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The Legal 500 updates > How does it work?

How does the Legal 500 rank firms/sets?

When reviewing the performance of a firm or department we use various criteria; our focus is on the bench strength of the team (including partners and associates), and the consistency of quality of the individuals within the team. Our assessment will be influenced by all the things that make the complete practice in that field. Areas that are considered include (but are not limited to):

  • Very strong technical ability available for the most complex and innovative work
  • Most prestigious clients
  • Individuals with the contacts at, and credibility with, the top clients
  • In-depth capability beyond star partners
  • Capacity for the biggest transactions/cases
  • Market share
  • Historical track record on top deals/cases
  • Clear investment for the future in a particular practice area
  • Progress made with acquiring new clients/ market share
  • Strength in associated areas – eg can an M&A department undertake competition work to an equal standard?
  • Reputation for handling complex, innovative deals
  • Capacity to handle all client requirements in an area – eg international offices/connections
  • Commitment to IT and the use of IT to improve client services
  • Perception in the market.

How does the Legal 500 research work?

The client research undertaken for The Legal 500 has two main threads and encompasses both qualitative and quantitative analysis. Each year we write to firms inviting them to provide information on their specialist areas of practice, and requesting specific details of work undertaken in the preceding year (some of which will be confidential and not in the public domain). This approach gives us a standard level and quality of data which, in turn, enables us to benchmark legal services providers with both more precision and more assurance.

We conduct interviews in person or by telephone with specialist attorneys in each subject area – generally the head of department or nominated partner. We also conduct interviews with chief executives, managing and senior partners of law firms, and practice managers. This helps us to obtain a clear picture of the direction the firm is taking and its strategy.

We contact 300,000 clients asking for feedback on the lawyers they instruct. Additionally, our team has regular contact with commerce and industry throughout the year as part of our ongoing research. Although interviewees are often in-house counsel, they are by no means exclusively so; in many cases it is the chief executive or finance director who has strategic responsibility for the buying decision, even where it is the in-house function that may have more day-to-day dealings with the actual providers. We interview investment bankers, commercial bankers and accountants who work regularly with lawyers.

Interviews are based on a standard-form questionnaire. However, supplementary questions and more wide-ranging conversations about both specific law firms and the key issues which inform the purchase of legal services are in fact the norm. This is not least because interviews are conducted by experienced journalists and researchers with a considerable depth of market knowledge. All interviews are non-attributable. Over the course of the year, we also receive numerous unsolicited comments and recommendations from clients.

As well as contacting those clients referred to us by law firms for the purposes of verification of their submissions, we benchmark these findings against a detailed representative sample of the world’s leading companies. In particular, we ensure that we have contacted a statistically valid sample of leading clients when ranked either by market cap, by business sector, or by region.

Who uses The Legal 500 and how?

The Legal 500 falls into two distinct parts: the editorial section and the directory section. The editorial section is a mixture of factual information and commentary. This commentary consists of a general review of which firms do what types of work, and which firms are generally reckoned by their clients and peers to have a ‘good name’. The editorial is based largely on the combined opinions of the many corporate counsel and law firm clients who cooperated in the research in each practice area. Accordingly, it is important to appreciate that the editorial lists should not be taken as a definitive statement on law firms, but rather as a starting point for discussion.

All editorial comments and listings are completely independent and no firm has been able to secure its inclusion within the editorial sections through payment.

The directory section is made up of professional cards based on information supplied by the firms and approved by them prior to publication.

The editorial

The views expressed in the editorial sections represent the opinions of the editors, with no assumption of legal liability or responsibility for mistakes or inaccuracies. The research for the editorial is based on the combined opinions of the many attorneys interviewed in each practice area, commentary from corporate clients and analysis of deals or contentious issues reported. It is important to note that the editorial is therefore a subjective overview, based on systematic research. The tables of recommendations are divided into groups: firms are listed in tiers in order of priority, and alphabetically within tiers. Furthermore, the firms have been sorted alphabetically by using the first name or initial of the firm (ie the last firm listed in a group is as strongly recommended as the first firm listed in that tier).

The directory

The directory section contains professional cards placed by firms. These cards have profiles based on information provided by the participating firms. These profiles, having been approved by the firms prior to publication, are completely separate and different from the editorial. The professional cards are designed for use by corporate counsel who want to know more about a firm’s practice.

It is important to appreciate that a firm cannot buy inclusion within the editorial section. In particular, buying a professional card within the directory section is not a way of securing inclusion within the editorial section. Our editorial is wholly independent. Professional cards can be viewed either by using the search function at the top of the page, by clicking on the firm name (which is a hyperlink) within the editorial, or by visiting the "Directory" tab at the top of each page.

Readership research

Throughout 2013, The Legal 500 conducted a readership study, speaking to 2,536 GCs via legal500.com, at events such as the Association of Corporate Counsel annual meeting, and through our face to face interviews with in-house departments. The results are as follows:

Industry breakdown

18.2% Financial services
10.5% Energy and natural resources
6.3% Manufacturing
5.2% Consumer goods
5.1% Insurance
4.7% Real estate
3.9% Transport

Size of department

1-5 32.4%
6-10 15.8%
11-25 20.2%
26-50 12.3%
51-100 10.1%
100+ 9.2%

Size of company turnover

$10bn+15.9%
$5.1 – 10.6bn5.2%
$1.1 – 5bn19.4%
$500 – 999m10.8%
$100 - %499m10.3%
$50 – 99m7.8%
Less than $50m30.6%

How often do you use the Legal 500?

Daily3%
Weekly8%
Monthly38%
Annually36%

Have you referred to a legal directory recommendation before instructing a law firm?

Yes – 69%

Have you used Legal 500 to help choose a law firm to instruct?

Yes – 66%

Have you used Legal 500 to instruct a law firm outside your home jurisdiction?

Yes – 48%

Do you use the Legal 500 for:

Primary research 68%
Validation 32%

Do you prefer Legal 500:

Online 66%
In print 31%
eBook 3%

Purpose of visit to Legal 500 website?

To look up a ranking of a firm I’m considering working with 35%
To look up a ranking of a firm I’m instructing 26%
To look for a firm for a specific piece of work in my jurisdiction 8%
To look for a firm in a jurisdiction outside of my own 19%
To look for a specific lawyer 21%
To look for a specific practice area 14%

How easy is the site to navigate?

Easy – 92%

Have you used other legal directories in the past 12 weeks?

IFLR1000 14%
BestLawyers7%
Chambers & Partners 64%
Superlawyers 3%
Not used other legal directories28%

Of the directories you have used, which do you prefer?

The Legal 500 48%
Chambers & Partners 39%
IFLR1000 2%
BestLawyers 2%
Superlawyers 1%

Do you read any of the following on www.legal500.com?

Law firm profiles 77%
Lawyer profiles 74%
Published articles/legal developments 34%
Press releases 31%
The Legal 500 Logo

How to profile your firm in The Legal 500

The Legal 500 Series - Helping corporate counsel choose the right law firm

The Legal 500 provides your firm with the perfect platform to promote the expertise and capabilities of your firm to corporate clients and law firms.

Market leading research guides

There are a number of opportunities available across The Legal 500 portfolio to maximize exposure and develop your business, globally.

Operating globally The Legal 500 Series includes:

Whilst the editorial is independent a profile ensures that the firm is highly visible in The Legal 500. It allows readers to find out everything they need to know about the firm, e.g. all areas in which it is recommended by The Legal 500; the key USPs of the firm; and the depth and quality of the firm/team and individuals. Profiles provide a composite package of online and print visibility.

The profile package consists of:

  • “The Legal 500 rankings” - Those firms that profile are highlighted in bold within the editorial rankings. This means that clicking on the name links to a firm microsite that highlights all areas in which the firm is ranked.
  • “Firm profile” – Those firms that profile benefit from 450 words highlighting your capabilities and expertise.
  • “Main contacts” - comprehensive contact details including key contacts.
  • “Lawyer profiles” - online biographies for ALL lawyers.
  • Link from www.legal500.com to your firm’s website
  • Social media campaign at (e.g. Twitter, LinkedIn address)

The microsite allows firms to provide clients with a complete picture of their expertise through additional tabs, eg:

  • Diversity
  • Pro bono
  • Sector and practice area
  • Blogs
  • Multimedia
  • Press releases
  • Thought leadership articles

Banners, press releases, thought leadership articles and firms in the spotlight are additional opportunities to differentiate your firm from peers and provide your firm further exposure at www.legal500.com

To maximize exposure and develop your business through The Legal 500 portfolio please contact a member of The Legal 500 team.

Alternatively please contact Head of Sales Amy McDermott (amy.mcdermott@legal500.com +44 207 396 5648) to learn more about marketing your firm.