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Is it time for The Times to drop its Best Law Firms list

The Times today (11 November) has taken a dig at the legal directories. In doing so, it highlights the weaknesses in its Best Law Firms list, says Matt Baldwin.

“In general, law firms are reluctant to talk to the press and guard client confidentiality zealously. But when it comes to puffing themselves up for directory rankings, caution can be recklessly discarded,” says The Times (11 November).

The Times is not happy with the legal directories or with law firms ‘puffing themselves up’ by sharing confidential information with directory researchers.

Love them or loathe them, the directories have been firmly embedded in legal marketing calendar for decades. The Times is a little late to the directory game and is understandably keen to make its mark. A lot of cash is at stake.

The risk is there, but the legal directories have earned the trust of law firms in keeping confidential information just that. It is in the DNA of their business model, enabling them to deliver a mostly valued product.

The real risk is in sharing with journalists and newspaper publishers wishing to cash in law firm directory spend. The business model of The Times and the writers it employs is entirely different to The Legal 500 or Chambers and Partners.

The Times Best Law Firms Survey does little to inform the buyers of legal services or to attract or retain talent. By asking only lawyers to rate other law firms, it ignores the most important voice – the client.

Legal reporting at The Times is first class – and what you would expect from a national institution. Perhaps it is time to focus on that, rather than attempting to cash in on legal directory spend.

Matt Baldwin is managing director of Coast, a communications consultancy.

Matt Baldwin
Co-founder – Coast Communications

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