If you read a little bit of sarcasm in the title, you read it correctly. Law firm marketers across the country are scrutinizing recently released business law firm rankings, while growing increasingly anxious about looming submission deadlines in mid-December. It’s an intense time of year, one that makes many of us question the value of participating in various rankings processes.
But given that firms of all sizes are paying more attention to rankings than ever before, the perception of the value of rankings, particularly when aggregated across a firm, remains high. Many firms are developing specific strategies and devoting greater resources to preparing, monitoring and leveraging the time, effort and cost invested in getting and staying ranked. For the time being, rankings will remain part of our marketing tactics.
Whether you have an army of legal marketers at your disposal or draw upon part-time marketing support, the following tips can help you get the most out of the rankings process, before, during and after the submissions:
- Learn to say no. Regardless of the resources at your disposal, firms should not participate in every ranking publication that comes along. There are perhaps 10-12 credible publishers of law firm rankings for Canadian business law. Identify these publishers and actively participate in their processes. This short-list will help keep you focused throughout the year and allow you to quickly rule out almost all of the requests that come your way, particularly pay-to-play opportunities.
- A note on pay-to-play: there is a bit of back-scratching across all of the rankings publications, even the most credible ones. But buying your way into an award or ranking doesn’t do much for the credibility of your firm or practice. Most credible directories conduct independent and vetted research regardless of your spend. Remember that they need us as much as we need them.
- Understand the rules of engagement. Learn and document the rankings process rules for your approved list of publishers – they can differ greatly between publications. What’s meaningful in one publication may be irrelevant in another.
- Get organized. Track and store information on relevant matters and other achievements year-round. It can be as simple as setting up a folder in your Outlook and dragging relevant tidbits into the folder as they arise throughout the year.
- Effectively communication your key messages. If the publication requires a written submission as part of the rankings process, make your submission as comprehensive as possible without delivering a phone book. Stay on message and provide evidence of your expertise to support your claims. When providing client references, try to make the lawyers, matters and client references align. Use plain language and avoid marketing speak. Tell the researchers what you do really well. This is easier said than done.
- Respond to surveys! Some of the biggest names in rankings publications conduct research through peer reviews. Typically, lawyers ranked in a publication will be asked to vote on candidates – actively encourage your lawyers to take 10 minutes to respond to the survey. In some publications, you can vote for your own colleagues as well as peers at other firms.
- Make your feedback count. Many publishers offer firms the opportunity to comment on the current rankings. Be courteous, polite and reasoned with the researchers. While it’s important to make your position known on whether you feel your firm/lawyers are appropriately ranked, the researchers are human beings after all and your feedback on the market will be more credible if it’s delivered in a friendly, calm and reasonable way.
- Be helpful throughout the research process. You may have mentioned a particular issue to a researcher during the interview. Send a follow-up note thanking the researcher and directing him/her to that resource.
- Promote your rankings. This sounds like a no-brainer but think strategically about how to promote all of your firm’s rankings in a compelling way. One ranking in one publication is not really persuasive, but several external rankings by different, credible publications can be. Leverage this third- party endorsement of your expertise and position in the marketplace. If available, use the editorial and/or client testimonials in your marketing and pitch materials. Don’t lose sight of why we do this in the first place.
- Do an internal debrief. Talk with your internal team about strategic adjustments and improvements for the next round of rankings. If necessary, talk with the editor or researchers to better understand how they arrived at the rankings.