Rankings – An Affirmation of Reputation

This article was first published in Lex Witness January 2016 issue.

Reputation is a big deal in the legal industry. Law firms and lawyers thrive on the perception they create in the market, amongst their peers and clients.

So, What is the basis for a law firm’s reputation? Is it the quality of the firm’s work or is it the pedigree of the firm’s lawyers?

Rankings are a good way to measure the firm’s and its lawyers’ reputations across borders and practice. The qualities on which rankings are assessed include technical legal ability, professional conduct, client service, diligence, commitment, and other qualities most valued by the client.

The Ranks

For the Indian jurisdiction, rankings are usually listed in the following categories:

Firm Rankings – A law firm ranking relates to a department of the firm, not to the firm as a whole. Law-firm departments are ranked on the qualities of their lawyers and the matters/deals handled through the year. Also considered is the effectiveness and capability of the department as a whole – its strength and depth. A ranking will only apply to a law firm as a whole where the firm specialises in just one practice area.

Star Individual Lawyers – Individual lawyers are ranked on the basis of their legal knowledge and experience, their ability, their effectiveness, and their client-service in their specific practice areas. It is also possible that an individual lawyer can be ranked while their law firm is not. There are various categories within individual lawyer rankings. An Eminent Practitioner is a highly influential lawyer in a particular practice area who, due to managerial or client relationship commitments, are less active in fee-earning work but remain key players in the team. However, a ‘Recognised Practitioner’ handles notable matters and / or has received some recommendation from peers and clients.

Rising Stars – This lists senior associates who are recognised for their work as a supporting team member on major deals their firms have handled. Rising Stars are awarded to associates who consistently demonstrates an outstanding degree of technical and commercial expertise beyond that of their peers.

Ranking Features And Outlook

An important part of rankings are the features and outlook of the year that the relevant portals put across. These features are important to track, as they provide a deep understanding of the market overall, and provide an outsider’s view on the industries and practices, along with the key players who stand out.

Legal 500 Asia-Pacific noted,

“It was a year since Narendra Modi was elected Prime Minister of India. His pro-business approach brought a renewed sense of optimism to the country and made a positive impact on the legal market. Key reforms have been introduced allowing increased foreign investment in sectors such as rail and defence, deregulation of fuel prices, and private competition in coal mining. India’s economy has stabilised, mainly due to the drop in oil prices, but further important reforms are yet to be implemented and these remain crucial for sustained economic growth.

Law firms report that banking and finance and capital markets work remain quiet as the necessary reforms to galvanise the financial sector have not yet been implemented, resulting in the continuation of lack of new loan availability. Corporate and M&A has had a mixed year as businesses remain cautious about new mandates. On the contentious front, activity in the dispute resolution arena has a healthy outlook with firms receiving a steady flow of new cases, particularly in the context of international arbitration. Projects work is also providing fertile ground for instructions, thanks to state investment in infrastructure.”

Ranking Platforms

As noted in my last year’s article on The Ranking Ruckus in the Legal Business, there are various publications and portals who have involved themselves in the ranking process in the recent years. The difference in the results are based on the methodologies, practice focuses and of course the researchers’ interpretations of the submissions and interviews.

Some undeniably important rankings that matter for Indian law firms include, but not limited to, Legal 500, Chambers & Partners, IFLR 1000, World Trademark Review, Asia IP, Managing IP and more.

The choices and the platform preferences depend on the nature of the law firm – full service or practice/industry specialized boutique.

The Unavoidable Necessity

With various experiences and preferences in place, it completely becomes a matter of personal choice and intellect. But as any branding specialist in this industry would say, law firm rankings are unavoidable from an international perspective.

The ranking process can be cumbersome in nature. Hence, it is always wise to have a dedicated personnel collating data, creating the submission documents and coordinating the researchers on the submissions, interviews and follow ups.

This ranking season, starting February 2016 till half way through the year, try your best to make as many submissions to the ranking platforms as possible. Seek specialized advice from experts if need be, but make attempting to seek ranking a priority!

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