There were, to put it mildly, mixed feelings in the room when I learned of the end of the PLC Which Lawyer? during a client visit. Although the ranking and evaluation of law firms and lawyers polarized since its beginnings, it has expanded from modests tarts to a real industry.
Rankings have established themselves within the legal industry as something of a dentist: No one really likes to go there and many come up with amazingly creative ways to postpone the visit to Dr. Directory – but in the end, most agree that the appointment cannot be ignored, especially since after the dental check everybody is very relieved
So why did PLC Which Lawyer? went offline? Will Chambers and Legal 500 be next? Will the ranking industry brake down all together?
To stretch the doctor’s comparison even further, it can be said that Chambers has the most expertise and provides the best diagnoses. Legal 500 is also very experienced and in general keeps your teeth clean. But PLC Which Lawyer? had by far the most painful drill. Everyone who regularly had to work with the cleverly confusing PLC templates knows what I mean.
I provide support for law firms with their submission work since 2004 and most of my clients always viewed the rankings of PLC Which Lawyer? with special scepticism. In particular, the combined results of all legal areas could very often not be condoned. So why did law firms still participated in this ranking?
The reason for this is also the reason for the success of the ranking industry as a whole: The quality of intangible services, especially such complex ones as legal services, can be very difficult to assess before purchase. Even if a law firm has performed great in the past, the client has no way of knowing if the law firm is still up to the challenge today.
Why did we hire them?
Sure, clients still can be gained based on a personal recommendation – but this kind of acquisition is getting harder and harder to achieve with corporates where executives demand answers to a simple question: why did we hire that law firm? That question will be raised even more loudly when something goes wrong or a trial is lost. To survive such a blame game the person responsible for choosing the law firm must have objective arguments on his or her side. You can hardly blame anybody for choosing the law firm which is number 1 in several rankings for several years.
But PLC Which Lawyer? had also another problem. The constant bugging of the lawyers for advertisements in parallel sister publications that simply did not have anything to do with the main ranking but where sometimes even in competition with the main ranking. I therefore think that there might have been an internal struggle which surprisingly was won by the less important publications. That’s politics for you.
What impact does the end of PLC Which Lawyer? have?
On the hand law firms do not automatically invest the freed up resources in other rankings. The efforts go to existing good rankings like e. g. Chambers, Legal 500, IFLR, WTR 1000 and The Lawyer. On the other hand, law firms still waste too much energy and time in less important and highly questionable publications, which will gain ground in the years to come.
So the visit to the dentist will remain necessary for quite a while. My recommendation to law firms is to think twice about which ranking they should participate in. Initial questions I can gladly answer free of charge (please keep your questions short) under firstname.lastname@example.org.