Getting to know Chambers and Partners: An exclusive interviewThe Grey Matter Team
Chambers and Partners, is a well-known, established legal research business. It identifies and ranks the most outstanding law firms and lawyers across 200 jurisdictions throughout the world.
In the Indian context, while a lot of firms make annual submissions to the
publication, what do we really know about Chambers and Partners? We decided to talk to the team and get some insights + backstory for our readers.
Presenting, a one-of-a-kind, written interview with this mega powerhouse, which is being interviewed by The Grey Matter.
1. How was Chambers and Partners established, what was the intention at the time?
Chambers and Partners was founded in 1989 with the intention of providing organisations with accurate, research-driven information they need to select the right external legal counsel for them. The original Chambers Guide to the Legal Profession focused on UK-based law firms and the UK Bar.
2. When did Chambers and Partners foray into newer jurisdictions and geographies and gain popularity there?
In 1999, following requests and feedback from our international users, research began on the first edition of Chambers Global. The multi-lingual research team used the same methodology as had been developed in the UK: a commitment to interviewing in-house counsel for their evaluation of the legal services market and their personal recommendations of leading lawyers and law firms in their jurisdiction. The first Chambers Global guide covered 180 jurisdictions including key markets across the Asia-Pacific region
Since then we have been able to build up very strong relationships internationally, including in markets across Asia-Pacific. This has been driven by our consistent year-on-year engagement and in-depth research model. Through the thousands of conversations conducted by the team each year, we have been able to build trust in our research process and to demonstrate to both in-house counsel and law-firms the value of Chambers’ research and rankings. The introduction of our dedicated regional guides, including the Asia-Pacific guide in 2008, has helped to further this process by ensuring we have geographic specialists who possess deep understanding and relationships across all our key markets.
3. What makes Chambers and Partners so reliable? What sets you apart?
- Our commitment to telephone interviews with in-house counsel to understand not only their recommendations for lawyers but also the nuance of their needs and how each firm and individual matches those service requirements – they tell us what are the most valuable attributes a lawyer and firm have.
- Breadth of coverage – we identify leading lawyers in a number of areas through our ranking tables encompassing large multi-nationals as well as smaller, domestically focused firms.
- The in-depth nature of our research – Chambers has a permanent research team of over 200 individuals, which includes a group of 22 specialists focused on the Asia-Pacific region. Our research for the India chapters of the Asia-Pacific guide spans a 7-month research period each year, which allows us to go into a greater level of depth compared to key competitors.
- We have a structured research methodology that combines market commentary from in-house counsel and other third-party experts with detailed review of factual information on recent work highlights.
4. With all the feedback and submissions you receive, what according to you, do lawyers do really well?
Lawyers who attain a ranking in the Chambers guides demonstrate high levels of expertise and experience, as well as excellent client service.
We observe from conversations with clients the level of commitment demonstrated by external counsel is typically very high – unsurprising given the fiercely competitive legal landscape. Clients often highlight the importance they place upon their legal advisor’s commercial awareness, and single out the ability to translate black letter law into practical, real-world advice. Responsiveness and quick turnaround are also areas frequently highlighted by interviewees.
5. With all the feedback and submissions you receive, what according to you, do lawyers need to learn to do more of?
- It is hard to give a one-size-fits all answer to this, however clients often emphasise the value they place upon a team that can offer consistency and stability through from senior partner to associate level. Retaining key talent at both the senior and more junior levels is therefore a key challenge for law firms and their partners.
- Whilst most clients we speak to believe they have received value for money, billing practices are also under constant scrutiny. This may include questions about fee structure, clear communication on costs and striking the right balance in terms of appropriate staffing of matters.
6. What changes does Chambers and Partners see in the way lawyers, world-wide conduct their businesses?
- Lawyers are focusing on developing and retaining talent within their own firm, faced with increased lateral movement (other firms and in-house)
- Lawyers are adapting to an increasingly sophisticated in-house client function that wants more than legal advice – instead they want to develop business partnerships – so industry knowledge and commercial awareness are key attributes that clients want evidence of from their firms.
- In the larger markets there is an increased pressure from clients to show diversity within their working teams – prominence given to more junior associates, women lawyers – to provide a more rounded advice and approach to matters.
- Globalisation and proof of project management skills or cross-office collaboration are important attributes as well.
7. What business expansion plans does Chambers have for itself in the coming times, with digitization rapidly gaining popularity among lawyers? (encompassing video content and podcasts)
We have been expanding our research over recent years and are looking forward to continuing this trend. For example, we just launched our Greater China Region guide in January of this year which was extremely well received in the region and beyond.
We also continue to make improvements to our digital offerings and have launched a series of Legal Topic articles such as this recent article for Asia Pacific guide: https://chambers.com/topics/asia-pacific-2022-key-ranking-statistics
8. Chambers and Partners has a recommended list of memberships as well. For example, Lex Mundi. How do you curate that and is that a dynamic list changing year on year?
The chief criterion for a leading legal network, is that the member firms are independent of each other and any controlling entity. A law firm network’s ranking is based on the rankings, and the ranking strength, of its member firms across the various Chambers Guides.
The list is dynamic, researched and updated each year. A strong law firm network positions itself as a cost-effective alternative to an international law firm with many international branches.
The Legal Networks we recommend across our guides have demonstrated an added value beyond the impressive membership statistics. This is established either through positive feedback from in-house counsel, the member firms or those on the other side of the deal table. We also secure factual evidence from recent mandates.
9. Can you share some inputs you would like our law firm audience to know as 'things to bear in mind' while making a submission to Chambers and Partners.
- It is best to fill out the submission template as fully as possible since all questions on the template help to feed into the research and ranking process.
- The work highlights are especially important as they give the firm an opportunity to present the best snapshot possible of its work from the previous 12-month period. It is important to keep descriptions succinct whilst also ensuring that the matter description makes it clear not only what work has been completed, but also why this matter is especially notable.
- Clients and work highlights can be submitted on either a publishable or confidential basis, and this will have no bearing on the weight we place upon those matters in our analysis.
- It is helpful to have a strong correlation between the work highlights put forward on the submission and the client referees provided. Client feedback is at the core of our research methodology, so speaking to clients you have worked with on your most challenging matters will lend greater weight to your submission.
10. What do you think the next 5 years will look like for the legal industry, globally?
- Continues to be highly competitive, driven by excellence in both technical expertise and high service levels.
- Greater focus on data and analytics to drive decision making – whether it’s law firms using data for their lateral decisions or where to open offices/new practice groups or clients requiring more information on which to make outsourcing decisions.
- Clients considering non-traditional routes to support them such as Alternative Legal Services Providers such as contract lawyers, e-documentation review, use of law tech developments to make the legal process more efficient.
- Emergence of specialist boutiques as clients demand greater understanding of industry drivers.