Benchmark Litigation: Law firm submissions 101

March 28, 2023

Class is back in session!

It’s been a minute, but I’m back to pontificate about the wonders that are legal awards and recognitions.

Did ya miss me?

(If you’ve been studying up, you know we’ve already chatted about The Legal 500, Law360, Super Lawyers, The Best Lawyers in America and Chambers.)

Okay, with a dash more seriousness: There are pages upon pages of legal recognitions that I’m sure you get spammed with often. Some pop up on social feeds while others have a more personalized touch by sliding into your inbox and addressing you by name.

We’re here to help separate the grit from the gold.

One legal award ranking that always makes our short list is Benchmark Litigation

To learn more about this publication, Michelle chatted with Benchmark’s Managing Editor Michael Rafalowich on our (award-winning) podcast, Spill the Ink. Michael is known as a proficient writer and researcher, with his main expertise in the legal and financial industries. In his chat with Michelle, they discussed Benchmark Litigation and tips for firms to improve their rankings.

I highly recommend listening to their episode, but I’ve also broken it down here. So let’s party!

What is Benchmark Litigation?

Benchmark Litigation is the definitive guide to the world’s leading litigation firms and lawyers in the world. Started in 2008, it is the only publication that focuses exclusively on litigation. It is both online and in print.

Michael has been with Benchmark for a dozen years and focuses on the U.S. and Canada.

In its simplest terms: Benchmark Litigation is a study and analysis of the business of litigation and disputes. They monitor firms and lawyers across the country to get a sense of who the top players in the field are.

Their approach is journalistic. In addition to the submissions received, Michael and his team do a lot of independent research, which includes either in-person visits or virtual meetings with the firm, chatting with references and contacting competitors.

Tell me more about the submission process.

A huge component of the rankings is your submission. This provides Benchmark with a snapshot of your year in review. The publication asks firms to provide a solid pitch as to why they should be ranked and clearly articulate what they’ve been up to and who has been doing the work.

The rankings aim to capture the true state of the market each year by distilling all the intel received. This includes:

  • Yep, yep. Your submission
  • Peer review and vetting from the rest of the market (i.e., speaking to competing firms and entities, client and professional references, etc.)
  • What’s happening in litigation news

Michael and his team appreciate that there are jurisdictions that have higher litigation traffic with high-dollar amounts (think New York and California). However, they aim to take a holistic approach to the rankings, giving time to firms in Iowa or Hawaii that may be a regional powerhouse or have a litigation rockstar on staff. Their aim is to feature the highest-value lawyers in litigation, no matter where they practice

Over 250 firms submit to Benchmark each year, so making sure your submission is strong is key.

Got any tips for developing a strong submission?

You know I do!

  • Keep it honest, simple and realistic. With candor and clarity, outline the litigation work your firm or lawyers have completed. Remember that the researchers aren’t lawyers, so write for the laymen.
  • Provide references who are reachable! We all know a guy named Greg who is wonderful and charming and a delight, but is an email ghost. Greg is not the guy to include in your submission. We want someone who will sing your praises AND respond to emails. 
  • In addition to being communicative, make sure you are submitting references who can speak to the value of your work. How did you handle their budget concerns? Did you consult them often? Any unique problem-solving they will highlight?
  • Don’t forget about your junior partners. Of course, senior stars shine bright and Benchmark wants to know about them. But highlighting junior partners is a great way to show some love internally.

We got an interview! What now?

It’s important to remember that the interview isn’t just a firm promotion opportunity, as the Benchmark staff takes a journalistic approach and is also looking for specific info they use in their research process. 

So the attorneys can expect questions about reviewing peers, commenting on market trends, etc. Benchmark has stressed that interviewees should be prepared to talk about this, and they technically reserve the right to decline an interview if a partner won’t talk about it.

That said, it is still an opportunity to highlight the firm’s noteworthy cases. The interviews are a good time for partners to provide any “color” to the matters included in the submission (when appropriate), whether that’s elaborating on the intricacies of the case, addressing its impact, the client’s feedback, etc. As with the submission, it’s best to avoid too much legal jargon, spin and puffery. The facts should speak for themselves, but this is a good chance to add the human element and showcase the firm’s personality through its attorneys. 

The Benchmark folks look at a few informal categories for matters: the goal, obstacles, stakes and special attributes. Some general questions they may ask in the interview:

  • What result did you achieve for your client? (goal)
  • Who was the adverse party? (villain/obstacle)
  • What was the most challenging aspect of this matter? (villain/obstacle)
    • Time pressure? Bad precedent? Unfavorable market conditions?
    • How did you overcome that challenge?
  • What was at stake for the client? (stakes)
  • What are the wider implications of the matter? (stakes)
  • Did you approach this differently than another firm would have? How? (special attributes)
  • How did this matter exemplify your skills? (special attributes)

They may also ask about scene-setting details (Where and when did the events take place?), specifics (How many documents were reviewed? How did the travel schedule — or lack thereof — have an impact?), and background info (How did you meet the client? Did you have prior experience before this judge?)

It can also be good to have some data on hand just in case an attorney needs to reference a quick stat (e.g., How have the firm’s diversity numbers changed? How many trials has the firm handled in the past year? How many of the partners are women? How many new clients has the firm won in the past year?)

Cool, cool. But I have a day job. How can I get this done?

I totally get it. And not be glib, but that’s why we’re here. Rep Ink is seasoned at helping firms with legal award nominations like this.

In-house marketing professionals can absolutely handle a submission for Benchmark and have the added bonus of being able to walk down the hall should they need to get information quickly. 

However, take a moment to consider the value of an agency. I know it’s hard to take me super seriously when I’m saying this to you from an (award-winning) agency

I’ve said this before when we’ve chatted about different legal awards, but I’m gonna say it again: The benefit of working with a legal-focused agency is that we’re familiar with what Benchmark is looking for. We have the benefit of looking at the submission similar to how a Benchmark 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.

Long-term play

Again, not to blow all my credibility, but I want to repeat that Michael and his team are looking at litigation news to determine who the players in the space are.

Making a concerted effort to up your law firm’s PR game is not only great for new business, but it feeds into these respected industry rankings. If your firm isn’t working to get ink on the work you do best, you risk not getting in front of the right eyes. 

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

And if you’d like a monthly update of the latest legal PR opps and awards we are keeping an eye on (including Benchmark), sign up here.


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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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