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Directory Submission Do's and Don't's 

 Dos and Donts image

So you have just rushed to get another batch of Legal 500 or Chambers & Partners Directory submissions filed. Your Business Development department has done little else for the last 6 weeks, a number of partners have got much more involved than they wanted to, and nobody is particularly happy with the result. You have learned from the process, and next year you will do it better. However, you also remember saying that last year…

Here are our top DOs and DON’T’s if you really want next year to be different.

When reading them DO remember these are guidelines not rules and that every firm’s circumstances and every directory's process and terminology is different.


Key Do’s and Don’t's

Why does it matter

START work on submissions early

WORK to a plan

DELEGATE responsibility

Don’t WASTE time on things that don’t matter

It often takes a firm 10+ hours for each practice area to produce information for a good submission.  It can take much longer.

Most submissions are 25+ pages, some more than double that – which is a lot of information – it is easier to get it right if you have a plan.

Giving responsibility for a practice area to one partner or team member will make the process easier.  If you send the draft documents to all partners you risk information overload! 

References and certain sections of the submission are much more important than others.  Prioritise them.

Lawyers naturally want to proof-read everything. However, for a 15,000 word submission this would be several hours work. Take into account that the document is neither for publication nor legal advice. Be proportionate.

Individual Rankings - Do’s and Don’t's


Decide who to promote for individual rankings


DON’T dilute their case by putting too many lawyers forward

SPEND time on making cases for individual rankings


BE SELECTIVE about who you put forward


Individual rankings add considerable benefit to the whole firm.

The more individual lawyers that are ranked the better the chance of gaining or improving a firm ranking.


For smaller firms it will be easier to select who you put forward. For larger firms make a decision on who has the strongest evidence for ranking.


Decide who you want to push for individual rankings at the start of the submission process as it impacts on the whole submission.

Include these lawyers in the following:

·         At least 3 or 4 Work Highlights

·         Referring lawyer for at least 3 or 4 references

·         RANKED/ UNRANKED lawyer profile section

·         Department Overview

·         Feedback – clearly state why they should be ranked.


 DON’T forget about associates.

References – Do’s and Don’t's


SPEND time on references




PUT forward the correct number of referees

Don’t use the same referee twice for Chambers

CHOOSE the right referees





Don’t put forward the wrong referees




ENCOURAGE referees to respond




Don’t “put words into the mouth” of referees

Spend time thinking about who you could use and ask if they are willing.  This is a much better use of time than proof-reading a submission.   Insufficient feedback from references is the most frequent explanation editors give for not ranking or improving the ranking of a firm.


If the directory prescribes the number of referees you can put forward aim to put that number forward.

If Chambers have asked a referee for feedback on your, or any firm’s, behalf they will not contact the same referee again within 3 months. It is best to use a referee for one practice area only.


Make sure referees are:

·         Relevant: someone with recent insight into your work in the practice area as a client or referee or opposing council

·         Likely to respond: many referees don’t 

·         Positive about your work: you want them to give positive not negative feedback.

Be wary of putting forward very senior people in large companies (CEO, General Counsel etc). Juniors are much more likely to respond to the researcher and their feedback carries the same weight. Senior people are also more likely to have been put forward by other firms in which case Chambers may not contact them (see above.)

It is not how many referees you put forward that counts – but how many respond. Most don’t.

Speak to referees before you put them forward and notify them when the directory contacts them.  You can also use this as a way of keeping in contact with clients and checking they are happy with your performance.

Directories expect a firm to contact referees to let them know the researcher will be in touch and to remind them about the work you have undertaken, but they take a very negative view if the firm actually writes the reference.

Submissions – Do’s and Don’t's


SPEND time on essential content only

KEEP the submission as short as possible

Don’t make the submission too long by including large quantities of irrelevant material

If a directory is researching a jurisdiction with 1 researcher that has 20 practice areas, an average of 30 submissions per practice area and 10,000 words per submission the researcher will receive about 15,000 pages and 6 million words of submissions to review.

To help the researcher, make sure key sections are brief and focus on significant information in the practice area being covered. Remove unnecessary information about the firm generally.

Do not spend time including information the researcher will not have time to consider.  Directories put very limited weight on things like other directory rankings/awards/positions held/seminars/publications.

Work Highlights Do’s and Don’t's


SPEND time on Work Highlights (WHs)


PROVIDE the correct number

PRIORITISE the order of the WHs

INCLUDE the value

FOCUS on key points

UPDATE work highlights every year

Don’t submit more than the directory ask for

Include exactly the number of WHs the directory requests where possible (usually 20)


Make sure you put WHs in order of significance.  Number 1 will be read more closely than number 20

Include a value/indication of value if at all possible

Say why the matter was significant

Make sure that all WHs are relevant to the practice area being researched

Use Business English – researchers are often NOT lawyers so best to avoid legal speak

Keep the description as concise as possible. (there is no maximum word count, but 300 words would be pretty long)

If you include WHs from last year’s submission – don’t just cut and paste. If the matter is still ongoing then update the description.

Make sure you write a description for each WH – Don’t include identical descriptions for different WHs.

Practice Overview – Do’s and Don’t's


SPEND time on the overview of Practice area section


Don’t include unnecessary information

Keep it short – Chambers now request 500 words for this section and in most instances that should be enough


Keep to the point – in particular say what differentiates your practice in the area

Personalise the description of your practice (DON’T cut and paste a description of your practice area that is exactly the same as every other law firm’s description of that practice area).

Feedback on rankings – Do’s and Don’t's


SPEND time on your feedback on the rankings

Benchmark your practice against others

Give brief feedback on your own rankings – stating if you believe the firm/individuals should be ranked or higher ranked

ALSO remember to give feedback (positive and negative) about other firms in your jurisdiction - including benchmarking them against your practice

And finally…


DON’T blame your Business Development Team

They are almost certainly doing their best.

Feel free to contact ILFS for a free 45 minute consultation

Contact Alex Holtum

Tel: +44 (0)7769 640959

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

To look at some of these issues surrounding Legal Directories in more depth please see: and scroll down to the directory heading. We also have a series of detailed notes for clients on most of the above issues. 

International Law Firm Solutions (ILFS) has helped law firms in nearly 150 jurisdictions with their Legal Directory submissions.

If you would like to discuss how we can maximise your performance in Legal Directories and make the whole process less of a hassle for you, and more effective for your firm please contact:

Alex Holtum T: +44 (0)7769 640959 EThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Contact us on +44 0203 488 3638

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