, but please submit it as soon as possible. Recognize, however, that the later it is received, the less time we will have to conduct research.” For that reason, it’s imperative to upload materials as soon as they are complete, even if the referee spreadsheet and written submission are uploaded on different days. In fact, uploading the referee spreadsheet allows researchers to begin outreach to referees, even if the researcher hasn’t had an opportunity to review the written submission.

Selecting lawyers for a Chambers USA submission

  • Diversity is a priority to the Chambers USA “I want to see more from firms on submissions about what they are doing to promote diversity among their teams,” Eccleshall says. “We are also very aware of the need to speak to a diverse range of market sources to ensure that women, different racial groups, LGBT lawyers and those with disabilities are fairly represented in our guides. … During research for Chambers USA 2019, we tried to increase the number of women attorneys we spoke to as part of our interviews with firms in order to make sure we are capturing a range of opinions from the market.”
  • Don’t overlook up-and-coming lawyers. When talking to clients about Chambers, I remind them that this is a long process, and attorneys are not ranked in Band 1 the first year they are put forward for a ranking. Eccleshall says he wants to see more associates included in the Chambers USA 2020 guide, so judiciously include senior associates and young partners who are outperforming their peers and may be considered for the Up-and-Coming, Associates to Watch and Star Associate categories.

Other important details for the Chambers USA written submission

  • Don’t underestimate the importance of C2 and C3. Many law firms are reluctant to provide detailed responses to section C2 (feedback on previous coverage of the practice) and C3 (feedback on Chambers’ coverage of other ranked firms). Leaving these sections blank is a mistake. C2 provides law firms with a valuable opportunity to make the case for why they merit a higher ranking, and C3 dovetails with that because firms can then discuss how they favorably compare to higher-ranked firms. (I always recommend that law firms provide balanced feedback in C3, and criticism should be accompanied by commentary on individuals and practices who are appropriately ranked or could be ranked higher.) Remember, not every law firm and practice gets the opportunity for an interview with a researcher, so this may be a practice’s only opportunity to offer suggestions to the researchers.
  • Law firms can (in some circumstances) alter the template. Anyone who has completed a Chambers submission knows that it comes with a stern warning: Don’t alter the template. But there’s one time when template alterations are acceptable, Eccleshall says. “You can submit up to 20 matters, and we would urge you to always include as many as possible within that limit. Feel free to alter the template to include more publishable work highlights and delete confidential work highlights, or vice versa. We do not mind as long as you stick to the limit of 20 matters.”

Learn more and network with Chambers USA editors

Chambers has announced four upcoming USA editors’ forums to be held in June:

  • Chicago, June 10, 2019
  • Houston, June 13, 2019
  • Washington, DC, June 17, 2019
  • New York, June 20, 2019

Each forum includes law firm and in-house counsel tracks, a discussion on the state of the legal market, and, for law firm attendees, a session on best practices for legal directory submissions, as well as a reception and awards presentation.

Jennifer King is an Associate Vice President at Infinite Global, based in Chicago. A former legal journalist, she advises clients on successful public relations strategies, including the selection of law firm spokespeople. Jennifer can be reached at jenniferk@infiniteglobal.com

Need help with your law firm’s legal directory process? Infinite Global’s legal directories team can help you develop a strategy for legal directory submissions; advise you on IFLR, The Legal 500 and Chambers best practices; help decode what makes a successful legal directory submission; and manage your law firm’s legal directory submissions. Let’s talk about how your law firm can improve its submissions to Chambers, IFLR and The Legal 500.

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