How to Craft an Effective Legal Directory Submission

To maximise one’s chances of success in a submission, however, significant work must be undertaken. This article delves into the process and best methods to ensure a successful legal directory submission, with insights shared by Daniel Kidd, co-director of Kidd Aitken Legal Marketing.

To give a brief overview, what are the common process elements involved in a legal directory submission?

A legal directory submission comprises two main elements: a submission document and a client and peer feedback process. Both are important to a successful ranking, although different directories place different emphasis on each part.

The submission document includes a narrative pitch and work highlights. The narrative pitch introduces the practice group or partner that is the subject of the submission. Highlighting their standout attributes, the description here is evidenced by the work highlights. These are real-life work examples that should demonstrate well-rounded experience and innovative matters that depict depth and breadth of expertise.

The client referee feedback process takes place after the submission document has been uploaded. Each submission requires a list of referees, who the legal directory researchers will contact during the research cycle. These referees will be asked to give feedback about their experience working with the relevant practice group or partner.

How can a strong legal directory ranking have a positive impact on a law firm’s marketing efforts?

Successful legal directory rankings greatly impact a law firm’s marketing effort – I think they are not talked about enough. A ranking is an objective, third-party endorsement of firms’ and partners’ expertise, and should be celebrated as such.

Not only are rankings great marketing in their own right, with potential clients and employees consulting the legal directories for counsel recommendations, but they can be leveraged in a firm’s own marketing strategy. Talking about them on social media or through blog posts, newsletters and more are all effective ways of communicating and celebrating rankings.

Successful legal directory rankings greatly impact a law firm’s marketing effort – I think they are not talked about enough.

Why might it be difficult, or otherwise inadvisable, for law firms to effectively handle such submissions in-house?

Legal directory submissions are time- and resource-heavy. They require a great deal of attention, not only when compiling the submission document but in the preparation leading up to submission and the post-submission feedback process.

Compiling a legal directory strategy requires short-, medium- and long-term planning in order to maximise the effect of the submissions for that year’s research cycle. It is then important to take the time to consider a range of factors that demonstrate why your work highlights are innovative and complex – a task that demands more attention than on first consideration. Similarly, when compiling client referee lists, there are several factors to take into account, such as clients’ likelihood of responding to a researcher.

All of this takes up a great deal of time and effort, especially as submissions often fall to in-house business development and legal marketing teams, who are usually extremely busy with their day-to-day activities. Legal directory submissions are not simply a ‘write-and-go’ exercise; they require a significant commitment from strategy to post-submission.

Are there any particularly common mistakes that you see in legal directory submissions? What effects can these have on the outcome of the process?

There are several pitfalls and misconceptions surrounding legal directory submissions. Management of the journey is an aspect that is often overlooked. Whether through appointing an external consultancy like ourselves or organising an in-house team, project management can contribute significantly to a submission’s success. A carefully considered strategy that plans for the different directory and jurisdiction deadlines as well as including time for compiling the submission and reminding referees will make the process smoother. Starting with a plan, rather than tackling each deadline on an ad hoc basis, will save time and make the overall process more streamlined. This leads to succinct, successful submissions.

Many are also tempted to use ‘legalese’ and other technical jargon to impress the researcher, but this is another pitfall. Researchers are often not from a legal background and unnecessarily complicated language will likely cloud their understanding of a submission. Instead, explaining matters concisely and clearly will stand it in better stead and highlight points far more effectively.

Legal directory submissions are not simply a ‘write-and-go’ exercise; they require a significant commitment from strategy to post-submission.

By the same token, what steps should be taken to improve a submission’s quality?

Successful submissions are united by one aspect: they all understand their point of strength. This is particularly important for the work highlights document. Many people believe that work for the most important or financially impressive clients should be prioritised in the work highlights. However, a more successful strategy is to identify the complexity and innovation of the matters and not focus on the amount of prestige the client has. For example, a matter might be legally pioneering and ground-breaking in a practice area for a smaller client. This should not be overlooked in favour of a larger client. Instead, zoning into the detail that makes a particular highlight an industry first and setting the context will help to highlight its innovative nature.

A similar attitude can be applied to the list of referees. Many believe that the most hard-hitting references will come from CEOs and similar stakeholders leading large organisations. But these people are incredibly busy and may be less likely to respond to the referee’s interview request. Referees in more junior positions that have worked with a firm or partner and can testify to their expertise should be prioritised. They may be more likely to participate in an interview and may not have been contacted to act as a referee for another firm – especially important considering Chambers’ ‘three-month rule’, in which someone contacted as a referee will not be contacted for another three months.

For some directories, you can purchase reports that offer feedback on your submission. These are often a good investment, as they outline areas for improvement and help you to build your next submission.

What motivated you to move from working at Chambers to becoming a legal marketing specialist?

Working at Chambers and Partners and launching the first Asia-Pacific guide was an immense privilege that I thoroughly enjoyed. After leaving Chambers, I set up my own consultancy before partnering with my long-time friend Jacob Aitken and eventually launching Kidd Aitken. I enjoy the flexibility that being at the helm of a consultancy offers – although I am often incredibly busy, I cherish the time that I can spend with my family. Whether that is relaxing at home or running in the Dads’ race at my children’s sports day, I appreciate the flexible way of life that remote working brings. Kidd Aitken is a remote-working consultancy with team members across all time zones, and it is a priority that our consultants have that same degree of flexibility.

Can you share anything about your plans for Kidd Aitken in the coming 12 months?

I cannot divulge company secrets, but it is an exciting time for us. We recently appointed a new Director of Operations, Gerardo Sosa, and Practice Director, Emma Wainwright, to help us navigate this period of evolution.

We have some announcements to make in the coming months, which will be shared on our social media platforms and website. And we will, of course, continue to support clients old and new in their legal directory journeys. Keep your eyes peeled!


Daniel Kidd, Co-director

Kidd Aitken Legal Marketing

Kemp House, 152 – 160 City Road, London, England, EC1V 2NX

Tel: +52 813-402-5087

E: [email protected]


Daniel Kidd is the co-founder and director of Kidd Aitken Legal Marketing. Prior to his consulting career, Daniel was an editor at Chambers and Partners. He launched the first Chambers Asia-Pacific Guide in 2008 and edited the two subsequent editions. Most recently, Daniel has been named as one of Lawdragon’s Global 100 Leaders in Legal Strategy and Consulting for the fourth year running – and he and Kidd Aitken co-founder Jacob Aitken are two of just three Legal Directory Mavens ranked.

Kidd Aitken Legal Marketing was launched by Daniel Kidd and longstanding friend and colleague Jacob Aitken in 2015, providing a range of services including legal directory submissions, legal awards, workshops and more. Now the world’s largest legal directories consultancy, the business has rapidly grown to include over 50 team members. They have now supported over 200 leading law firms with their legal directory submissions expertise, a number that only continues to grow.

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