Most days, legal marketing is a rewarding, challenging job. Other days, such as the day that Chambers announces its rankings, are days when you feel like you’ve entered a minefield the minute you step into the office.
The attorneys who have maintained their ranking, or been added to Chambers’ exclusive list, might give you a quiet thank you if you’re lucky. Silence is okay, too. It’s the attorneys who haven’t gotten ranked that are going to call you today, or take the time to find your office and join you for a tête-à-tête.
In these cases, it’s best to be proactive, and have some strategies in place to mitigate any damage. Here are some tried and true tips from the front lines.
1. When Chambers releases its embargoed rankings, go through the list and answer these questions in writing:
Who stayed on list?
Who dropped off?
Who was added?
Who did not make it that we pushed for?
2. Review this list with the person to whom you report (i.e someone who’s got your back).
Create a plan of action for alerting attorneys of their successes and, more importantly, alerting those who didn’t make the cut. If you send a firm-wide notification, consider the feelings of those who aren’t on the list before sending an over-the-top congratulatory announcement.
3. Review the references.
How many references did the attorneys who weren’t ranked provide?
Did they take your advice (which I hope you gave) to confirm that the references would participate?
Did they take your advice (again, hoping here) to alert the references shortly before Chambers was planning to contact them?
Nine times out of 10, Chambers is going to tell you that the attorney didn’t get enough feedback. If you asked an attorney for five references and he gave you two, you’ve got your answer; you can probably leave Laura Mills alone. If you provided 10 references, you might want to follow up with the researcher, who will likely tell you that not enough responded. You can share this information with the attorney and select new references next year.
I realize the difficulty in providing 5-10 references for an attorney, especially when you are trying to position multiple attorneys within one practice group, and you are limited to only 15 references. If this is the case, you need to rethink your strategy entirely, because providing enough references is the key to getting an attorney ranked. Providing a couple of references for a lot of attorneys might get a practice group ranked, but not an individual. I recommend a minimum of seven references for a single attorney whom you are aiming to get ranked. Trying to please everyone probably means no one will end up happy. This is an instance when you have to decide which attorney is the priority.
4. Review the rankings.
It’s possible that the attorney just doesn’t belong on Chambers’ list. Review Chambers’ editorial descriptions to identify the types of matters and clients they are highlighting. Then see how your attorney stacks up against this list. I once took this approach with a practice group that was worried it wouldn’t have any ranked attorneys once its “Senior Statesman” moved off the list. We were able to analyze the editorial to determine what would resonate with Chambers in terms of matters and clients, and the following year (after providing a lot of references), the attorney we had positioned for inclusion made the list.
5. Invest in Chambers Confidential
If your firm has the money, consider purchasing Chambers Confidential. In the past, I’ve saved money by just purchasing it for specific practice areas, not the entire firm. Chambers Confidential can provide some helpful insights – such as if the market comments about your attorney are less than stellar. If that’s the case, try to work with what you learn. For example, if you learn that she’s not visible in the market, gently share that and work with her on a plan to increase visibility.
6. Still at a loss?
If the attorney who didn’t make the list is a true super star who provided lots of references and impressive matters, by all means, ask Chambers about it directly. Then create a strategy for how you’ll get your attorney ranked in 2015.