Above The Law ran a piece by in-house lawyer, Mark Herrmann, Chief Counsel at the insurance company Aon, about his experiences of the Chambers directories.
In A Jaunt Through Chambers, Herrmann, who was previously recognized in Chambers when in private practice, touches on an important issue – how to promote lawyers within your practice at different ages and seniority levels.
He described a situation at one firm he knew where the rankings were occupied by older lawyers – some at or nearing retirement.
This is something you hear a lot from lawyers when asked for their thoughts on their Chambers rankings – “they’re dominated by old (sometimes very old) lawyers”
In the United States, the age profile of lawyers included in Chambers tends to be higher than in other countries because there aren’t the same mandatory retirement rules you see in UK law firms, for example, and it’s common for attorneys to keep practicing later in life at the same time as their Brit counterparts are propping up the cruise ship bar.
The focus at Chambers is on established and prominent lawyers, and in the USA directory, these are typically people in the mid 40s to late 60s range.
By contrast, in other markets such as Romania and other Eastern European countries, you see a lot of younger lawyers that leave large law firms, set up their own firms, and become partners at a young age.
Succession planning is always tricky in law firms, but lawyers and marketers that work with legal directories and surveys should always keep a look out for the next generation.
Yes, the ambitious younger lawyers might leave, but that shouldn’t be used as an excuse to ignore the rising stars.
Chambers is interested in the next generation of lawyers at your practice, and there is space for younger lawyers with the “up-and-coming” (usually junior partners) and “associates to watch” categories.
Although the numbers of lawyers in these sections is relatively small, it has risen over the years.
When you’re preparing submissions, and engaging with the directories, always think about whether there’s a senior associate or junior partner that can be highlighted in the submission.
While they may not own the client relationships in the same way as the partners, they’re often the ones doing the work – and clients are often happy to recommend them.
Associates and junior partners might not make it in right away, but placing them in the submission sets down a marker, positions them for the future, and they may fall on to Chambers radar behind the scenes.
Highlighting them shows that you have strength in depth, lawyers available at different experience levels and price points to suit different client engagements, and indicates that you have invested in the practice for the future.
Rankings are cumulative – the lawyer in question may not have enough feedback in year one, but any relevant feedback will be factored in to next year’s research internally by the Chambers research team – so taking a long-term view with promising younger lawyers can be effective.