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Research-based legal rankings have become annual fixtures in law firm marketing calendars, especially as the main directories’ cachet increases. Listings can be a great opportunity to publicize and enhance the reputation of individual lawyers as well as your firm’s practice areas. Making it onto these lists, however, is not always as simple as it sounds.
How important are the rankings? It has become increasingly common for clients to ask law firms to list their directory rankings in RFPs. So, the “clients don’t read directories” argument is somewhat naïve — and often untrue.
While the directories and rankings market is relatively mature, editors continue to report a mismatch between what researchers want to receive and what firms think researchers want. The struggle to provide information that influences and holds weight is a constant one. And as more firms strive to achieve the rankings they think they deserve, the bar for entry is being set higher.
Stellar nominations, or submissions, require thought, focus and a strategic approach. Whether writing your own submission or an entire firm’s worth, understanding how the directory research processes work is a huge advantage.
1. Follow the rules. Review the nomination form and submit only what is asked for, and do it within the requested word count.
2. Know your deadlines. Missed deadlines are the most common source of directory aggravation. Start each submission six weeks before the deadline.
3. Send your nominations early. Some editors will review them right away, while others will wait until the deadline closes. If the editor is reviewing candidates as they are submitted, early nominations are less likely to get lost in the hundreds of emails that will arrive during the final day.
4. Know the selection criteria of the list you are aiming for. If a publication is looking for litigators, do not pitch someone in a management role who may only very occasionally be involved in trials — even if that person is the firm chairman. And certainly do not pitch a corporate attorney.
5. Tell them what they need to know. Editors review hundreds, sometimes thousands, of nominations. They need you to point out why this candidate above all others should be included. Be as specific as possible.
6. Link to good stuff. Editors want to know how nominees’ recent matters are relevant to the legal and business communities. Be sure to include links to any media coverage.
7. Back up your claims with quantitative facts. If you are saying someone donates a lot of pro bono time, how many hours do they give, and to which programs did they donate time last year? Include the national average of pro bono contributions to show how your candidate is above the norm.
8. Give clients’ words a lot of time. For certain legal directories, client references are arguably as important as the submission. Don’t treat them as an afterthought. Spend time to get them right.
Elizabeth Lampert is President of Elizabeth Lampert PR, a legal marketing, crisis communications and PR consultancy in the United States.
Nigel Savage is the Founder and Managing Director of Savage Communications, a consultancy focusing specifically on helping law firms with legal directories and rankings. Nigel has 12 years’ experience in the field, including as Editorial Director of leading directory The Legal 500.
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