It’s no secret that I (along with most legal marketing professionals) have never been a fan of surveys, and have always done the minimal I need to do, push off the rest, and ignore even more of the survey requests, and subsequent requests to purchase an ad or a plaque.

Somewhere at LMA’s annual conference last week I heard someone say something that changed my mind, attitude, and thought on strategy surrounding these surveys:

It’s the only time I am recognized.

– anonymous lawyer

Sure, attorneys get paid well. Extremely well. But, when you think about it, lawyers really aren’t thanked too often. And that is what they personally get from these accolades. Recognition.

It turns out that getting a “head’s up” from Chambers, a “that-a-boy/girl” from Best or Super Lawyers, or a “you deserve it” from ALM is appreciated.

The attorneys in my firm are my clients. As their strategic partner in all things business development, marketing, and visibility, I have to take into account what motivates them when I am making strategic decisions; visceral reactions won’t cut it.

As legal marketers we are all so focused on the bottom line as a measurement, that sometimes we can lose sight of some of those softer measurements.

Attorneys know (or should know) that these surveys and awards will not bring in a new client. Legal marketers absolutely know that being ranked will not add anything to the bottom line, and will most likely cause chaos and disruption in a department around the deadlines.

But I am changing my tune here. Rather than do the bare minimal, I will set up a strategic plan with each practice group on which surveys we will participate in the following year. We will calendar, plan, and partner together to complete these. We might even buy some ads around the more industry-specific and prestigious awards.

This isn’t an all-out surrender to the lists and surveys, but an openness to see where they do provide value, and sometimes that value is soft.

UPDATE: The mystery storyteller was Cheryl Bame.

My father became a solo practitioner 50 years ago. I asked him what had changed in the years since he became a lawyer and why now so many lawyers want to get on the rankings/awards lists. He said lawyers are in a thankless job and do not get many accolades for their work, so the awards give them that recognition.

  • Great advice – sharing!

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  • Good thoughts here!

    Over the years in-house, I found that the biggest value from Chambers — often the survey that took the most work — was not so much from the ultimate recognition, which was nice to have, but rather from the information that was collected for the submission. That information could be leveraged into all sorts of materials, from RFP responses, to other surveys, to PR pitches, to website copy, to client alerts/newsletters, etc., etc. Not all surveys are bad, but you have to be smart and choosy.

    • No doubt that marketing gets valuable information from Chambers and some of the other surveys for the experience databases, but as we are going along, trying to decide which surveys to participate in, we should add the attorney recognition into the mix. That is where the shift happened for me.

  • Thank you, Thank you! Echoing our sentiment exactly, as well. At the baseline, lists/rankings are helpful tools for law firms and lawyers to distinguish themselves from others. The legal market is saturated, and every chance a lawyer/firm can take to differentiate itself is important to consider. The strategy behind that effort takes some front-end time to weed out those that may not be important; soft or not, there still needs to be some sort of value. And, sometimes rankings and lists are not about the attorney/person, but about a program or effort the law firm does. For instance, a pro bono program, or a charitable community involvement, or even a technological innovation. Praising those involved is goodwill that can’t always be quantified, and it’s important just the same. Appreciate you bringing up what is a dreaded issue!