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Legal Directories — Walk Away and Invest in Yourself

Directory participation is the equivalent of dropping a match on a pile of cash.

Why do law firms continue to spend time and money on legal directories when the people who hire external counsel don’t care?

Last October—repeating themselves for the sixth year in a row—a panel of General Counsel at a Toronto Legal Marketing Association event said directories are not used to make decisions about whom to approach or hire, and that some of the best lawyers are not found in directories.

None of this is news. The same finding was reinforced by legal market researchers, Acritas, who in 2007 surveyed 500 GC’s about what sources influence their consideration in hiring external lawyers. Only five percent found directories relevant to this type of decision and only three percent said they have been influenced significantly by directory information.

Let’s be clear: Directories are profit-making vehicles for their publishers. For law firms, directory participation is the equivalent of dropping a match on a pile of cash.

In a 2012 article, Legal Directories in the Age of Google, I opined that since we tend to check each other out online and with the ever-increasing abilities of sophisticated search engines to act as directories of everything, you’re better off plowing resources into elevating your online presence.

Focus on social media vehicles that your current and prospective clients use most, paying special attention to your website where you can showcase client work and testimonials. Apply this tactic consistently along with solid search engine optimization and you’re golden.

The advantage of controlling your own profile and reputation along with the benefit of being “one of one” certainly beats being ranked by anonymous influencers and lumped in with the competition in a glorified popularity contest where you’re “one of many.”

Even though directory season is in full swing, it’s simply common sense to recognize that people who are looking to hire you don’t consult directories, and so the likelihood of landing a client or a referral in this fashion is about the same as the odds are of you being struck by lightening — less than one in a million.

Heather Suttie is widely acknowledged as one of the world’s leading authorities on legal market strategy and management of legal services firms.

For 25 years, she has advised leaders of premier law firms and legal service providers worldwide — Global to Solo | BigLaw to NewLaw — on innovative strategies pertaining to business, markets, management, and clients.

The result is accelerated performance achieved through a distinctive one of one legal market position and sustained competitive advantage leading to greater market share, revenue, and profits.

The effect is accomplishment of the prime objective — To Win.

Reach her at +1.416.964.9607 or

5 responses to “Legal Directories — Walk Away and Invest in Yourself”

  1. Three quick comments from me on this are that: (1) GCs looking for lawyers in jurisdictions new to their companies do use directories both to draw up initial, potential supplier lists and to validate law firm recommendations made to them; (2) the existence of supportive comments from clients in directories’ write ups suggest that profile building efforts are working as these comments are unsolicited and; (3) the same comments from clients offer good copy when composing evidence-based sales messages for pitches and other marketing and sales materials.

    • Thanks for this, Martin. This particular post has sparked spirited debate within LinkedIn groups, such as Managing Partner, Marketing the Law Firm, and CMO Forum where directories are always a hot topic.

  2. Heather, I noticed my comments have not been seen by my fellow MPF group members. Should I have posted them on the MPF feed? I am keen to share and be seen to be sharing. Thank you very much. Martin

    • I’m pleased you posted here and your thoughts will always be welcome, Martin. Please post to Linked In forums, too.

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