Sometimes law firms know Chambers, but don’t know Legal 500 quite as well, or at all – and are keen to know more.
Particularly in the US where Chambers has been established for a longer time, but Legal 500 is a more recent entrant to the market.
On the surface, both organizations do a similar thing, and they have more in common than not, but there are some subtle differences.
Here are 10 quick similarities and 10 differences:
- Although there is some debate about which came first, both Chambers and Legal 500 were launched in the mid 1980s
- Each company is independent and privately owned by their respective founders: Michael Chambers (Chambers & Partners) and John Pritchard (Legal 500)
- Both men can lay claim to having pioneered the “research directory” concept – that is a legal directory-cum-guidebook that selects and ranks firms based on independent market research
- Chambers and Legal 500 are both based in the UK, and run their operations from a single office in central London (Chambers had a small office in Hong Kong for a while but that closed)
- Both directories began by publishing a flagship UK directory, and then expanded overseas by launching additional editions focused on different regions of the world
- Chambers and Legal 500 continue to publish annual print volumes of their legal directories, but have invested in their online offerings in recent years
- As well as the traditional directories, both companies have branched out into related products and services such as events, awards, research reports, and sponsored editorial
- The two organizations both conduct their research in broadly similar ways: by requesting information from law firms in the form of submissions and client references, interviewing lawyers and buyers of legal services, and then publishing their findings in print and online
- Legal 500 and Chambers both “rank” law firms – that is, they recommend particular law firms in different countries, regions, and areas of practice
- Each publisher breaks its ranking tables down into tiers – a form of numerical ranking that reflects, in the publishers’ eyes, the relative quality of law firms and the amount of feedback received
- After its original UK directory, Legal 500 established itself overseas first with its Europe, Middle East, and Africa, and Asia Pacific directories, before moving on to the United States; Chambers’ first international product was its Chambers Global directory (2000), followed by Chambers USA in 2002
- Chambers & Partners is larger, with around 150 full-time editors and researchers, while Legal 500 lists around 50 editors and researchers on its website
- Almost all of Chambers staff are based in the company’s office in London, while Legal 500 has always supplemented its permanent office-based staff with freelance writers, many of whom are specialists in particular areas of law
- Although it has broadened its product range in recent years, for example legal practice guides and general counsel seminars, Chambers & Partners’ business is primarily focused on legal directories; Legal 500, by contrast, is part of a legal publishing company called Legalease, which produces the monthly magazine Legal Business and a number of other specialist legal titles
- Legal 500 has fixed deadlines for receiving submissions and client references, whereas Chambers staggers its deadlines over a longer period of time – particularly in larger countries like the United States
- Traditionally Legal 500 does its research in a more compact time frame, typically a few months, whereas the Chambers directory season in the US for example stretches over seven months or more – from May to November
- In most of its sections, Chambers publishes a law firm ranking and a separate ranking for individual lawyers, whereas Legal 500 ranks mainly law firms; Legal 500 does also highlight leading lawyers within its commentary, and it identifies a select group of leading lawyers, but the latter is a short list of names and is not broken into tiers like Chambers
- When it comes to client references, Legal 500 will accept an unlimited number from law firms, whereas Chambers has a stricter limit of 10 or 15 (depending on the region)
- Partly because of its policy of accepting an unlimited number of client references, Legal 500’s rankings, and which lawyers are highlighted, tend to swing more from one year to the next to reflect recent market activity; by contrast, Chambers rankings change less from year to year and tend to take a longer-term view of the market
- In its United States directory, Legal 500 covers firms nationally, whereas Chambers breaks the country down first into states, and then practices/industries (some sections are covered nationally)