How Important Are Directories?
For some clients, quite important.
One bank insisted that its customers use only firms highly rated by the directories.
I have heard more of these stories over the past year, suggesting, anecdotally at least, that the increasingly competitive nature of the market lends itself to the use of directories.
A report published in Summer 2017 showed that clients considered directories and rankings the sixth most influential factor when researching outside lawyers and law firms for potential hire.
A theme I have covered a lot over the years is whether it’s more important to market your firm or individual lawyers?
One survey shows that an individual lawyer’s reputation ranks first by general counsel when selecting a law firm.
A trend in recent years has been the proliferation of surveys and league tables that rank law firms for things other than their legal work.
Chambers & Partners
A quietly impressive year for Chambers.
No “big bangs”, but enhancements and extensions to a number of its products, which may prove to be more enduring.
The most notable new product out of Chambers this past year has been the Professional Advisers series.
Debuting with FinTech in December 2017, the guide blends rankings of professional advisers in different countries, along with topical articles from leading consultants, lawyers and industry figures.
The format combines the professionally-authored articles found in Chamber’s global practice guide series (whose range has expanded considerably since it launched a few years ago), with the model laid down by the Chambers High Net Worth guide, first released in 2016, which was notable for being the first time that Chambers has meaningfully researched professionals other than lawyers.
As with HNW, the FinTech guide rates non-lawyer professionals such as venture capital firms, consultants and public relations agencies with demonstrated FinTech expertise.
Ben Nickson, the editor of the Professional Advisers series, told me:
“We launched the Professional Advisers series in 2017 with the first guide, which looks at the FinTech sector. It covers the foremost venture capital investors, PR agencies and consultants in the industry in seven different countries, and features detailed global rankings of lawyers and law firms. There are also a number of articles from leading experts, on topics including the ICO market and the Israeli FinTech ecosystem.
I’ve been pleased with the interest we’ve had in the guide and am looking forward to expanding on it significantly next year, alongside the publication of other titles in the series – Litigation Support and Life Sciences.”
Emerging out of Chambers Connect, the new networking site launched by Chambers at the end of 2016, Chambers Compare is a new feature that allows users to compare law firm departments ranked in Chambers.
A useful tool for law firms and their marketing departments, eager to benchmark themselves with peer and competitor firms, the tool enables you to see how rankings have changed over the past five years, and view the historical Chambers editorial commentary.
Chambers has produced a handy video, which walks you through the new feature:
Two new features – “Request for Proposals” and “Ask the Experts” – were added to the Connect network this year.
Chambers also revamped its profile offering this year.
Along with other directories, like Legal 500, the rather bland entries of yesteryear are slowly giving way to richer, more interesting adverts that reveal more about a law firm.
In a subtle but significant move, Chambers shifted its approach to profiles by moving them to a prominent position right next to its own editorial commentary.
In addition, Chambers profiles are no longer just a single entry covering the whole firm, but consist of a series of “mini profiles” tailored to each practice.
Rick Jakubowski took over as global editor in December 2017.
Kate Nevin stepped in as acting editor of Chambers Canada, while Joanna Lane is on maternity leave.
A humorous moment saw Chambers dragged onto the geopolitical stage in the early part of 2017 when an award it had given to law firm Morgan Lewis for its work in Russia was used by some of the media as evidence of the close links between Morgan Lewis (which advised Trump on his tax affairs) and Russia.
Chambers, which tends to make its changes towards the end of the year, freshened up its website in the run up to Christmas, with the site sporting a cleaner home page.
Compared to where it was 10 years ago Legal 500 has expanded substantially and now offers a wide range of products that complement its core directory offering – many of them aimed at strengthening the publisher’s in-house counsel relationships.
Alongside the suite of international directories, Legal 500 increasingly engages with in-house lawyers through the GC PowerList series, GC Magazine, Client Intelligence Report, Who Represents Who, a series of awards, and an expanding business running events and seminars.
According to David Goulthorpe, managing director of the Legal 500:
“This year our GC activities have gone into overdrive, and include: 24 GC Powerlists, 103 events in 34 countries, launch of The Legal 500 Jobs, 11 comparative guides, four GC special reports in addition to the quarterly magazine, five GC insight reports, In-House Lawyer magazine (one per quarter), and “Who Represents Who”, which now has nearly one million law firm/client relationships.
I don’t think anyone can accuse Legal 500 of not engaging with in house counsel, and through these interactions, we strengthen the core research business.”
On the directory side, Legal 500 rolled out its “Hall of Fame” – partners who have been ranked consistently in Legal 500 for the last six years.
The “next generation” lawyers – Legal 500’s new category for senior associates and junior partners – is also starting to flesh out, as new guides have been released on a rolling basis.
For more on Legal 500’s expansion, see this Spring 2017 interview with publishing director David Burgess.
At the senior editor level, there’s been a few changes: John Van Der Luit Drummond came in to take over the joint Asia Pacific/UK Bar editorship, replacing Hayley Eustace.
Ella Marshall and Daniela Tiedt were made up to EMEA editor, while long-time editor Mike Nash left the company.
Covering the UK side of things, editor Alexander Boyes:
“The key theme for 2017 for The Legal 500 was growth: we continue to expand our coverage of core legal markets. The Legal 500 UK tripled in size compared to 2016’s editorial coverage, which was a personal highlight of mine. We’re also growing our user base and market interaction globally. For example, Tim Girven, our Latin America editor, just returned from a three-month trip that took in seven events in as many countries. That’s a trend we expect to continue into 2018.”
The company also launched a jobs service over the summer.
After catching up with some of the senior IFLR/Euromoney folks in London recently, I learnt that a focus for the company through 2017 has been the continued development of the IFLR Deal Data system, described as a “legal version of Mergermarket”.
Launched in 2016, the new database features deal records from over 120 countries, and has grown from around 2,000 deals on the system to around 5,000 now.
Firms can participate by sending press releases and deal announcements to the IFLR team, and these can cover M&A as well as other kinds of corporate and financial transactions – loans, projects, and bond issues.
As to the IFLR1000 itself, the directory now features 2,500 firm rankings in 120 jurisdictions, and 14,000 individual lawyer ratings.
New in this year’s guide are rankings for project development, which replace the existing energy and infrastructure rankings.
And there are more detailed lawyer ratings, broken down into new categories such as “expert consultant”, “market leader”, “highly regarded”, “rising star”, and “notable practitioner”.
Another new feature is a premium rankings analysis (available only to paid subscribers) which allows you to view historical rankings, compare law firm rankings by practice area, jurisdiction and year, and benchmark your firm’s performance against competitors.
For those in the US, a big change on the horizon is that IFLR is expanding its coverage to include states as well as national.
IFLR1000 has researched the US since 1989 at a nationwide level, but this is the first time it will analyse the financial and corporate law markets at state level.
Submissions are due late January 2018.
Sister magazine IFLR brought out a new weekly service called “Practice Insight”, which seeks to “uncover the regulatory-driven practices of European financial institutions”.
Chief executive Phil Greer summarized the highlights of the year:
“Best Lawyers launched our new website this year, with a major redesign by Blue Fountain Media, to a positive reaction from the legal profession.
We also entered into an additional partnership with US News to launch a Lawyer Directory, for all lawyers and without rankings. The directory will not launch until Spring 2018, but lawyers are already being approached in groups to register on the site and review the data on themselves. The reception has been gratifying.
We have added important new staff to our Jacksonville, Florida, office — which joined our South Carolina and New York offices a year ago.
Best Lawyers continues to innovate and grow in the legal directory and rankings business, which it helped start in 1981.”
October 2017, Best Lawyers announced that it would partner with U.S. News & World Report to launch a major new directory in 2018 – an ambitious endevaor that aims to list all 1.3 million lawyers in the United States.
For more on this venture, and how law firms can prepare, see the Q+A.
After Best Lawyers did a big online overhaul in late 2016, this year it was the turn of partner organization, U.S. News & World Report, to redesign its web presence by refreshing its Best Law Firms survey.
A busy year for ALM, the US media group behind the American Lawyer and a roster of other legal titles.
Under the leadership of editor-in-chief Gina Passarella the whole media platform underwent a transformation in the latter part of 2017, and is now cleaner to look at and more user friendly.
For info and deadlines on the myriad of lists, rankings, and surveys across the company’s titles, ALM operates a central portal.
ALM also launched a tool called Legal Compass to aggregate all its own data as well as that from external sources.
According to Bob Ambrogi, the tool tracks information on 16,000 law firms, 300,000 lawyers and 4,000 companies, with more being added on a continuing basis.
Despite all the changes in 2017, Gina says there’s lots more to come next year:
“2018 will bring with it significant and exciting changes to the way ALM structures its recognition events as we look to streamline the entry process for our readers across multiple geographies and freshen the types of honors we bestow to better reflect the innovation happening in the market.
While we will continue to do our staple, data-driven projects such as the Am Law 100 and 200, the NLJ 500 and other core contests such as the Litigation Departments of the Year, we will now offer awards across large law firms, in-house legal departments and alternative legal service providers, bringing in new categories focused on innovation, law firm-client relationships, the role of business professionals and much more.
All of these honors will be celebrated at one, high-end event (The American Lawyer Awards) at the end of 2018 that will announce our winners and bring together the key players across the legal industry. And they will all be sent out in one overarching submission form that allows nominees to select in one place what they want to submit for.
More specifics on the award categories and submission process, supported by our key national and regional brands, will roll out in early 2018. These awards will be focused largely on Big Law and in-house departments, with some categories for large firms based on their regional expertise.
Our regional brands will continue to honor various key constituents in their markets in areas such as Rising Stars and Lifetime Achievement, while adding a new and exciting element of the mid-market awards, focused on firms outside of the Am Law 200.”
FT Innovative Lawyers
Reena Sengupta of RSG Consulting, the agency behind the Financial Times Innovative Lawyers series, and the RSG India rankings, summarized the highlights of her company’s year:
“We made some big changes this year to the FT Innovative Lawyers programme. One big statement was to double our coverage of the in-House segment of the profession so that it paralleled that of private practice – an overdue formal recognition that general counsel are often leading innovation in the profession and redesigning their legal functions.
Other changes include a new rule of law section across the reports and one on collaboration.
The number of submissions we received from the profession tripled and the FT is set to make major investments into the programme in 2018.”
Also new in 2018 is expanded coverage of the Australian legal market, with the introduction of a separate Australia chapter in the Asia Pacific innovative lawyers report, and a series of new awards, which will be presented at an event in Sydney in June 2018.
An attention-grabbing development at The Lawyer in 2017 was the roll out of a new directory-style product that tracks the number of times law firms appear in court.
Known as “Litigation Tracker”, the site draws on thousands of English civil court judgments and then analyses the data to show which firms are active in different types of litigation.
Editor Catrin Griffiths highlighted some of the other key developments in what has been an eventful year:
“The Lawyer’s editorial and research team were phenomenally busy in 2017, crunching through piles of data to create reports that are responsive to market trends.
For example, we launched the first ranking of global real estate firms as part of our Global 200 series; expanded our US Top 30 Firms in London to a US Top 50 for the first time, which included attitudinal surveys of those firms’ brands in the market; and enhanced the UK200 series, including a revamped business services report that revealed significant shifts in strategic tech investment.
We’re particularly proud that two firms that recently floated – Gordon Dadds and Keystone – used our data and rankings of the UK200 as part of their market prospectus.
Finally, the Litigation Tracker is now firmly established as the barometer for law firms’ and chambers’ disputes activity.
Next year you’ll see an overhauled website that fully integrates The Lawyer’s news and commentary with the data and rankings we produce.”
2017 has seen a revival of the law firm podcast, with law firms and legal media alike offering their thoughts via this underappreciated medium
Law360 launched a weekly podcast, “Pro Say” in Summer 2017, hosted by perky trio Amber McKinney, Bill Donahue and Alex Lawson.
Outside its US base, Law360’s London office is increasingly active, led by reporter William Shaw.
Who’s Who Legal
Rupert Wilson, editor of Who’s Who Legal:
“We were thrilled by the response to our first “WWL: Thought Leaders” publication last year, which featured Q&As with pre-eminent practitioners highlighted in the top 2% of our research.
2017 saw a second edition including 69 Q&As, as well as new practice area-specific thought leaders books in competition and arbitration.”
From the same stable as Who’s Who Legal – London-based Law Business Research which publishes several well-known legal titles such as Global Competition Review, Getting the Deal Through, and Latin Lawyer – Global Arbitration Review launched a new product called the Arbitrator Research Tool.
The Arbitrator Research Tool provides information on arbitrators who have recently appeared in proceedings, and features interviews with leading arbitrators.
Super Lawyers remains a big part of the directory scene – notably on its home US turf, where many lawyers are eager to secure a listing.
It’s a much slicker looking product these days, compared to its earlier incarnations, helped by a design overhaul in 2016.
During 2017 the Thomson Reuters-owned site produced a neat video showing how its selection process works.
Over Spring I interviewed Lawdragon business development honcho Carlton Dyce, who spoke about some of the latest initiatives.
These include the ambitious Lawdragon Campus project, which saw founder and publisher Katrina Dewey embark on a road trip to visit all 254 US law schools to prepare a comprehensive guide to legal education.
In May the company released the latest edition of its annual list of 500 leading lawyers, the Lawdragon 500, along with a Hall of Fame list of attorneys – a “best of the best” list.
Lawdragon also updated its annual list of the top 100 legal consultants.
Carlton and Katrina summed up the year at Lawdragon:
“Lawdragon had a strong 2017 and we continue to gain substantial awareness throughout major law firms as well as the broader US legal market.
Our flagship magazine is once again a page-turner and has been received with glowing reviews (click here if you want to obtain a copy).
This year’s list of Lawdragon Legends and Hall of Fame lawyers is exquisite.
We continue to broaden the coverage of our guides, strengthening employment, consultants and of course the Lawdragon 500.
In 2018, we will be expanding our coverage of global dispute resolution and plaintiff employment lawyers and we are excited about these new areas.
As always, we appreciate being able to curate well-respected lists as just one feature of our broad-based news and online content business.”
On top of its well-known law firm indexes, Acritas recently started identifying individual lawyers in its surveys.
Lisa Hart Shepherd, the Acritas CEO:
“We’ve recently completed a survey of the star lawyers to find out what makes them tick, to find out what they think of the firms they work for. Most importantly, what do they believe firms can do to drive more star lawyer qualities?”
The old warhorses among you that still hold a candle for Martindale will be pleased to know that the site is alive and kicking under its new owners.
Over the Summer the mega directory (with 1.5 million attorney and law firm listings) revamped its website by redesigning its core lawyer search offering.
Now less cluttered, the search and filtering process has been streamlined to enable smoother navigation.
Plus there’s video, peer ratings, and attorney reviews to enhance the information available on the listed lawyers.
The Martindale directory is now part of a broader group known as the Martindale-Nolo Legal Marketing Network – a division of Internet Brands.
A decade or so after the main social platforms were invented, 2017 was for me the first year that law firms nailed social media.
Until now the most interesting legal industry voices on social media have been those outside the big law environment – consultants, academics, small/solo firms, entrepreneurs, those in less corporate surrounds – with more freedom to communicate.
Big law firm output was dull in comparison.
But that’s changed, as firms have invested in staff and technology, and you can see the results – lively content, better output, strong visuals, more engagement.
Good2BSocial, a legal marketing agency, published its Social Law Firm Index in November 2017.
Topping the list were DLA Piper (1), Baker McKenzie (2), Latham & Watkins (3), White & Case (4), and McDermott Will & Emery (5).
Good2BSocial has also put out some good podcasts featuring members of the legal marketing community – both agency/consultant-side, and in-house (the latter whose voice is less often heard on social media)
Well, who can deny that 2017 was the breakthrough year for legal tech?
Barely five minutes went by without mention of artificial intelligence, automation, and machine learning.
Richard Tromans, the founder of innovation consultancy Tromans Consulting and tech news site Artificial Lawyer, says that the barbarians are already at the gates.
“Many people will have seen the work of Premonition, a legal data analysis company, which has argued that the only reliable data on what lawyer to choose, or who is any good, comes from objective, public data, such as court records that show, for example, win/loss rates for litigation lawyers.
They make some valid points, after all, how can we really rank people, or entire law firms, on the collated views of a handful of clients? Isn’t factual data the way to go?
And, data is really going to become more important in the years ahead as a means for choosing lawyers, from analysing which firms meet billing guidelines, to truly benchmarking costs because now it’s easier to analyse large numbers of past similar cases, to conducting analysis on outcomes, again because there is the data available and using software such as natural language processing (a mainstay of legal AI applications) allows clients to really gain insights into their external lawyers that would have been too difficult and data-heavy in the past to do.
With more data and better means of analysis will come more transparency and hopefully a more objective means of judging the performance of outside counsel.
Will data ever wholly replace personal choice or simply liking a certain firm or lawyer? Nope. But, it could certainly help remove some of the subjective biases that fill the market today.”
Read Richard’s own end-of-year legal technology review.
The fox in the henhouse for the traditional corporate legal publishers is Premonition, a Miami-based legal analytics firm looking to shake things up by using a ton of data to show which lawyers are the best.
I wrote earlier in the year that I don’t think robots will entirely replace legal directories, but there’s no denying that these boys mean business, and the directories of the future will likely mix the objective/subjective in a powerful combination.
Ian Dodd, the UK director at Premonition, didn’t mince his words when I asked him about how Premonition was putting a rocket up the industry.
“For Premonition this has been the year that clients begun to understand what data can do for their businesses.
Having the world’s largest legal database allows us to provide almost infinite information from courts in many jurisdictions and this is not limited to the top-line, hitherto opaque, data on those law firms and barristers who perform well.
Sadly, for them anyway, it hasn’t been the lawyers who have used us – it’s been their clients.
Lawyers, it seems, would rather rely on legal directories to tell them how ‘good’ all their mates think they are.
It’s not that the legal directories are subjective and qualitative. Nor is it that they’re ‘quality by opinion’. It’s because no-one I know has ever done a cost/benefit analysis and, now there are so many of them, nearly everybody gets ‘nominated’ and many get awards in more and more recherche categories.
The currency is now devalued. So, if lawyers want to spend money freely and without properly accounting for it on an increasing anachronistic legion of legal directories and the glitzy award ceremonies that inevitably follow, let them.
As long as they don’t pretend that they’re a mark of quality, help transparency and actually mean anything; especially as data analytics is becoming the way that clients choose lawyers.”
Igor’s Spammy Lawyers
When web designer Igor Ilyinsky created the “Who Hates Spammy Lawyer Awards?” database a year and a half ago, little did he know it would develop a cult following among the legal marketing community.
Addressing the bane of legal marketers’ lives, the open-access site aims to warn others as to the “scam level” of an approach from a dodgy vendor.
When I contacted Igor this week, he said that the list had grown organically to about double the size it started at.
“At FirmWise, we’re seeing significantly more clients dropping the vanity rankings from their website designs altogether given the negative connotation they convey.”
For more on Igor and his services, read this longer interview from April.
Corporate In-House Directories
Yes, big companies are in on the directories act now.
In January 2017, General Electric developed its own product called GE Select Connect to help the company’s 800 in-house lawyers search for outside counsel.
Mark Cohen, writing in Forbes, described the initiative as “GE’s version of ‘Yelp meets LinkedIn.’
Building on the “Value Index”, developed by the Association of Corporate Counsel in 2009 to help in-house counsel secure external advisors, a number of newer entrants have moved into this space such as AdvanceLaw and Qualmet.
The most imaginative new directory on the scene is Meisterline, a lawyer-rating service that measures lawyers’ level of expertise in their area of specialization.
Meisterline uses advanced cognitive science to understand how legal experts think and algorithms to measure lawyers’ skills – both individually and relative to their peers.
Company founder Peter Macmillan:
“During 2017 Meisterline expanded its quantitative lawyer rating service to the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
In the second half of the year, work began on a global rating platform with early access offered to select general counsel, directors of legal operations and procurement professionals during the first half of 2018.
Those interested can register at meisterline.com.”
Daniel van Binsbergen, the chief executive of this UK-based start-up that aims to help users find a business lawyer:
“Silicon Valley investor 500 start-ups invested in us early 2017.
We’re increasingly working with in-house legal teams at companies like Asos, VICE media and WorldRemit to connect them with our international panel of high quality lawyers (typically ex big law, now independent or boutique lawyers).
At the beginning of the year we had lawyers in five countries, now 35, so that international expansion of the network has been the biggest change.
We also opened an office in Australia headed up by David Bushby.
From a tech perspective, we further worked on our matching algorithm and released features like instant messaging through the platform.
We won a FT Innovative Lawyer Award this year
We were listed in the “Top 100 Startups” for the third year running; we were at position 43 this year.”
Heritage Law Marketing
One of the more unusual new directory publishers is Heritage Law Marketing, based in Houston, Texas, which publishes a series of attorney directories based around lawyers of different cultures and ethnicities.
The idea is to help connect clients with attorneys based on their culture and language – for example, a Chinese person living in the US seeking a Chinese attorney.
Founder Nima Heydarian said to me:
“In 2017 we completed the software foundation of our business and formed technology partnerships with market leaders such as Avvo.com and Twilio.
In 2018 we hope to expand our community outreach and generate more clients for our members.”
For more on the site, read an interview I conducted with Nima Heydarian in Spring 2017.
Founder Alex Aldridge:
“From a rankings perspective, our highlight of the year was increasing participation in the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey of the UK’s leading corporate law firms (already the biggest of its kind) to over 2,000 trainees and junior lawyers.
A close second was securing Landing 42 of the Leadenhall Building (aka the Cheesegrater) as the venue for the Legal Cheek Awards on Wednesday, March 14 2018.
It’s one of the most spectacular venues in the UK and is emblematic of how far Legal Cheek has come.”
According to Legal Futures, law firms’ reluctance to reveal prices and reviews hampered the site’s development, with the new owner planning a relaunch.
With all the buzz around Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies, Lawyer.com reminded everyone that it is the only directory that accepts Bitcoin as payment.
— Lawyer.com (@Lawyer) December 1, 2017
Set up in 2009 by Gerald Gorman, Lawyer.com features a comprehensive directory of 2 million+ lawyer listings.
Latin American Lawyer
Ignacio Abella, who left Chambers & Partners in 2015 to set up a Latin American division at legal publisher Iberian Lawyer updated me on their busy year.
“During 2017 The Latin American Lawyer (by Iberian Lawyer) hosted a series of master classes in Barcelona, Buenos Aires, Guatemala, Mexico City, Miami, and San Jose, to help connect the legal markets in the Americas and Iberia.
These events generated content for videos and articles in our publications, reaching over 25, 000 readers and viewers.
I look forward to 2018 with excitement as we´re upping the ante, pivoting from a web-only edition to a full-fledged magazine available four times a year.
The first standalone edition of The Latin American Lawyer will be presented in Mexico in March 2018.
In addition, we will be in Madrid, New York, Lima and Rome with roundtables discussing hot business in Latin America.
Whether it is political change, boom and bust in the economy or new trade blocs, Latin America provides fresh and exciting challenges every year.”
A new online legal directory that allows users to rate US judges.
Locate Law Networks
Locate Law Networks is a new directory that enables users to search for law firm networks.
The site lists 50 law firm networks in 150 countries, and 50 states.
Stephen McGarry, the founder of the Lex Mundi and World Services Group networks, and before that, HG.org, is the brains behind the product.
And a ton of other stuff I’ve missed….
Hope you had a good year, and here’s to 2018.