This article was first published in Lex Witness February 2015 issue.
With the advent of the ranking season, this is a good time to reflect on the importance of law firm rankings and its effectiveness.
Every firm feels differently about rankings, whether it be the ranking platforms, process or its effectiveness overall. However, it might not be so easy to just keep them at bay. Through this article, we will attempt to take an unbiased and critical look at the importance of ranking submissions, the elements to pay attention to, and the relevant platforms to seek.
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.
Last year, IFLR 1000 was quoted saying,
“India’s M&A market has improved significant in 2014. After the general elections, investors who had adopted a “wait and see” approach came back in a surge… After the general elections, investors who had adopted a “wait and see” approach came back in a surge. The first half of the year, especially in Q2 right after the elections, saw some of the highest value M&A transactions of the year – though the number of completed deals has decreased in comparison to the same period the year before.
Liberalization of the economy in the infrastructure, aviation and manufacturing sectors has contributed to improved investor sentiment in India. This is testament to the country’s pledge to boost foreign investment by easing regulations in the country.
The current government nevertheless has brought back optimism in India’s investment culture, and experts have said that the upswing is still very much in place. 2014 has been a solid year for M&A deals in India and it is expected to continue into 2015.”
Legal 500 Asia-Pacific noted,
“While 2013 saw India’s economic growth hit a ten-year low, the 2014 election results have led to a renewed sense of optimism in the market, with Narendra Modi’s landslide victory in May 2014 expected to lead to key political and economic reform.
Banking and finance and capital markets work remains quiet, leaving law firms to leverage the government’s heavy investment in infrastructure to maintain a healthy flow of public-sector projects work. Dispute resolution activity is on the rise, as law firms benefited from an increasing flow of India-related arbitrations before the Singapore International Arbitration Centre.
With the country’s cross-border transactional activity picking up, foreign firms are strengthening their India desks, although foreign firms continue to be excluded from practising in India, and as such typically maintain desks in India or Singapore, two key hubs for India-facing work.”
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.
CAN YOU IGNORE THEM?
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.
Imagine a scenario where a prospective international client is researching to find the right Indian law firm to hire as their legal advisers. Unless they have an existing counsel in their parent jurisdiction whom they would want to reach out to for suggestions or in the cases that the international law firm does not have an existing relationship with an Indian law firm, they will begin by doing an internet search: “Best Indian law firm in _________ practice”. The top results that will inevitably come up will be that of the ranking platforms, listing their results based on the key words in the relevant jurisdiction. The prospective international client will then review the results, research additional information available on the world wide web, including firm website (if available), any media coverage, articles written by the firm attorneys and so on. And this is just the online environment of the entire business ecosystem in place!
Based on their research, they will then shortlist further and reach out to their preferred firms. Finally, they will decide to hire either based on reputation/work specialization/rapport and comfort built/cost. Albeit there is a good chance that being ranked may not ultimately lead to ‘landing the client’, but at least the firm got the prospective client’s attention in the first place.
In conclusion, there is no concrete evidence that investing time and resources in the cumbersome process of ranking submissions has directly led to increased clientele. However, getting ranked has definitely helped the firm create enough noise in order to be put on the map, and get the due attention of the relevant people in the first place.
This ranking season, starting February 2015 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!