We work with many law firms around the world and frequently hear referees getting the blame for a lower than expected legal directory ranking. However, the referee spreadsheet often gets the same level of attention as the pricing schedule to a tender. Hours spent on the submission form itself, then completing the one-page referee spreadsheet in a rush as the clock ticks down. It’s the easy part, isn’t it?

Particularly for Chambers and Partners, referees are (pretty much) king. Having put the hard work into your practice overview and matter highlights, here are some pointers to help get the most ranking impact from your referees:

  • Include referees from your key matter highlights who will attest to the quality of the team, but also the leading lawyers put forward for individual rankings. This is particularly important for talented associates and junior partners, who may not yet have carved out a strong reputation among peers but may garner high praise from clients.
  • Only use referees who you have worked with during the year being researched. The last thing you want is a referee telling a researcher that they haven’t worked with you for a while, but they have been using another cracking firm.
  • Pick referees who will respond to the researcher’s email. Naming the CEO of a blue-chip company might sound like the way to go, but imagine a busy partner’s inbox. Will an email from a researcher be prioritised and actioned?
  • If there have been any issues with service delivery, don’t use that client. Even if the issue has been resolved, the risk is there.
  • Don’t fatigue your referees. We frequently see firms use the same referees within a client organisation across multiple submissions or name several individuals within an organisation. Rankings are important, but don’t risk fatiguing key client relationships by recycling your referee lists.
  • Another obvious tip, but one that we have seen firms fail to do, is to speak to your referees early in the process. Ask for their consent to stand as a referee, explain the process and importantly their testimony is important to you.   A word to marketing and business development teams, don’t let partners tell you it will be fine to seek approval retrospectively. “They’re a great client, they like us, they’ll be happy to do it.” You risk the client feeling taken for granted (and put upon) and you look disorganised, particularly if other firms have managed the process smoothly and asked them weeks in advance.
  • Finally, complete the spreadsheet accurately and in its entirety.

As with much to do with the directory submissions, managing the selection and ongoing contact with referees needs to be strategically and logically thought through and managed  to give you the best chance of achieving your target rankings.

Download our guide on referees

If you’d like any support with your directories submissions, whether you’re already ranked or looking to be, our expert team can help.