Following the launch of the new Best Lawyers/US News directory, I spoke on the phone with Best Lawyers chief executive, Phillip Greer (pictured above).
How did the idea come about?
For some time, Best Lawyers has wanted to provide clients and potential clients with information about all lawyers in the profession, and not just the relatively small group of lawyers in our Best Lawyers rankings. In 2010, we began partnering with U.S. News to produce law firm rankings. That was such an extraordinary undertaking, and we were determined to produce the most accurate and useful rankings possible, thus we weren’t able to turn our attention to an encyclopedic directory of lawyers in private practice until about two years ago. Fortunately, we were able to arrange with U.S. News – which has 37 million visitors to its website each month – a partnership with us on this new project.
The new site will be separate from Best Lawyers?
Yes, the Lawyer Directory will include virtually all lawyers in private practice. Also, importantly, the lawyers displayed on this site will not be ranked. Those are the key distinctions. Last year, we relaunched a completely redesigned Best Lawyers website, and we are very proud of it. We are also proud that the “Best Law Firms” rankings continue to have such a strong reputation in the legal profession. Of course, our four decades of experience in working with lawyers and law firms has been very helpful in creating the Lawyer Directory. But it is a very different enterprise.
What will the site look like?
You will be able to search for lawyers using a series of filters, including location and practice area. The site will have basic profiles for all lawyers in private practice, with an option for enhanced profiles similar to the ones on Best Lawyers. Lawyers recognized in Best Lawyers will be allowed to write recommendations for lawyers in other firms as well (unless there are any restrictions by their particular state bar associations). The site will also feature articles of interest to both individual and corporate clients as they navigate the legal profession, and we have assembled an excellent team in our New York office to curate this new content.
How does the business model work?
The site will feature free basic profiles for all U.S. lawyers in private practice. Any lawyer who chooses to can purchase an enhanced profile to display a wide range of additional information. Every firm that already subscribes to the Best Lawyers Profile Suite program will automatically receive, at no additional cost, enhanced lawyer profiles on the new site for all of the lawyers at their firms.
How will you order the lawyers in the search results?
Lawyers in firms that have purchased enhanced profiles will appear at the top of the results screen. All other lawyers will appear alphabetically. A series of filters and sub-filters will enable users to narrow their selections in order to find appropriate lawyers to fit their needs.
What will be the split between Best Lawyers and U.S. News?
The new Lawyer Directory will appear on usnews.com, similar to the “Best Law Firms” rankings. Best Lawyers will manage the research project. Because the project requires so much technology, we opened an additional office in Jacksonville, Florida, in 2016 to house an expanded IT operation. Our office in South Carolina will continue to house most of our research team, which we have expanded significantly to help with the directory, and our New York office will continue to focus on editorial content, publishing, and sales.
How can law firms engage with this initiative?
We are generating as much of the content ourselves as we can, but we are also making it easy for law firms and lawyers to provide data and to update their entries. We have created an online toolset that will allow firms to upload data directly from their spreadsheets to ours, which we can then upload to the site.
How can law firm marketers get involved?
We know that many marketing staffs are already overburdened, so we are making the process as easy as possible for them. We have designed a template that they can use to easily upload data directly from their spreadsheets to the new site. If they prefer to send us the data and have us upload it, we can do that as well. We don’t want this to be a burden for marketing staffs.
What’s the timescale?
Starting this November, we will be asking law firms to confirm attorney information, including names, locations, and practice areas, and also to send us data. We plan to launch the site in Spring 2018. How quickly we can complete the directory will depend on how much data the firms send us and how much we need to research ourselves.