22 April 2021

Lawyers split over value of legal directories, poll finds

Readers' survey finds respondents in two equal camps over whether rankings boost transparency

The legal profession is divided on the value of the legal directories with an even split between those who believe they improve transparency and those who dispute this, according to the latest Global Legal Post snapshot survey.

However, a majority of lawyers and other professionals working in the market believe directory rankings are at least ‘somewhat accurate’ and nearly two thirds think clients refer to directories to choose advisers at least sometimes.

Chambers and Partners, meanwhile, was ranked ahead of The Legal 500 as the market leader.

These are the headline results of the readers’ poll which drew a total of 109 responses, 70 of whom are law firm partners, associates or who work in another law firm capacity with the remainder working in different roles across the legal market.

Asked to give their verdict on the accuracy of the legal directories – a long-standing bone of contention for some lawyers – just 4% of the respondents said they were ‘very accurate’ with a further 50% describing them as ‘somewhat accurate’. That left 28% claiming they are ‘hit and miss’ and 18% in the camp of survey participants believing them not to be accurate.

And while few respondents believe clients use the directories to choose advisers all the time (2%) or often (13%), just fewer than half (48%) said they believed clients sometimes referred to the directories. That left a third (33%) of the view it rarely happens and just 5% arguing it never does.

Some 43% of the respondents agreed that the legal directories ‘perform a valuable function by improving the legal market's transparency’, against 40% who disagreed and 17% who were undecided.

“I have no idea how you fix something so entirely broken,” commented a partner in an international law firm. “This from someone who is actually highly ranked in the main directories.”

But a senior associate at another top firm argued: “They are very popular with clients, so are a useful tool.”

Consultant Robert Bata, of WarwickPlace Legal, likened the directories to Wikipedia arguing they served as "a useful first dip into a research topic" that would require "good old-fashioned footwork to verify".

The respondents were evenly split on whether the directories could be doing more to promote diversity in the profession with 48% responding in the affirmative, against 52% who felt this wasn’t the case. 

Alex Holtum, director of International Law Firm Solutions, said: “There is a real balance here. On the one hand answering questions about diversity adds to the already high volume of information that the directories are requesting. On the other, many respondents felt it was a subject that the directories could and should cover in more detail.”

When asked to rate a selection of leading directories in order of importance, Chambers and Partners was chosen as number one by 77% of the respondents, with 19% opting for the Legal 500. Chambers and Partners received an average ranking of 1.3 out of 4, closely followed by The Legal 500 (1.9).  

The Global Legal Post Masterclass Building an effective and efficient directory submissions strategy, which is hosted by Alex Holtum, takes place next Wednesday (28 April). Click here to book a place or email jeanlhomme@globallegalpost.com for further details.

Watch this video Q&A with Alex Holtum: You can't charm directory researchers - it is about getting the process right

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