Tips To Sharpen Up Your Chambers Submissions: Show, Don't Tell

We advise a range of blue-chip corporate clients on their big matters

Good for you. But guess what? So do the other 150 firms that are trying to get ranked… way to stand out from the crowd.

Firms include the above sort of statement time and time again when drafting their submissions. I can understand why – marketing teams under time pressures to top-and-tail a practice’s work highlights with some messaging can all too easily fall into the trap of relying on generic “marketing-speak” to flesh out a submission’s content.

Unfortunately, it’s the sort of thing that falls on deaf ears at the directories. It may as well not be there at all.

It’s vital to include information in the submission that shows how your practice and your lawyers stand out from the crowd. What are you really great at? Why do clients come to you, specifically? What makes you a better draw for clients than the other firms in the market? Why is your work worthy of getting you ranked?

These are the messages that should permeate the entire submission – the Overview, the Work Highlights, and the Feedback section. Without this focus on differentiating yourself from your competitor firms, your submissions will end up sounding generic and, dare I say, just a little bit dull.

Every practice is different, and most matters will likely have their own elements that raise them above the norm. However, here are a few quick tips to think about:

The “So What?’ Test: When selecting matters, read each matter description back to yourself and apply the “so-what?” test. If you are left shrugging your shoulders and wondering what’s so special about the matter, explain what makes it interesting. If you can’t, consider whether it might not be strong enough to be included.

What Constitutes Interesting? There are too many potential criteria to list here, but for starters, consider these main ones:

  • A matter that sets a precedent, sets a template for future matters, or will be of widespread application;
  • The first time a deal has been done in a certain jurisdiction, or involving clients from a certain jurisdiction;
  • A matter that demonstrates legal innovation;
  • The first time a deal has been done in a new regulatory environment;
  • A matter that was of supreme importance to your client; and
  • A matter that reflects a notable market trend.

And, of course, don’t keep this information to yourself. Explain how the matter fits into one of the above criteria.

Be Specific in the Feedback Section: If you’re trying to break into a table, or get moved up the table, it’s not enough to say, “we should be ranked/ranked higher because we’ve been very busy handling some very important matters for some very big clients” (see my opening paragraph). It’s essential to draw specific comparisons with the firms you want to be ranked alongside. What makes you as good as them? More matters? Back it up with hard evidence (league tables, for example). The same matters? List your matters and mark which currently ranked firms appeared across the table from/alongside your firm.

Researchers are smart people, but they’re not the legal experts that your partners are. Nor are they mind-readers. Don’t just tell them them you should be ranked/ranked higher – explainto them why you should be.