Yes, it may seem early, but organization is key to success with Chambers.
Legal directories management is tough, and even the best-oiled team will hit a bump in the road – but the majority of problems can be prevented with advance planning.
Prepare a master organizational table
Using Word or Excel, prepare a directories organization chart as early as possible.
Draw up a list of all the sections in every state (and nationally) where your firm has an office.
At a minimum, your table should include:
The name of the state (or national)
The practice/industry section (what the directories call it, not your firm)
The submission deadline
Whether you submitted for that section last year – yes/no
Whether your firm was ranked in that section – yes/no
The lead partner(s) for the section
The responsible member of the marketing team
A space to include progress notes and other comments
Identify your firms’ areas for submission
Before you dive in, firm up a definitive list of sections for which you will submit.
In most cases, you will re-submit for those areas where your firm was previously ranked, and those areas where you submitted previously.
But you may wish to submit in new sections as well.
Did you make key lateral hires, open a new office, or expand a particular practice? Are there practices that have been earmarked for expansion?
For any “possibles” (i.e. – sections where you think you may want to submit, but aren’t sure), discuss internally and talk to a senior partner or section head ahead of time and get a firm yes/no.
You want to avoid the partner calling in November – at the end of the season – wondering why we didn’t do a submission for his practice back in July.
New timetable released April 2016
The Chambers USA 2017 schedule – this covers submission preparation in 2016 – will be released online in April 2016.
The new schedule will tell you which sections are being researched this year, when the submission is due, and which researcher is assigned to each section.
Keep an eye open for schedule changes
To make life easier for law firms, Chambers likes to stay faithful to the equivalent deadline last year.
So, if your section was due in August 2015, there’s a good chance it will be the same this year.
But there are exceptions and changes, so it’s important to check the new running order carefully.
Watch for brand new sections; every year Chambers adds in a few new ones.
Chambers will notify you about these at the time it announces the new schedule.
If you are on the Chambers database, you may receive an e-mail notification, but this doesn’t always happen, so proactively check the online schedule in mid-April.
Watch for “early bird” deadlines
The first set of submission deadlines will likely be early June 2016, with the remaining deadlines following at the start of each month through November 2016.
You will need to get started in mid-late April to hit the first set of deadlines in June.
Don’t fall behind on your June deadlines, as you’ll be playing catch up through the Summer.
Understand the calendar
The research itself usually begins later in the month of the deadline, or the following month.
On the Chambers schedule you will see a column showing “month of research” – often the month following the submission deadline.
Roughly the research runs from July to December 2016.
Depending on your firm and where its offices are located, you may be busier at the start of the cycle or the end.
New edition of Chambers USA
The new edition of Chambers USA will be released on May 27 2016.
As well as preparing an internal analysis of the results, the new material helps you plan ahead for the next season.
Your firm may have secured new lawyer and firm rankings, and that will influence your approach to the next round of submissions.
You might need to make some last minute changes to your June 2016 deadline entries after the new guide is released – for example, which lawyers to include, and what to write in the feedback section.
Remember to download the latest version of the standard submission template from the Chambers site.
Chambers makes changes to the form from time to time, so the latest version should replace earlier versions you may have saved locally in previous years.
Make sure you’re down as a Chambers contact
Legal marketers switch firms regularly and directories responsibility is passed from person to person, so make sure you are listed on Chambers’ system as the external contact for your firm.
Speak to the Chambers database staff, and tell them that you are the point person for your firm.
Then you will receive notifications from the directories about schedule changes, launch dates, deadlines, and other updates.
You may also want to contact the relevant researchers (any that have been assigned at this point) at the start of the research process, and tell them that you are the firm’s directory liaison.
Assign directories responsibility
Most law firm marketing staff have “day jobs”, and it’s difficult for them to juggle the competing demands on their time in the middle of directory season.
So it’s vital that responsibility for each submission is assigned to a team member, who has to ensure that the submission s finalized on time.
Map out clear instructions to your team and make sure each submission has an “owner”.
It’s best to have a single marketing person as the main owner of each submission, even if that submission cuts across internal practice groups.
Assign an approving partner to each submission
One of the reasons submissions take longer than they should, and deadlines get missed, is because marketers expand the circle of partners involved.
Naturally, there is a desire to “cover” yourself and the culture of consensus in law firms encourages such an approach.
But you have to keep the circle tight, or the submission will drag on.
Assign a single partner to each submission – at most, two – with final sign-off responsibility.
Death by committee
Law firms love committees but they can derail submissions and lead to delays.
It may not be inclusive, but it’s usually more effective if a marketer works with a small group of key partners in a given practice to drive the submission forward and secure timely approval.
Chambers USA follows an annual cycle, with a big spike of activity during the main submission season.
The seven-month period from May through November represents a considerable burden for law firms – particularly law firm marketing departments.
To cope with the increased workload during the peak months, you need to do some of the following: assign existing members of the in-house marketing team to directories duty, bring in temporary staff, nominate a dedicated directories coordinator, or hire a directories consultant or agency to help with some of the work.
Most firms, particularly larger ones, employ a combination of these approaches.
Pictured: Comcast Center, Philadelphia
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