A London-based PR agency, Kelso Consulting, recently conducted a survey of how long it took law firm to complete legal directory submissions, and found that the quickest firms spend under three days, while some firms take 10 days or more.
The methodology isn’t precise but I assume that this means the cumulative time taken among lawyers and staff rather than the time period over which the submission preparation took place.
There’s also a short online survey that firms can complete to indicate how much time they spend on submissions.
We all know that submissions are an enormous time suck for law firms.
The biggest UK and US firms each produce hundreds of directory submissions a year.
We’re talking thousands of man hours, and hundreds of thousands of pounds/dollars in staff and lawyer time.
Some firms estimate their overall directories effort to cost between a million and two million dollars a year.
Tim Prizeman of Kelso makes some sensible and practical suggestions about how to save time and make the process more efficient.
But there’s no magic bullet I’m afraid.
I’ve spent years trying to make the directories process smoother and more painless for law firms, and have tried every technique and efficiency saving measure.
Despite that, however, I can’t honestly say that firms produce their submissions any quicker these days.
That’s not necessarily their fault, though – as often they are simply responding to the demands of the publishers.
In the early-mid 1990s, law firms would typically send a few pages to Chambers and Legal 500 and others.
As a Chambers staffer in the past, I remember getting handwritten submissions, personalized letters, and all sorts of strange marketing bumf.
It was all pretty relaxed.
Now the one-size-fits-all standard Chambers form is 26 pages long, before you have even written on it, and the prescriptive approach of many surveys forces firms to spend huge amounts of time burying into the nooks and crannies of their firms for information.
On the one hand, firms know more about directories than they did a decade ago (particularly in overseas markets where they are a more recent phenomenon), but at the same time, there is more interest in the directories, more partners want to get involved, and there are more sections and more editions – all of which means more bodies to manage – and more time.
One thing I would say to legal marketers charged with producing directory submissions is have the confidence to draft submissions yourself.
This does save time.
Rather than firing our multiple emails at the outset and trying to gather input from 20 partners, all of whom want to push the work they’ve been doing, arrange a meeting or call with the head of the practice.
Keep the circle of involvement tight – at least initially.
Get the overall download on the practice in a broad sense, put the skeleton of the submission together yourself, and don’t worry too much about the minutiae.
Along with your own knowledge and readily available internal information, a good initial partner meeting/call should enable a drafter to put together 70-80% of most submissions.
As well as giving you a great head start on the submission, the approval process is smoother as you’ve already had a chance to discuss everything with the partner who will ultimately provide sign-off.
The problem is that most law firm marketers see the submission process simply as a matter-gathering exercise.
In other words: “the attorneys know what matters are significant, and we don’t, so we have to ask them by requesting information.”
More information equals a better submission.
Bear in mind that very rarely will the directories criticize a law firm for not providing enough information – remember they only produce a short amount of editorial commentary for each practice.
It’s usually the other way round – firms send in too much information.
Rather than treating submission production into as a time-consuming back-and-forth in an attempt to gather extensive matter detail, change your approach and try to tell a story.
The art is to tell the reader what the practice is about – not fill in a bunch of empty boxes on a form.
Assume that the person reading the submission knows nothing about your firm’s practice.
Your job is to convey the essence of the practice in a concise, persuasive, and attractive fashion.
I’m not saying that this approach will solve all your problems, but it will save some time.