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Chambers: Changes Afoot for Lawyer’s Favorite Listing

If you are a staff person at a law firm, I can virtually guarantee that your lawyers want to be listed in Chambers.  And based on a presentation by the editors in DC last Friday, making that happen isn’t getting any easier.

Catherine McGregor and US Editor Laura Mills spoke to an overly packed house at the Army Navy Club in DC, and to my surprise, attorneys outnumbered marketing people by a healthy factor.  I couldn’t help thinking that the lost billable hours in that room equaled the GDP of a small Caribbean nation.

The editors gave us the usual spiel – get your submissions in on time, take the time to explain why the cases you list are important to the practice area, and did you know that we will sell you the results of our interviews (Chambers Confidential)?

Then they happened to mention that next year’s submission deadlines will be significantly earlier – late May and July 2 – and that there will be only two deadlines.  Unfortunately, that first deadline will fall before this year’s book is published, but they will remedy that timing issue by 2013.

More significantly, they are going to de-emphasize ‘peer review’ and start doing independent interviews of clients, eliciting general GC feedback on lawyers, rather than just speaking to the clients we submit.

Catherine emphasized to me in a conversation that Chambers is urged by clients to maintain the exclusivity of the listings.  “They want to be sure that everyone isn’t listed, that this is in fact this year’s cream of the crop,” she said.

My takeaways from this were:

(1) Chambers wants to remove any way we have of gaming the system through recommendations by friends (although of course none of us would do that);

(2) Chambers is seeking to make the listing more exclusive; and

(3) Who is listed is more likely to change from year to year.

Finally, the efforts by Chambers to conduct independent (in person) interviews of GCs of large corporations could have the effect of making it harder for smaller law firms who serve the entrepreneurial middle market to be listed. I hope not, but I could see that as an unintended result.

One legal marketer asked a question that many of were thinking – do we really have to fill out an extensive submission, or can we just submit client names?  I personally have a client who does this and their managing partner and firm have been listed for years.  Not surprisingly, Laura Mills recommended against it because she pointed out that it makes your submission less strong compared to those who went the extra mile.  If only out of caution, I’d agree.

This past year, we prepared a submission for a client who had not been previously listed, and our submission dotted every “I”, crossed every “t” and did every single little thing that Chambers asked for.  The attorney got listed, and a Chambers editor mentioned it was the best submission she’d ever seen.  Might be a coincidence, but now I’m trained!

If Chambers meant what they said last Friday in DC, then I think that we had all better submit a Pulitzer-worthy submissions to ensure our lawyers stay in the running.