- Posted by Ed Bean
- On May 21, 2021
- Chambers law firm rankings, Chambers submissions
It happens every year. A firm invests many hours in a Chambers submission, certain that it has shown the work and expertise to gain this coveted recognition, only to learn in the spring that a ranking has eluded the practice. Firms sometimes ask us, what are we doing wrong? Every situation is different, but the most common mistake we see in submissions is not following the form’s directions. The questions Chambers asks for each section are clear and straightforward; ignore them at your own peril.
“What is this department best known for?”
Too often, we see firms write this section as if it’s a website practice description or marketing collateral. That is precisely the wrong approach. Use this space to explain to Chambers what differentiates your practice from the competition, not to offer up a bottomless menu of everything your practice has ever done for clients. This means cutting to the heart of what distinguishes you from competitors. The 500 words in this section define your practice, and don’t waste it repeating language that sounds like every other firm’s practice description.
A word of caution: Don’t use the submission to talk about “value,” that code word firms use to broadcast lower rates. Save that pitch for the marketing brochure. Clients may be interested in your flexible rate structure, but Chambers wants to know about the quality and scope of your work. You also will waste the precious space you are allotted if you talk about client service and responsiveness and all those other tired buzzwords that litter the law firm landscape. Responsiveness is important to clients, but let your client referees tell how you excel in this area when the Chambers researcher calls them.
This section now is the place to offer feedback on your current (or lack of) ranking, which used to be its own section. Align the discussion of what you do best with where you deserve to be ranked. Focus on your work with and across from other respected and ranked firms because you want to show you belong in their company in the rankings.
We also see firms use the same narrative in this section year after year. It’s not that Chambers is grading you on creative writing. But surely something has changed in the practice since last year. If you are recycling the same narrative, it tells us you are just filling in the blanks and not putting sufficient thought into the submission.
Feedback on Chambers’ coverage of other firms
Chambers tells you this section is optional. In school, there often was an optional “bonus” question on tests, remember? If you were one of the smart kids at the top of the class rankings, you took advantage of this chance for more points. Don’t leave this opportunity on the table in the Chambers submission. If you belong in the rankings, you should know the top firms and lawyers in your practice area and understand the dynamics of the legal services market. Show that you know who is the best, discuss who may be ranked above their competence (politely, of course) and don’t be afraid to draw a few comparisons to your own practice.
“Please say why this matter was important”
Two mistakes we see in the work highlights section are not giving an adequate description of the importance of a matter and neglecting to name other firms involved. On the former, be concise but explain why the matter was important and the firm’s role. If it was a $1 billion deal or bet-the-company litigation, the importance is obvious. Other times, a paragraph of explanation and context will be enormously helpful to the Chambers researcher.
Second, we often see firms fail to list other lawyers and firms that advised on the matter. The question takes on more importance if the other firms are ranked or otherwise prominent or respected. Don’t pass up this chance to name drop that you play on the same field as those firms.
Take a step back
Chambers rankings are a competition. While there is no set limit on the number of firms that can be ranked, it’s a short list of the best of the best. Take a step back and look objectively at how your practice stacks up against the competition.
Like all writing, Chambers submissions benefit from critical review, preferably from someone who isn’t shy about asking the tough questions. You may be able to find that reviewer within the firm and you can also use an outside consultant, preferably someone who has seen a lot of Chambers submissions over the years.
There are no secret tricks to winning a ranking. Your best shot at gaining the recognition you deserve is to carefully explain the value your attorneys bring to the practice, offer up enthusiastic references, make favorable (but respectful) comparisons to competitors and to answer all the questions.