In the first part of a new series exploring the Chambers and Partners methodology, Tom Wicker speaks with Chambers Global editor Robinson Redmond about how law firms achieve regional and global rankings.
What is a ‘national’ or ‘region-wide’ ranking in a Chambers guide and how are these decided?
National rankings cover a particular practice area at a country level, these are the most common types of rankings in the Chambers guides. But there can also be additional region-wide rankings that take several different jurisdictions into account, depending on the practicalities of each market.
Regional ranking exist where we have identified that the nature of the work means clients will need law firms with capabilities that extend beyond national borders. In addition to region-wide rankings such as Europe-wide, Latin America-wide and Asia-Pacific wide, there can also be sub-region tables, such as Central & Eastern Europe and the Baltic States in the European Guide, South-East Asia in the Asia-Pacific Guide and Central America-wide in the Latin America guide.
Both national and regional rankings are included in the Global Guide, alongside the global level rankings of Global-wide and Global Market Leaders, which also appear where our research dictates they best reflect the practicalities of each practice area and the needs of clients in these markets.
National and region-wide rankings also tend to be conducted by the local jurisdictional research teams, which feeds into Chambers Global, alongside the Global-Wide and Global Market Leader rankings: these tables are unique to the Global Guide.
How can firms be taken into consideration for these rankings?
For some, there are additional submissions – such as the Global Market Leaders categories – where firms can provide more information and references to support their consideration. But, for the majority, we are able to review all the submission information, market commentary and reference feedback gathered during the relevant local jurisdictional research – therefore, firms will be considered for these rankings automatically on the strength of their performance in the local jurisdictional research.
Does having multiple country or state rankings in a particular practice area help? Does Chambers also ‘weight’ countries or states differently, depending on the practice area?
The importance of rankings in multiple countries depends on the practice area in question, but generally speaking, yes, this does help, as it can showcase the firm’s ability to handle sophisticated work in different jurisdictions – though it might not always be necessary if a law firm has rankings in the key hubs for that particular practice area or is able to demonstrate they are able to handle the most complex work from one location.
And yes, where we have a large volume of research to be able to draw on, Chambers is able to weight jurisdictions according to their importance on a regional or cross-border basis for that particular practice area. For example, Belgium is much more important on an international level for Competition/Antitrust than India, so this would be reflected in their respective weightings.
“Chambers is able to weight jurisdictions according to their importance on a regional or cross-border basis”
This is done with the International & Cross-Border Capabilities tables as well, to reflect what are the main drivers of inbound and outbound work for each jurisdiction. These weightings are reviewed each year to ensure they continue to reflect each market accurately. This is also how we determine the Strength and Breadth scores, which form the Y axis of the International Capability Quadrants that appear alongside many of the International & Cross-Border Capabilities rankings.
Are big firms with multiple offices automatically going to do better than smaller firms or boutiques?
Not necessarily. Chambers’ research focuses on the capability of law firms to handle the most complex work in each practice area and jurisdiction, taking into account the quality of service they are able to provide their clients. Boutiques are often well recognised for their area of expertise, but not always for broader practice areas that tend to require multi-disciplinary or multi-jurisdictional strength. Our research reviews which factors are important to the clients in each market and considers that as we make our ranking decisions.
Categories like Global-wide do place a greater emphasis on a law firm’s geographical reach as this tends to be important for the type of work they cover, such as Corporate/M&A or Intellectual Property. But when reviewing a law firm’s local jurisdictional rankings, we will still view quality as more important than quantity, especially when it comes to the markets we have identified as most important for that practice area.
“Categories like Global-wide do place a greater emphasis on a law firm’s geographical reach”
Why do some national and region-wide practice areas accept client references and others don’t?
This does change from guide to guide – and also depends on how well these practice areas are covered at a local jurisdictional level, as this affects the volume of client feedback we are able to draw on. There may be also some specialist sections that only exist on a regional level and so will accept submissions and references. Europe-wide International Trade/WTO and Regulatory & Public Affairs, for example, are not covered elsewhere in Chambers Europe and so submissions and references are strongly encouraged for both. Firms should always check the relevant research schedule as a guide.
“Some specialist sections only exist on a regional level and so will accept submissions and references”
Should firms still provide a written submission for practice areas that don’t need references?
Those sections that don’t accept references also tend to not be open to additional submissions because, as mentioned before, we have a wealth of information already provided and gathered to be able to review as part of our regional research.
However, I would encourage law firms to provide written submissions for all those practice areas that are open to submissions, as these are the practice areas we have identified as those that require more information to assist with our ranking decisions.
How do the national or region-wide rankings of each of Chambers’ local guides – like Chambers UK, Chambers Europe or Chambers USA – contribute to the content of Chambers Global?
The research and rankings for jurisdictions which have their own separate Chambers guides – namely the UK, USA, Europe, Asia-Pacific and Latin America – feed into the Global Guide rankings. But this is only for those practice areas that we deem to be important for international work in that particular jurisdiction or region. My team – Global: International Capability – and I work closely with the research and editorial teams of each local guide during this process.
We also conduct our in-depth research into the strengths and strategies of law firms in these jurisdictions when it comes to complex international and cross-border rankings. The 2021 Global Guide includes 69 specific ‘International & Cross-Border Capabilities’ ranking tables for 37 jurisdictions around the world.
Chambers has added several new types of ranking in Chambers Global to recognise law firms’ global profile across different practice areas. Could you briefly break down each of these types, explain their purposes, how firms submit and how each is researched?
As mentioned above, one of these newer categories is the ‘International & Cross-Border Capabilities’ rankings. The purpose of these is to identify the firms best equipped to handle complex multi-jurisdictional work, as well as having a strong standing in that jurisdiction reflected by their rankings in the relevant local guide. Firms are not able to submit to these categories, as we are able to review all the relevant research – including submissions, reference feedback and market commentary – and the rankings at a local level, for those practice areas and sectors considered to be the most important drivers of international work in that jurisdiction.
Many of these tables are also accompanied by an ‘International Capabilities Quadrant’, which is a visualization that helps clients compare the various strategies and advantages of the ranked law firms when it comes to international mandates. Law firms are not able to submit directly to these categories; instead we are able to draw on the wealth of information already gathered as part of the local jurisdictional research. As mentioned above, my experienced team of researchers also conduct additional, in-depth interviews with a cross-section of leading in-house counsel and private practice lawyers to better understand market trends, the specific needs of clients and the main drivers of work for each jurisdiction.
The ‘Global-wide’ categories are not new to the Global Guide but we have made some changes to these rankings. We have renamed a selection of these practice areas ‘Global Market Leaders’, to better differentiate that these sections are truly international in nature and tend to be more niche but highly influential parts of the international market, such as Climate Change or Business & Human Rights Law. As these sections require a greater depth of research, they remain open to direct submissions and references, and we encourage all law firms to provide these for these areas going forward.
“‘Global Market Leaders’ sections are truly international in nature, such as Climate Change”
However, the remaining Global-wide practice areas are no longer open to submissions or references, as these are extensively researched by the local jurisdictional teams – for example, Corporate/M&A and Dispute Resolution. Again, we are able to better leverage all the information we have already gathered in the decision-making. And, as mentioned above, these categories can place a greater emphasis on a law firm’s geographical presence and the strength of its local rankings in the relevant practice areas. Going forward, we are considering renaming these practice areas ‘Global: Multi-Jurisdictional’ to better illustrate this distinction.
A breakdown of which practice areas fall under which title is available on the Chambers website.
If firms wish to achieve a higher ranking in – or enter – these global categories, would a good first step be to see if they can improve their position in the relevant practice area nationally or regionally?
For the Global Market Leader categories, there tends to not be many, if any, local jurisdictional rankings. So I would encourage law firms to provide written submissions and references directly to any of these practice areas, as they feel is appropriate for their practice.
But yes, for the Global-wide and the International & Cross-Border Capabilities rankings it would indeed be a good first step to improve or enter the rankings for the relevant practice areas on a national or regional level, as this would help showcase the law firm’s strength in these areas.
However, we are also looking for evidence of expertise handling complex international and multi-jurisdictional work. So, where possible and without negatively affecting their local rankings, it would be beneficial if law firms could include examples of work of this nature as part of the 20 work highlights in their local submissions. The same is true for who they select as references – again, if possible, it would be great if firms could put forward several individuals who can confidently speak to their strength in relation to this type of international work.
“For the Global-wide and the International & Cross-Border Capabilities rankings, a good first step would be to improve or enter the rankings on a national or regional level”
How would you advise firms who want a national or regional client reference to also be taken into account during the research into the equivalent global table, if the relevant deadlines fall within Chambers’ window for not contacting the same client twice?
With the recent changes to the Global-wide categories, there will be less crossover of this nature as those still accepting references – i.e. Global Market Leaders – are those that tend to not be as widely covered on a national and regional level.
However, there are a few that do crossover, such as International Arbitration and Asset Finance, for example. In these instances, it is worth highlighting this in the appropriate column of the reference form the law firm provides that this is the case. I would encourage law firms to avoid too much overlap in the references they put forward for both categories. But whichever researcher contacts the reference first will be trained to ask about all that individual’s recent experiences with law firms, not only those that relate to their current research assignment.
“Highlight crossover references between practice areas in the client reference form”
The internal platforms that Chambers uses for our research allow for the easy sharing of relevant information between different research teams, and, as mentioned, before we also work closely with all local jurisdictional research teams, which allows for interesting leads and research to be flagged up directly.
What are your top research tips to firms seeking to expand their coverage within the Chambers guides nationally, regionally and globally?
The same key factors are considered for any ranking across all the Chambers guides: information provided in submissions, feedback from references and commentary from third party experts in the market. Therefore, my top research tips would be as follows:
For submissions, provide the maximum 20 matters for each practice area. These can be confidential or publishable but try to include as much information as possible as that helps to really underscore why this is an important matter for that market, be it nationally, regionally or globally. We understand that it must be difficult to select which matters to put forward, so don’t be afraid to outline why each one made the cut – for example, whether it is due to the complexity of work, the calibre of client or the commercial value involved.
“Try to provide the maximum 20 matters for each area and include as much information as possible”
As mentioned before, it is also worth remembering more than one research team may be reviewing this submission. For example, it is beneficial to include some examples of cross-border work to support consideration in the International & Cross-Border Capabilities rankings for that jurisdiction.
Submissions are also the best place to highlight key practitioners in the firm and showcase its bench strength in a particular market and practice area, as well as outlining what makes the firm worthy of inclusion or of a higher ranking in Chambers. As we cannot guarantee research calls to all firms that submit, it is worth putting as much information into the submission as possible.
Reference selection is also a critical element, especially given that there is a limit of 20 here as well. Putting forward those referees who can best describe their recent experiences with the firm and its lawyers, but also who are likely to have the availability to speak with one of our researchers, helps give us as full a picture of the firm’s strengths as possible.
Ideally, a firm’s references will be able to provide a range of different insights into working with the firm, as well as potentially discussing their experiences on a regional and international level, where appropriate.
“Reference selection is a critical element”
We encourage firms to seek approval before putting anyone forward as a reference, and as there can be a delay between submission and the beginning of research we also encourage them to keep an eye on our online research schedule and, where possible, remind references closer to the time to look out for correspondence from Chambers. For sections that accept references, you can also check in with the assigned researcher during their research regarding response rates from your references, so that where necessary you can follow up.
Feedback from peers and other third-party experts in the market are useful for our understanding of the wider market and the practicalities of that particular industry. As mentioned before we aim to speak to a different cross-section during our research each year to hear from as many different perspectives as possible. A lack of an interview is not a negative but if our researchers do reach out, we ask law firms to engage with them as much as possible and provide insightful and impartial feedback of the market and our current coverage.
For further information on the Chambers research schedules and how to contact the team, see: Contact Our Team | Chambers and Partners
Tom Wicker is a rankings and awards consultant and former editor of Chambers USA. For more information on his background and services, see the ‘Legal directory consulting’ page or email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org.