What’s New for The Legal 500 US 2018 Research

With The Legal 500 having just announced its new guidelines and deadlines for the next round of US research, I reached out to US editor Seth Singh Jennings for a rundown and explanation of what is new for the upcoming guide. Before we get to that, here are the basics of the research period:

  • Referee spreadsheet deadlines: November 8 or 15, 2017, depending on the practice area
  • Editorial submission deadline: November 8 or 15, 2017, again depending on the practice area
  • Law firm interview period begins: December 4, 2017
  • Contacting of referees: during January 2018 (precise date to be determined by number of referees received to contact); law firms will be informed one week before referees are contacted
  • November 8 deadlines: sections within the following chapters: Dispute Resolution; Government; Intellectual property; Labor and employment; M&A/corporate and commercial; and Real estate
  • November 15 deadlines: sections within the following chapters: Antitrust; Finance; Industry focus; Investment fund formation and management; Media, technology and telecoms; and Tax
  • Publication of The Legal 500 US 2018 edition: May/June 2018 (precise date not yet specified)

When looking through directory guidelines, it’s always important to look for what’s new – not just assume what you can expect to find. Miss something new and you might be off-target with some of your information or, worse, fail to submit for a newly covered practice area in which you are hands down the best. As indicated by the guidelines, you will find there are a number of new practice areas, or at least amendments to the ways in which existing ones are being covered.

The changes make good sense and here’s the reasoning from the editor (Seth):

The explanation for the changes is fairly simple in each case. For Antitrust: Civil litigation/class actions, we found that we were trying to compare firms doing quite different things, so we’ve separated it out. Of note, we expect it will give greater prominence to the plaintiff firms in particular.

For Corporate investigations, it was a similar thing – we were comparing firms that represent individuals (in cases which often go to trial) with firms representing corporate clients in investigations (much of which is confidential). We thought it made sense to separate this out, given that we have resources to do so.

With Structured finance, it’s always been the case that the field of derivatives and structured products is quite different to securitization, with firms typically having distinct practices. Individuals rarely do both aspects.

With Transport, the issue we faced last year was how to compare firms with submissions weighted heavily towards aviation litigation against firms doing strictly aircraft asset finance. Again, it felt like comparing apples and oranges to some extent. Since the Asset finance category was largely composed of transport finance anyway, we decided to make Transport finance a distinct section and then spin out the litigation and regulation pieces too. When it all comes back, we’ll see what we have. I certainly expect the finance sections to stay separate, but we might amalgamate the regulation and litigation if those seem to overlap quite heavily.

So, there you have the reasoning. Now, as a person handling submissions for your law firm, what can you actively do with that and what does it mean for you? Well, these changes should be welcomed. They mean more practice areas, but they don’t really mean more work for you at the marketing end – it means you and the directory using the same information in a different way. With practice areas being subdivided like this, it really benefits specialized teams that hitherto were competing with moderate success against full-service practices by making it easier for the researcher to give full credit for niche expertise when balanced against broader-based practices. For truly comprehensive practices, it means two rankings instead of one!

Another benefit to be had from the changes is that it allows you to showcase more of the examples of work which you have to put forward. Take the Securitization section, for example – before, these pieces of work would have been competing for air with derivatives and other structured products. Now you can communicate 10 examples in each of the areas, so bear this in mind when refreshing last year’s submissions with new content.

Lastly, it’s also worth taking a view as to how each of these changes compares with the similar categories used in Chambers & Partners. Some of the changes will mean that some information which would have been relevant before in submissions to both Chambers and The Legal 500 might now have to be re-housed elsewhere in order for it to get in front of the eyes of the right researcher.

Nonetheless, overall these changes will require small changes in approach and allow your firm to present more of the great info that you’ve managed to gather throughout the past year.

As with any change made by the directories, these will have come about through a combination of market feedback, requests from readers and the observations of the editors and research teams. The directories are open to change where it is merited, so do feel like you can push for change – at any point in the year – by making a reasoned case to the editor, either through the submission or by a discrete conversation at some other point in the year. Having very recently been an editor in just such a capacity, I know that those thoughts and suggestions are genuinely welcome.