UK publication LegalWeek has an interesting reflection on the usefullness of legal directories. That is, those large books from Martindale or Chambers, or new entrants like LawDragon or Superlawyers. (Martindale has even commented on this subject in a corporate blog).
The article focuses more on Chambers, given its HQ in London. They do have a good website that supports the hardbound editions.
According to the article, the jury is out whether they hit their intended target: helping inside counsel find and eventually retain outside counsel.
A common (and thankfully honest) viewpoint comes from Shell legal head Richard Wiseman:
â€œI use them very, very rarely,â€ he says. â€œI have the luxury of being able to consult with colleagues on the question of which outside counsel to speak to. I am horrified by the amount of money that firms spend on preparing submissions to these directories. I cannot imagine who they think is naive enough to use a directory in any other way than they would use the Yellow Pages.â€
These directories serve some purpose, but their influence is more like a citation from a Louisiana state court in a legal brief. It’s better than nothing, but in my experience only in limited cases (such as a foreign jurisdiction or a minor matter for local counsel).
Article author Michelle Madsen does a good job of covering the waterfront here, but loses me a bit at the end:
It seems telling that US general counsel, who are renowned for having greater status, and are more likely to feel secure in their position than their European counterparts, seem less grudging in acknowledging the role of directories.
A cynic could even argue that in-house lawyers have an interest in maintaining the mystery around law, which directories threaten to pierce.
I can’t think of any mysteries about the law that could be pierced by anything resembling a legal directory. You could perhaps pierce a sheetrock wall by flinging a copy of the latest Chambers US directory at it, however.
If by mystery Ms. Madsen is referring to how in-house counsel find and retain outside counsel, why yes, that is an interesting one. If only the best directory entry was the key, like a winning Ivy-league admissions essay.
Surely Ms. Madsen shouldn’t expect inside counsel to reveal all the secrets of law firm selection. Why there are championship courses to be golfed and Broadway shows to be taken in, for gosh sakes!