New Practice Area – Foggy Thinking?

Alternative title: “It’s New! Should I Be Excited?!”

Look carefully through new directory guidelines and you will often see that there’s been a change to the coverage – something changed in some way or something is being looked at for the first time, whether that’s a new jurisdiction or a new practice area.

What do you do when you see one (and after you’ve checked if your firm has such a practice)? Here’s some brief advice:
1) Ask the directory in question for a practice area definition (if none has been provided)
2) Correlate your firm’s own practice area definition to the directory’s description
3) Don’t be constrained – assume that a new practice area will be open to some modification, dependent on the research information accrued. That means you have a chance to shape the new practice area coverage – maybe there is something your firm does that is clearly relevant to the area but which is not covered by the directory’s definition
4) Check with the lawyers – ask them for an honest view of whether the practice is deep or expansive enough to compete with leading practices in the area
5) Check the other directory – if one major directory launches a new practice area, check if the other major directory already covers it, or vice versa. The directories tend to obtain similar information and while the minutiae of results may vary, typically the nature of the practices and the bulk of contenders will be similar. If there is existing coverage by one directory, it will give you a sense of the level of opposition
6) If it’s entirely new – if the practice area has not been previously covered by either major directory, it is worth making a submission in the first year because nobody knows the level of the opposition. If you can substantiate your arguments, you have a fair to good chance of a ranking and the chance to establish your track record from the very beginning of the coverage
7) Outline prior track record – consistency of practice is a key judgement, so outline your firm’s prior track record in the area, whether that’s from decades back or examples of work from the year prior to the main time period under review
8) Get an interview early – in a new practice area, the researcher will be feeling their way through the subject. Obtain an interview and get in early, so that your lawyers can help the researcher to understand the subject and to help shape their view. That allows you to help them and, in doing so, to help them see what’s good about your firm’s proposition.