The Legal 500: Law firm submissions 101

April 4, 2022

We love legal rankings. It’s true.

We love a lot of normal loveable things, like dogs and books and hot coffee. But we may be unique in our affinity for keeping tabs on the best legal rankings in the game and sharing that information with our clients. 

In the past, we’ve chatted in depth about Chambers and Partners, Best Lawyers and Super Lawyers

Today’s star is The Legal 500.

Warm up your coffee ’cause here we go!
(Note: We refreshed this blog post in November 2023 to reflect new insights from The Legal 500 and common questions they hear.)

Help me get my bearings

The Legal 500 ranks law firms by practice area and then subgroups within that practice area. Similar to Chambers, Legal 500 relies on written submissions, interviews with practice group leaders and client referees. 

Not all firms who submit to Legal 500 will be asked for an interview. Rather, they rely heavily on the written portion of your submission as well as your client referees.

How important is the interview? No rankings are solely determined by the interview. Their importance lies in helping Legal 500 researchers learn more about the market as well as the attorney.

It’s okay to be proactive! In fact, Legal 500 encourages it. They cannot guarantee an interview, but as soon as the list of section researchers posts, feel free to reach out and ask for one. 

An important aspect when considering which referees to list: Make sure the client referees you’re submitting have been notified and are communicative. Client referees are highly important for being ranked, so make sure yours are prepared for potential interviews with Legal 500. If you really want a gold star, ask your referees to add “editorial@legal500.com” to their safe sender list so they don’t miss the request for input.

Also, don’t panic if you learn your referees aren’t especially communicative with the researchers. Of course, great referees help, but researchers do give significant weight to the meat of your written submission. 

But what if we don’t do Chambers?

Great question!

If you aren’t using a Chambers submission as your North Star to lead you through Legal 500, we recommend you plan ahead for this submission. Like in a big way.

They ask for a lot of information, from the aforementioned client referees to case round-ups (both confidential and public). Be prepared to spend some time putting this submission together.

Which begs the question …

Is The Legal 500 worth my time?

Well, it depends.

If your marketing initiatives include more firm rankings and recognition, Legal 500 is one of the handful of legal submissions Rep Ink recommends. And there are a lot of legal recognitions, awards and lists out there. So we do try to really separate that wheat from the chaff. 

However, if your firm is currently focused on business development through other avenues (increased thought leadership, updated bios, focused public relations efforts), then this probably isn’t the strongest use of your time.

Best practices for submissions

The Legal 500 wants to come to you. 

In order to receive an invite to submit, you first have to request login details (which can be done here). Pre-register as soon as you know your firm is interested in getting the ball rolling sooner rather than later.

The Legal 500 recognizes that they are very similar to Chambers

So similar, in fact, that they encourage use of ConvertNow, which can transfer your Chambers submission to your Legal 500 submission. 

Have your Chambers submission ready, and it’s off to the races.

According to Legal 500, there are some ways to make sure your submission is elite.

  • Make sure you take advantage of the space allotted! Include examples of high-level, market-leading work and make sure you make it clear who the client was, what your firm did for them and why it is significant. Make sure your matter summaries are clear and crisp and speak to why you deserve to be ranked. 
  • When filling out the submission, only add people who are practice heads to the part asking who is a practice head. We think this is pretty obvious too, but Legal 500 pointed it out so it must come up often!
  • Be incredibly clear on who the key lawyers are the team were/are, specifically their experience, specialty and work highlights.
  • Play nicely! The Legal 500 really appreciates when firms provide constructive feedback on the legal market in your area. Why compliment other firms? This makes the rankings better for everyone. Your honest thoughts about what The Legal 500 might have gotten wrong is also fair game, but tread lightly and ensure you are balancing it with positives. You don’t want to come off as someone with sour grapes. 

Annnnd on the other side of that coin, what makes the researchers crazy?

  • Unnecessary marketing jargon. Every firm says they are the best. So saying that you have “unparalleled experience” isn’t going to make you stand out. Talk specifically about things your firm does really well.
  • Not providing feedback on the market. Be honest, but also play nicely. 
  • Not being prepared for interviews with the researchers. Saying “All the details are in the submission” or “There is no one else in the market who compares to us” is not helpful. And it doesn’t set a great tone with researchers. 
  • Professionally designed submissions. There is a time and place for a beautifully designed PDF. This is not it. Use the provided template and stick to it. 

Timeline for submission

The research schedule for the United States can be found here

If you are running late with your submission, Legal 500 encourages you to get in touch with them. And — pro tip straight from the legal horse’s mouth — if you ask for an extension before the holidays and can get the submission in by Christmas, you should be gold. Just make sure you get permission.

How can my content marketing and PR agency help? 

Another great question!

Since it is not guaranteed that law firms will be asked to interview with Legal 500, your written submission must be as persuasive as possible. And while many lawyers pride themselves on their ability to write (and for good reason), there is a big difference between legal writing and marketing writing. (And I’m not just saying that cause it’s our whole job.)

Writing award submissions requires a nuanced understanding of both the legal world, as well as what journalists and award judges are looking for. 

Like I’ve said in other blog posts in our legal award series: An in-house professional is of course more than capable of handling a firm’s Legal 500 submission, and is probably incredibly effective at tracking attorneys down for submission details.

However, a legal PR agency is nothing to scoff at. I know it’s hard to take me super seriously when I’m saying this to you from an (award-winning) agency

The benefit of working with a legal-focused agency is that we’re familiar with what the publication is looking for — and this is, like, our 1,000th rodeo. We bring years of experience and the benefit of looking at the submission similar to how a researcher will, as someone not intimately familiar with the workings of the case but with enough legal knowledge to understand the impact. Having a slightly removed-yet-savvy perspective is incredibly beneficial for these types of submissions.

We hope that helps answer questions surrounding The Legal 500. If you’d like to learn more or chat with us about potential submissions for your firm, we’re here to help!

 
 
 

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  • About the Author
    Shelby Gambrell

    Shelby loves to take a busy client brief, untangle any knots and create an action plan. During her tenure at Reputation Ink, she’s overseen complete overhauls of client websites, new brand releases and other large-scale, multi-pronged initiatives. If you ever need to know the status of a project or a projected turnaround time, Shelby is the Rep Ink’er to contact.

    Read my full bio or connect with me on LinkedIn.

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