But here is an instance where directories are used by buyers of legal services as a measure of quality to distinguish between law firms.
One of Israel’s leading banks, Bank Hapoalim, insisted that applicants in immigration cases use only one of the top five law firms in their country of origin.
In an example cited in the article, Bank Hapoalim refused to deal with a client from Russia because he had not used the services of a law firm that was listed in Legal 500 or Chambers.
It wouldn’t be uncommon for a bank in this situation to oblige a counterparty to use a firm that was approved by the respective bar association in the applicant’s country.
But Bank Hapoalim has gone one stage further and insisted that individuals instruct a law firm that has been independently recognized by a third-party directory.
In other words, you may have a perfectly good lawyer already that you have used for many years, but if you want to deal with this bank, you must ditch them and use one recommended in the directories.
You could say that Bank Hapoalim is merely tightening up its procedures to reduce their exposure to risk and fraud, but the bank’s policy says something about the need for an independent assessment that cuts through the mass of law firms in what is still a highly fragmented market, and provides an indicator of relative quality.
One of the individuals involved that was rejected by the bank for not using a directories-recommended lawyer said in his defense that:
“Bank Hapoalim is not willing to accept registration in the local bar association, which is the professional and authorized association. The Legal 500 and Chambers directories are advertising directories. Being listed in them involves considerable cost. The firms listed in them are naturally large ones specializing mostly in business clients, not private clients, while the accounts involved are private accounts.”
He makes the valid point that by insisting that applicants use international firms whose business is focused on large enterprises, extra costs are lumped on consumers and private clients with more limited means.
While staff at Chambers and Legal 500 will wince at the charge that they are “advertising directories”, there is some truth to the thrust of his claim.
Chambers and Legal 500 do gravitate to the top end of the market, and it’s easier for larger firms with more resources and marketing staff to engage with such directories.
However, there are many high-quality lawyers that for one reason or another are not listed in these directories.
I come across them every day.
My take-away is that the directories have worked hard over the years to establish themselves as a credible benchmark of quality, and they should be pleased that they are held in such high regard by major organizations like this Israeli bank.
But equally it’s their job as client-focused publications to find lawyers and firms who might otherwise glide under the radar.
That’s what clients what – a choice of law firms, big and small, at different price points for different needs.
It doesn’t take much research skill to find the key lawyers at the bigger firms; the real art is sniffing out the hidden gems in the nooks and crannies of the legal market.
Pictured: Tel Aviv, taken by Lloyd Pearson, September 2016