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24 July 2019

Legal directories: a small guide for big ambitions

Cristina Montaruli |
Valletta Relazioni Pubbliche

In this article we will talk about international Legal Directories, in order not to provide operative indications (easy to get), but to share some suggestions which can help make these reputational tools, usually perceived as mysterious and inaccessible, more approachable.

In other terms, this article is dedicated to people who:

- are in charge of marketing activities in a law firm, but do not know what a legal directory is;
- are aware of what a directory is, and of its importance too, but think that rankings are, by default, out of their reach. They can be authoritative boutiques, law firms with academic tradition, independent national law firms which concentrate their activity in dynamic Italian regions, which do not hang out with the legal community (especially Milan one), and which do not have any marketing department.

In other terms, law firms with a 1,5-million-euro turnover which consciously approach basic communication activities and tools, which do not appear in rankings. Too bad.

Let us therefore try to briefly illustrate the scenario and dispel that aura of "unattainability" which, in the presence of certain characteristics that we will deepen below, is unfounded, indeed.

Guides: hints

Born in the bedrock of publishing groups, or milestones at the birth of publishing groups and study centers focused on the sector, there are in the legal market, international and local, guides that list law firms, teams and individual professionals according to various criteria and parameters of investigation (industry sectors, type of operations, jurisdictions, client satisfaction, endorsement of industry experts).

Being listed in these guides for a legal firm is what being reviewed in Guida Michelin or Gambero Rosso represents for a restaurant: a quality mark which certifies some outstanding in front of the public. The best ones are usually read by Corporate Counsels, C-Levels, sources of preliminary information when it comes to appoint a legal provider and before launching a beauty contest in their own and/or other jurisdictions.

Now, let us list the most well-known Legal Directories / Rankings and the ones which include different practices, which have come common characteristics:

- They are usually free, not everyone can enter the list;
- There are no entrance barriers: everyone can submit;
- They have precise deadlines;
- They are in English;
- They are not based on complex algorithms, but – mainly – on references provided by the clients, whose contacts are provided together with the submission;
- They are time consuming: they require the collection of the most relevant case studies of the previous year, and, since this activity is not usually processualized and standardized, it can be tiring at first.

Top Players

Chambers & Partners

Based in London, it is the most renowned directory globally and has been on the market for 30 years. It covers over 180 jurisdictions, it can count on more than 200 experts who hold research for every jurisdiction in its mother language, Italian included. So never mind if your best client’s CEO is not that fluent in English.

Chambers Europe is usually published in March, after nine months of preparation.

Important: Chambers does not list basing on the dimension of the firm, which is irrelevant. The reason why the biggest studies are more visible is that they usually have one or more people who know how and can take care of the submission.

The Legal 500

It is usually nominated together with Chambers, with which shares many characteristics: heritage, reputation, number of covered jurisdictions (150).

The guide which Italian law firms are interested in, is Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA), and it is usually published in the first days of April.

Also in this case, a law firm has to provide the main cases carried on in the previous year and a list of referees: clients which are available to interviews.

IFLR 100

The acronym stands for International Financial Law Review, so before submitting for this directory professionals have to make some evaluation: a strong firm would probably lose its time, while a firm specialized in extrajudicial banking law, even composed of only 5 or 10 professionals and with a 2+ Mln turnover, may aspire to be ranked.

IFLR has been on the directories market for 30 years as well, but it has been specializing on extrajudicial financing consulting. It covers 120 jurisdictions, but the amount of work generated by a single one of them does not always justify the publishment of a list (anyway, submissions are accepted every year). The guide is published in November.

Who’s Who Legal

Owned by the publishing house Law Business Review, London, it is a quite younger directory (still more than 20 years old), but it is well known in its market. Today it covers 150 jurisdictions and it tracks the main operators in the business law sector, as well. It only focuses on professionals (not directly on law firms), at the moments it counts 548 legal experts for the Italian jurisdiction (from 238 different firms). Everyone can signal a professional, whose reputation will be investigated during the research period through interviews with reputed lawyers, general counsels, experts and other various reliable market sources (legal and financial media).

Once a professional has entered the prior list, researchers directly contact him for an interview. The law firm he works in and its turnover are irrelevant for the selection, while it will be based on endorsements from clients and colleagues and the general feedback from the market.

2019 research for Italy started in January, ended in March and was published in May.

Mergermarket (Acuris)

It is necessary to include this one in the list because it is the main directory for Corporate M&A. However, it is more than a simple guide: it is a specialized analysis, financial information and business intelligence tool, once belonged to the Financial Times group and recently sold from the private equity fund BC Partners to ION Investments (estimated for more than a billion pounds).

Mergermarket provides the subscribers (190k) a database with the most important operations in the world, the ones valued at least 5 Mln dollars, amount which represents the entry level for legal advisors as well.

Since entering is that difficult, not many firms try submitting, though the submission modality is very easy and direct (for example, communicating the essential deal data through the form on the website).


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