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Submission tips for the Australia and Hong Kong Bar

With the inclusion of barristers from Australia and Hong Kong into our research cycle, John van der Luit-Dummond explains how to maximise your chambers’ and members’ coverage in the 2021 Asia Pacific guide

The next edition of The Legal 500’s Asia Pacific guide will include an exciting expansion with the introduction of rankings for the Australia and Hong Kong Bars. Following our decades of tried-and-trusted research into the Bars of England & Wales and Scotland, our rankings of Australia and Hong Kong will also be based on in-depth market research; assessing recent case highlights provided in submissions by chambers, and speaking directly to in-house lawyers, instructing law firms, and peer barristers to gain a rounded view of the Bars’ elite members and their chambers.

Specifically, when deciding on the rankings we will consider the complexity and profile of cases handled in the past year; the courts the barrister has appeared in of late; the reputation of opposing counsel and instructing lawyers; the proportion of time spent handling work relating to the practice area; and relevant past experience. Although the importance of these factors can vary by practice area, the two single most important factors are (a) credible recent work highlights and (b) positive market feedback.

A list of the practice areas we will be covering can be found here. If you would like to submit for the 2021 guide, please download our submission template and referee spreadsheet from here and then email the completed forms to us via our submissions site by the deadline of 19 June 2020. Please remember that researchers work within very tight time frames so it is important that your submissions reach us on time.

What makes a good submission?
The best submissions will make use of all the fields (where relevant) included in our submission template. Submissions should be kept succinct and not get bogged down in technicalities when describing a case; please ensure that the submission clearly illustrates why each work highlight is, indeed, a ‘highlight’. Explain how it is complex, groundbreaking and/or unique.

Next, try to avoid some common mistakes. These include re-sending submissions originally meant for other directories (with feedback that does not apply to our rankings); copying and pasting information from the barristers’ online profiles; citing case names without any detail of the barristers’ involvement; and, finally, basing your submission largely on the recognition of other industry awards.

Interviews
Once you have submitted, researchers will aim to contact every chambers that has submitted, and will interview a cross-section of barristers and clerks in a series of telephone and face-to-face interviews.

We find clerks are valuable for providing an overview of chambers. During an interview with a senior clerk we would discuss chambers as a whole, where it sees itself in the market, and also ask for feedback in relation to the set ranking and other sets’ rankings. Additionally, we aim to get an idea of the most active barristers, up-and-coming members of the set in question, and those that have been involved in the leading cases.

When it comes to interviewing barristers, it is up to the set to choose who we speak to, but normally we would suggest those who have had a particularly strong year, thereby giving them an opportunity to put their case across in their own words. Preferably, they will be able to give feedback on barristers outside chambers as well as in chambers.

If you’d like to request an interview, it is advisable to contact the relevant researchers at the start of the research process. The researcher list is published here during June with interviews allocated on a ‘first-come, first-served’ basis.

Market feedback
While researchers are reviewing your submissions and conducting interviews we will also be speaking with your referees. All referees provided before the deadline, in the correct format, will be contacted by email. The email asks referees a small number of questions and gives a two-week deadline for responses. We have found that emailing referees is the most efficient way of gaining feedback. However, we are happy to speak to referees over the phone if they respond to our email requesting a call.

Market feedback is an important element of our research so the more referees you can provide us with, the better. There is no upper or lower limit on the number of referees you can send us, although we suggest up to 15 referees as ideal. These referees can include clients (lay and corporate), instructing law firms, peers (opponents, leaders, and juniors), and members of the judiciary. A broad variety of referees is encouraged, however, greater weight will be placed on the views of clients and instructing solicitors.

As a tip, it is suggested that you put forward referees who are more likely to respond (bearing in mind that senior figures may have less time to spend on replying). Sometimes sets focus too heavily on referees who are likely to impress us, but in most instances we find it more effective to measure the number of responses, and what is said about you, rather than the profile of those responding.

It is also a good idea to put forward referees who have worked with the barrister in question during the past year (or at the very most, two years). Referees who worked with the barrister over two years ago will be less inclined to respond and greater weight will nonetheless be placed on recent references.

Finally, when selecting referees, think about those who have a good relationship with chambers (rather than just one barrister). That way, they can also provide comments on clerking and service, as well as other members they have had worked with. Please ensure that all referees have given their consent to being contacted; if they are able to (temporarily) ‘white-list’ the e-mail suffix @legal500.com on their mail system; this will ensure that our requests reach the intended recipient and generate the maximum feedback regarding your set.

The results
When the Asia Pacific 2021 guide is launched next January you will see that our rankings and editorial will be structured by practice area. Within each practice area, there will be a list of leading sets, Leading Queen’s Counsel/Senior Counsel, New Silks, Leading Juniors (those above 8 years’ call), and Rising Stars (barristers between 4 and 8 year’s call) in separate tables (please see our UK Bar guide for examples).

If you would require feedback on your chambers’ or individual rankings at that stage, then please contact us here and we’ll be happy to provide you with such feedback.

Finally, if you have any questions about our research methodology or the submission process that is not covered above, then please don’t hesitate to contact me. Otherwise, I wish you all the very best of luck with your submissions.

 

FAQs

Q: Can barristers include the same case in two submissions for different practice areas?
A: Yes, there will always be instances where a case straddles two (sometimes even three) practice areas.

Q: How many practice areas should a barrister submit for?
A: Be realistic and focused. It is important not to spread expertise too thinly as it may dilute a case for inclusion. Think about which areas they are more likely to make it into i.e. Do they have any ‘niche’ specialisms? If so, go for those areas first.

Q: What happens if barristers can’t put together five cases for the past year?
A: There are two instances where this might occur: (1) they have been involved in one/two time-consuming/long-running cases. If this is the case, make this clear at the start of the submission and include these cases followed by a couple more that they have handled prior to the 12 month period; (2) it is a small part of their practice and they haven’t been that active in the area recently. In this instance, we would suggest not submitting as it may dilute their case for inclusion in other sections.

Q: Do a barrister’s referees have to be involved in the cases in their submission?
A: No, as long as the individual has worked with the barrister in the past two years (maximum) and can comment on their strengths and qualities.

Q: What if a barrister has been away from chambers due to parental leave, sabbatical or illness?
A: If a barrister is ranked and away due to the above then please let us know in your submission. We will then ensure that they remain in the rankings for the coming year.

Q: Do researchers look at barristers’ online profiles?
A: Yes, on chambers websites and LinkedIn, so ensure they are keeping these up to date. If they are submitting for an area which is a smaller part of their overall practice, we would still expect there to be reference to their expertise in this area in their online profile.

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