The Chambers and Partners USA rankings were released last week and I had a great talk with one of the deputy editors to really go over our results, especially the why and where we could improve on our end. This is a call I make every year, and I always glean new information that helps me to better understand not just our Chambers rankings, but our attorneys and the work that they do.

1. Follow the damn template.

Several times we were praised on following the template, and making it easy for the researchers to get an understanding of what happened in the practice that year. Lots of bullet points. No marketing speak. They are reviewing thousands of submissions, so make it easy for them to find the information they are looking for.

Tip: Start now. The templates are available, so why wait? Pull your case and matter lists for the year. Start updating the general information at the beginning of the submission. Chambers isn’t something you can phone in, and if it’s important to the attorney’s practice, they will appreciate the extra time and assistance you can provide.

2. It’s all about the referees.

For good or for bad, it doesn’t matter how great a year you have had if Chambers doesn’t get feedback from your referees. But getting clients to take the call or respond to the email is a challenge we all face. On average, only 1/3 of your referees will respond, and Chambers won’t tell you who. In recent years, they have increased the allowable referees to 20. Take advantage of that. 

Tip: You need to take the time to notify, in advance, your referees to ensure that they:

  1. understand what Chambers is and why it’s important to you and your practice; and,
  2. are willing to take the interview or reply to the email.

3. Your peer network counts. 

Chambers interviews the practice group leader at each firm that submits. Depending on the interviewer, they can ask an open questions of “Who else in your legal community do you recommend,” or they could ask about specific people. They will also ask this of the client as well (other than X firm, who else do you recommend). I worked at one firm that had never submitted to Chambers, yet had several attorneys and practices ranked due to their reputation within the community.

Tip: Review the current Chambers for your state and practice. Do you know who the practice group leaders are for your peer firms? With generational shifts, those positions might have changed within recent years.

Overall Thoughts

Chambers isn’t a game to be gamed. What they are asking is that you, the lawyer, be involved in your community, have a good peer network, talk to your clients about the value of the relationship, and have a good enough relationship with your client that they would not hesitate to serve as a reference for you once a year.

That’s the good news.

The bad news is that we’re still hearing feedback that the clients are not getting the calls or emails from Chambers, and that the numbers game required in the submission process is inherently biased towards the big firms or boutiques.

Tip: While Chambers will not tell you who has returned their calls or emails, they will tell you how many have. Call them a couple weeks into the interview process and ask. If they have only heard back from two people, reach out to your referees and make sure they got the email.

Have a strategy

For each submission, have a strategy. While I have shared a lot of information here, not much of this is new information. It’s confirming assumptions. However, I do have specific tips and action plans for our attorneys and our team as we enter the 2019 “Chambers season.”

If you don’t have an in-house marketing professional on your team, or your team cannot take on the Chambers submission, not to worry. There are consultants for this: Linda Hazelton, Lloyd Pearson, Richard Pinto, Elizabeth Lampert, Laura Mills, Jaffe PR, Blattel Communications, Knapp Marketing, SavageNash, KiddAitken, to name just a few.

So why is Chambers important?

For those who are just waking up to Chambers, or are just frustrated by the process, you have to be asking yourself, “Why the hell do I want to do this?”

Two main reasons:

  1. Many GCs (not all) use Chambers during their vetting process for outside counsel. They know that Chambers does take the time to review all submissions, interview people, and pretty much if you’re in the book (in any band … that’s a whole other mystery for another post), there is merit to that. You can’t buy your way into Chambers by buying an ad or a plaque.
  2. Recruiting purposes. For the same reasons listed above, Chambers is a terrific vetting tool for someone looking to join your firm, or for you to vet a candidate to join your practice.

Final Thoughts

Take the time to review your results, call your researchers. If the researcher is new, call in advance and make sure they understand the nuances of your practice, or the work that you are doing. Make sure they understand how your practice might be different than your peer firms (as defined by Chambers). I have found that most of the researchers have journalism in their background, so they appreciate the insights. And while some have legal or industry experience, that doesn’t mean they understand what YOU do.

All in all, it comes down to this: Do good work, and have great relationships.

  • Linda Adell Hazelton

    Great post, Heather. I would add that work highlights should tell a story. It’s best to avoid bare bones descriptions such as: Represented client in deal to acquire blah blah blah. Point out the importance of the transaction and explain why the firm was instrumental to the successful conclusion. Regarding matter value, I have had clients enter the amount of their fees or tell me why they didn’t want to say what their fees were. That’s not the matter value. The value is not always monetary, but when it is, it’s best to enter it even if you need to mark it confidential.