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Just how good are legal directories?

Posted by Ian Dodd, UK director of Legal Futures Associate Premonition [1]

Dodd: artificial exercise [2]

Dodd: artificial exercise

Below you’ll find an abstract from an academic article by Dr Chris Hanretty, reader in politics at the University of East Anglia. The full article, which I have read, will soon be published in the International Journal of the Legal Profession. I’m reproducing the abstract with his kind permission:

Lawyer rankings either do not matter for litigation outcomes or are redundant

I investigate the success of litigants in tax cases in England and Wales between 1996 and 2010. I explore the effect upon success of having better-ranked legal representation, according to rankings of barristers published by chambers. I find that, for a variety of model specifications, there is no significant positive effect of having better-ranked legal representation.

After conducting a sensitivity analysis, I conclude that better-ranked legal representation might have a positive effect on litigation outcomes, but only if better-ranked lawyers receive cases that are substantially more difficult to win. However, if better-ranked lawyers receive substantially more difficult cases, this suggests consumers of legal representation are sophisticated enough to dispense with legal rankings.

The views that follow are mine and mine alone and not, as far as I know, Dr Hanretty’s.

I’ve long wondered what use the rankings of lawyers, particularly barristers, are in the legal directories.

Essentially, you get some of your mates to say nice things about you (you’re not going to do otherwise, now, are you?). Then you pay (how much depends on how much of it you want to be in print) the directories to reproduce these nice things and come up with some artificial rankings in a host of different categories.

They’re artificial because they’re based on qualitative and subjective comments the sources of which are not treated to any moderation or levelling to ensure each comment is weighted to equivalence.

You pay to adjust your website to accommodate all these nice things in the biographies of the fortunate and glowing barristers and sit back and wait for new work to flood in because of it. And, I imagine, you keep waiting as I’ve never, so far, been able to find out if any work does result from the directory rankings.

Then, you are seduced to pay a large amount of money to go to an ‘awards evening’ (I’ve noticed that the number and categories of awards swells every year to assuage the expectant attendees; some to the point of nonsense) and, probably, to pay more to take a table to invite those people who said nice things about you in the first place.

Next, you squeeze yourself into an ill-fitting dinner jacket, eat too much almost inedible food, drink too much expensive but inferior wine (maybe I’ve been to the wrong awards ceremonies?), stuff your pockets with business cards of people who have no intention of doing business with you and who, through your blinding headache next day, you can’t remember anyway.

Finally, after paying all this money (which I’ve always held can be spent much more wisely in targeted marketing) you wait for all the new work to come in.

I really would be interested to know who runs a cost/benefit exercise on these things or is it all done for self-aggrandisement?

I’d recommend you to keep your eye on the International Journal of the Legal Profession. If the article abstract (never mind about what I say) doesn’t alter your thinking on legal directories, it might.