The top 12 reasons why law firm legal directory submissions miss the mark

Consultant Alex Holtum asked a selection of editors to reveal the most common reasons for disappointing legal directory rankings
Directory Submission concept

By Tashatuvango; Shutterstock

Obtaining feedback from the legal directories on your rankings is an important part of the directory submissions process. Alex Holtum, director of International Law Firm Solutions, analysed feedback from a selection of editors to determine the main reasons why law firms don’t achieve the results they are hoping for. Here are the top 12 factors, which fall loosely into the categories of referees, work highlights and the broader process of compiling submissions.


1. Not enough referees responded

By far the most frequent feedback received, particularly from Chambers and Partners, is that only a small percentage of referees responded. What is ‘enough’ varies depending on jurisdiction and practice area. This is why it is important to prepare your referees in advance to encourage their participation.

2. Referees didn’t know about the firm’s work in the practice area being researched

Volume of references is important, but not to the point where you put forward referees who aren’t familiar with your work in the practice area. This can also weaken the stronger parts of your submission as the directories will start to doubt the true depth of your experience.

3. Referees gave negative feedback

This is relatively rare, but damaging if it happens. You need to really think carefully about who you put forward as referees and ensure they are happy with your service.

Feedback about work highlights

 4. Not enough Work Highlights

What is enough varies depending on jurisdiction and practice area but the directories usually provide guidelines as to the amount expected.

5. Work Highlights too old

All work highlights should have been worked on in the past 12 months and the date should be included.  This can include highlights from the previous year’s submission but do this with caution and update the description.

6. Not clear from the descriptions why the work highlights were highlights

Lots of work highlights don’t do themselves justice. It may have been a very important matter – but you have got to explain why to the researcher. Values are important.

7. Work didn’t relate to the practice area being researched

Sometimes this is clear. On other occasions it is more blurred, for example, is all work for a bank, banking work?

8. Work not comparable to other firms that are ranked

This mostly relates to deal value.

9. Work very limited in scope

For example, this feedback is triggered if you are making a submission in IP and every work highlight is a trademark renewal.


10. Submission/references received after the deadline and they didn’t have sufficient time to research them

The biggest error firms make here is that they underestimate the time it takes to produce a submission – particularly if you are going to get input from other members of the firm.

11. No track record

Quite often this feedback is received when a firm submits for the first time. It is actually quite positive as it indicates the firm/individual is quite likely to be ranked next time round.

12. Lack of recognition from other firms

This is generally something you can’t influence, although building relationships with your peers at industry events can help. This is rarely given as the only reason for disappointing rankings.

Alex Holtum will be leading the one day virtual workshop, Building an effective and efficient directory submissions strategy, next Tuesday, on15 December. Email [email protected] to book your place.

Email your news and story ideas to: [email protected]