Last week (December 2018), our Lee Saunders sat down to talk to the editor of Legal 500 EMEA, Ian Deering. Topics included thoughts on the new directories landscape, how Legal 500‘s new online submission process has been received, what’s new, and how GCs use the rankings (content edited)
LS: As one of the pioneers of the legal publishing world, how significant are legal directories today?
ID: External reports, as well as internal market research, indicates that general counsel and foreign clients in particular regularly consult legal directories before instructing local counsel. Though many of them will have some prior point of contact in a market before doing business in that jurisdiction, clients often use guides like The Legal 500 as a measure of quality-confirmation before instructing local counsel.
[For m]arkets dominated by domestic law firms that do not always have international name recognition, ranking guides will be even more important, as they offer a degree of validation for a firm’s services. The Legal 500 is familiar to, and trusted among, foreign counsel, and evidence of its effect as a quasi-marketing tool is seen statistically and anecdotally.
LS: There is a lot of consolidation and movement in the legal publishing sector? How does Legal 500 remain competitive and different, as more and more newbies pop up with a range of services and awards?
ID: We are consistently devising new ways to reach out to the world of GCs. [P]erhaps our most unique feature is our level of engagement with the GC community. There is perhaps no other international guide offering the same amount of events across the same number of jurisdictions.
Further, it’s important to recognise that when it comes to engaging the GC community, The Legal 500 publication is just one part of the picture. Our other publications — GC Magazine, the GC Powerlist — further our connection with and our brand recognition amongst general counsel. We also continue to introduce new services and publications, such as the fivehundred [online] series.
LS: The submission template has been a key change at Legal 500 – what can you say to law firms about this change – in terms of planning for it and etc?
ID: We have experienced a fair amount of dissatisfaction with the new submission process, and as a result we will be changing the process this next year – there will be more details on this in the coming months.
As for preparation: regardless of the submission process, firms should not significantly change their approach to submissions. We’re still looking for the same information that we’ve always been looking for: What are the facts of the matter? Why is it important? What makes it unique? Etc…
In a word: if I were to ask “Why is this matter included?” and the answer to that question is merely “In order to fill out the submission”, then you could probably improve your submission. Every work highlight should tell a researcher something about your practice. [I]t’s maybe more important than ever that firms continue to deliver high-quality ranking materials. It…means that if a firm isn’t putting in a comparable amount of effort [as its peers], that may very well affect its place in the rankings.
The better the submissions become — the better they are able to illustrate the dynamism of each practice, and the overall strength of each firm — the more competitive these tables will become. And they have become very competitive!
LS: Aside from participating in the research itself, how can law firms get involved in order to be seen by clients around the world? What has been the feedback from GCs to products, services and events you offer?
ID: Firms can purchase firm or individual profiles on our website; they can contribute written pieces concerning trends in the market (some firms already do this); they can seek to sponsor events for GCs – these opportunities can be discussed in more detail with a member of our sales or marketing team.
Feedback for our events is generally very positive. Of course these have to make economic sense for us, but at the end of the day our priority with these events is to present GCs with discussions and information that they actually want to hear. We are not interested in doing just any event. Substantive information on content is flexible and would need to be discussed in more detail with sales, but our events are well received specifically because of our approach: we’re very sensitive to quality and substance, and GCs’ receptivity can be partly measured by the demand for further events.
LS: What new products and services are open to law firms today at Legal 500?
ID: Our newest product is the fivehundred series, which is all about the world’s leading law firms coming together to discuss the global challenges they face and offer best practice to each other. Topics range from leadership, technology, diversity and inclusion, well-being, talent recruitment and retention, marketing and business development, and so on.
It’s an opportunity to highlight what works and what doesn’t, and to make predictions on what the future holds for legal business. Here again content is flexible, but we would like to be producing information that can be extended beyond [any single] market.
LS: What are the latest [ballpark] breakdown figures for the distribution of Legal 500 EMEA?
ID: Now that The Legal 500 is entirely digital, “distribution” stats will be slightly different than they may have been in the past, and though we wouldn’t like to publish any specific numbers; [however,] further to some of the points made above regarding international exposure: firms can be assured that in exchange for the hard work that goes into filing a submission, a firm that makes it into our rankings it will certainly be seen be international general counsel.