Referees are key to submissions to both legal directories but there are significant differences between the two. Having filed submissions for both magic circle law firms and top barristers’ chambers for years here is my advice:
More is more. Legal 500 ask for 20+ referees. It is effectively unlimited. You can provide fewer but it is really better to try to provide as many as possible. It also helps to remind you to maintain your relationships all year round, not just reaching out to your contacts two days before the submission deadline. Chambers only ask for five.
Ask your referees’ permission to put them forward. It sounds obvious but it is often overlooked. It is only polite, for heavens’ sake. If they engage on your behalf they are doing you a huge favour. And you can offer to reciprocate.
Make sure they know who you are. Oh dear. Yes, it has happened. A researcher asked a referee about a particular lawyer and the answer was “who?”. At the opposite extreme, don’t include your mother! Referees do not have to be linked to a particular case. It is an advantage if they have known you for years as they will be able to wax lyrical about your skills as an individual.
Availability. Availability is a key factor. Don’t ask the busiest person at the bar to be a referee unless you know that they will prioritise you above everything else that comes into their inbox. Ditto the Managing Partner at a magic circle law firm. There is no point in nominating referees who are too busy to be available to the researcher, choose someone less senior in the same team who will engage.
Warm up your referees: It is worth reminding your referees just before the research starts that they have agreed to do this for you. It’s a pain to check the research schedules but Legal 500 does actually send out emails to remind you. Legal 500’s Bar Editor Will Tolcher sent one last week about the UK Regional Bar research deadlines.
This is an annual process. Look after your key relationships all year round and you will not find this onerous or difficult.
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