Interview with Catherine McGregor, Lawdragon's Chief of Strategic Development

Catherine McGregor, long-time member of Chambers’ senior editorial team, made something of a surprise move recently when she moved to Lawdragon as the company’s new Chief of Strategic Development. Here’s what Catherine had to say about that move, and about Lawdragon‘s plans for future development, when I caught up with her recently.

Your move from a senior editorial position at Chambers – arguably the leading legal directory globally – to Lawdragon was a pretty surprising move. What prompted the move?

Essentially it felt like time. I had been at Chambers for over 7 years, and it felt like a good point to move to the next stage. Chambers is wonderful but it’s at a very developed stage as a company.  Coming to a company that’s at an earlier growth stage is really exciting and challenging. I have equity in Lawdragon so I will be working for myself, along with my partners, which is a huge source of excitement and creative energy for me.

Why Lawdragon, specifically? Did you spot an opportunity there to revamp that product?

Well they asked me! But it’s a very well respected product with a huge growth potential. They are completely committed to the Internet and new media. I do find the mix of high-quality journalism and lawyer evaluations a really interesting model, which has huge potential.

On the face of it, Lawdragon hasn’t so far really tried to compete in the same space as classic directories like Chambers and Legal 500. Does their decision to hire you indicate a change of heart in that regard?

Yes and no. We will be growing our portfolio of products and expanding, but not competing in the Chambers/Legal 500 sphere exactly.  They both do what they do well, and frankly there’s not really any appetite or need that I can see for another comprehensive legal directory in that model.

One of your primary responsibilities is to develop new products. What new initiatives can we expect to see from Lawdragon in the coming year?

A lot. I’m currently working on some practice-/legal trend-focused guides. These will marry Lawdragon‘s journalistic expertise with my directory knowledge, as well as my relationships with, and insight into the needs of, in-house counsel. We’re also planning a hard-hitting guide to trial lawyers.

I will also be reviving my general counsel round tables, which I had previously held in London and New York where in-house lawyers can meet and discuss key topics under Chatham House rules.

All these new products are being developed in conjunction and conversation with my network of in-house contacts, who have been fabulously generous with their time and supportive of my efforts. A big thank you to them for continuing to support me.

Thus far Lawdragon has been US-focused. Are there any plans afoot for international expansion?

Yes, but this will be measured and in line with the focus of our new products.

The classic directories haven’t really changed their model for 20 years. Do you think it’s time for something of an overhaul?

Yes. I think the classic directories provide a great overview of the breadth of the legal market. I think there is a gap for products that are more detailed and which assume that the reader knows the basic landscape.

The role and profile of the in-house lawyer has changed immeasurably since the first directories came on the scene, and we’d like to provide information that can cater to the needs of current general counsel and their teams. However, any information is only going to be part of an arsenal of resources that are used in making hiring decisions.

There is much research that seems to state that clients don’t use directories, but I do doubt that; I think it’s often a dirty secret and people don’t want to admit they do use them, even in a limited capacity!

As a seasoned directories professional, what’s your impression of the current state of the directories market?

As I stated above, directories are always going to be just one resource used; there does appear to be a disproportionate burden on many firms in dealing with these, however. Perhaps there needs to be more emphasis on independent research to lessen the burden on law firms.

I think there will always be a need for Chambers and Legal 500, as they are just so well established and are both solid brands. The market is changing though, so you never know; 15 years ago Martindale was the only name in the US and that has definitely changed.