By: Sharon Berman,
Published: The Leadership Exchange, Greater Los Angeles Chapter – Association of Legal Administrators
In the past few years, there has been a proliferation of lawyer rankings. Whether it’s Super Lawyers, Chambers or the Daily Journal Top 100, calls for nominations seem to come around on a regular basis. Some attorneys care a great deal about being on these lists. Others, even though they are among the best in their field, are not even aware of the rankings. Some firms are only interested in one particular list and even discourage their attorneys from nominating colleagues for the others.
Regardless of how your firm feels about the lists, most likely you have several attorneys who want to be included but are not sure how to go about it. Of course, there are more attorneys who deserve to be on the lists than there are spots available. Particularly for some of the more competitive lists, it can be a long-term process to make the grade. It may take a few years of rejections before you achieve victory.
Although there are no guarantees, certain actions will best position your attorneys for inclusion. Those developing the lists aim for objectivity, but you can increase your chances through your timing and advocacy. Even for those lists that do not allow for outside nominations, i.e., they do their own research and put their lists together, persistence, tenacity and having a champion who will continually go to bat for the attorney, can make a difference.
First identify the lists on which your attorney would like to be included. Some of these will readily come to mind, especially the legal lists, such as those in the Daily Journal, Chambers, American Lawyer, Best Lawyers, etc. In addition, there are lists by practice area such as Top 50 Intellectual Property Attorneys. But it pays to cast an even wider net. One of the more meaningful accolades you can achieve is to have your attorney included in an industry list that encompasses a range of professionals, not just attorneys (e.g., a list of top leaders in aviation financing or in deal-making that also includes investment bankers, M&A consultants, etc.).
How do you identify the lists? One approach is to review the editorial calendars of the publications (including websites) that are important to your attorneys and their clients. Most print and online publications develop an editorial calendar that shows what subjects they will emphasize in which issue. Many of these calendars are available online. Remember to extend your search beyond general legal publications. Look at outlets by practice area and the industries you are targeting (e.g., real estate, finance, automotive, etc.).
Create your own calendar of which list is slated to appear when. Then contact the publication to confirm that its schedule has remained the same, since editorial calendars are subject to change. Ask the editor when and if they will accept nominations and incorporate these dates into your calendar. Timing is important; sometimes lawyers don’t make the lists because no one alerted them that nominations were open. It’s also important to keep checking in regularly with the editor or decision maker because sometimes a particular list appears in one year, but may not be published the following year. If you don’t stay in touch, nominations may open and close before you’ve had a chance to act.
Before you spend the time and effort to prepare a submission, take a look at who made the list before and why. Be judicious in asking who at your firm would like to be nominated. You don’t want everyone raising their hand if you know, based on past lists, that only one or two have a shot.
When it’s time to submit the nomination, provide the required information in as succinct a manner as possible. Also, try to talk directly with the decision-maker to get their take. Sometimes, they’ll make themselves available for this.
Publications receive many nominations and appreciate brevity. Think of it as a news release. What makes your attorney’s accomplishments newsworthy? Write it with energy and excitement, and quantify as much as possible. The idea is to get the most crucial information across as quickly as possible, i.e., what the attorney has achieved and why he or she should be included. Once the attorney has been selected, he or she can fill in the blanks.
For the majority of lists, the most recent accomplishments account for much of the selection. Although your attorney may have a track record of success reaching back decades, many lists focus on accomplishments in the last 12 months. Also, if you are submitting a nomination to an industry or general business publication, remember to use as little legal jargon as possible and explain what it means.
Begin the process well in advance of the deadline for nominations and realize that it may take a few years to achieve success. Since the publication’s decision-makers receive a multitude of submissions, it takes time to get their attention. A familiar name tends to stand out compared to just another “John Doe,” so it pays to acquaint the decision-maker with the attorney or the person submitting on the attorney’s behalf. By building name recognition you will eventually achieve success even if you are rejected the first year or two.
One way to build familiarity is to send the publication or the reporter regular press releases or emails about newsworthy items concerning your attorneys. From time to time, email or call, introduce yourself and give them some news about a success, a deal that recently closed, or a trend your attorney is seeing. The idea is to have the attorney’s name and achievements become “household” names as well as making your name a known quantity – without being a pest of course.
Do these rankings make any difference in developing business? That depends on how you incorporate your listing in your marketing program. If you take a long-term view of lists as just one part of your marketing strategy, and if you are strategic about approaching each outlet, you can play a significant role in getting your attorney that coveted spot and reaping the benefits for the firm.
Sharon Berman is principal of Berbay Marketing & PR, a marketing consulting firm specializing in working with professional services firms. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The firm’s website is www.berbay.com.