The 2017 questionnaire is in the revised format of an Excel document form. This allows for firms to continually add to the candidates for litigation star consideration, representative matters, and client contacts (each of which appear as their own tabs within the spreadsheet), without having to conform to the confines of a set number of fields and/or providing cumbersome supplemental data that makes for extra work. We think you will find it much simpler and more user-friendly. Simply title the document "Name of your firm_Benchmark2017" when saving, and send to either editor Michael Rafalowich at email@example.com or deputy editor Jennifer Ruther at firstname.lastname@example.org by Friday, May 6th.
Researchers are also now officially available for partner interviews. To help streamline this process as well, we have offered some guidelines for scheduling partner interviews with our researchers. Here is what to expect, along with what we expect.
- Conduct an honest internal assessment of your firm and put forth your most prominent players and/or up-and-comers that you can say with confidence should be recognized. We are looking for those who are actively involved in litigation at present – senior partners are welcomed so long as they have recently been proven active. Managing partners/department heads are also welcomed to speak on behalf of department in lieu of several of individual interviews.
- Telephone interviews – 1 to 5 partners maximum, with no more than 3 on any call, lasting anywhere from 20 to 60 minutes.
- In-person/videoconference interviews – 1 to 10 partners maximum, lasting 90 to 120 minutes, depending on researcher(s)’s and/or partner(s)’s schedule(s).
- Researchers expect interview candidates to speak on their own individual practices and (where applicable) that of any other litigators in the firm deemed worthy of Benchmark’s consideration who are not available to interview. Includes highlighting relevant achievements and/or casework, where applicable. Researchers also solicit interview candidates for commentary on market trends and relevant phenomena, and also review of peer firms and individuals in the market, either speaking intuitively or by referring to Benchmark The interview is not simply a firm promotional opportunity – peer review is essential to the integrity of the Benchmark research process. All answers are off the record, any quotes are anonymous and not for attribution, and no negative opinions are printed. Researchers reserve the right to direct the interview process toward this line of questioning at any point prior to the end of the interview, and to decline to interview partners who in advance refuse to provide peer feedback.
- Interviewing with us does not guarantee being listed and/or editorialized in Benchmark.
- Interviews conducted in-person and by telephone between February and July 2016.
- Can I customize the questionnaire or must it be in the current format?
The questionnaire must be completed in the current Excel spreadsheet format. However, within this format, you are free to provide as much or as little data as you wish. The Excel spreadsheet format allows for an infinite number of fields to be populated at your discretion for each category. With regard to partners and cases being put forward for consideration, however, we would advise that you exercise judgment and provide information that reflects an honest internal assessment of your firm. In other words, focus on the partners and cases that you would consider to have had maximum impact over the past 12 months (or, if a case is ongoing, over the past several years.) Feel free to provide as many client contacts for reference as you wish.
- What is “general information” mean in the questionnaire?
This is simply basic information about the firm’s locations and the respective litigation contact at each. (This is often, but not always, someone in the marketing, communications, public relations, business development, or managing partner capacity.)
- Can I just provide the same information that I provided to Chambers or another publication?
Yes – so long as it relates to your litigation/disputes practice, you can simply copy the information you provided to Chambers or any other similar publication and paste it accordingly into our questionnaire.
- How does Benchmark differ from Chambers or other competitors?
Benchmark focuses exclusively on litigation and disputes in North America (US, Canada, and most recently, Mexico), which differentiates us from other legal directories that cover a broader spectrum of legal services and geography. This allows us to provide a much more in-depth analysis of the litigation and disputes market. Benchmark is also editorially driven, rather than statistically driven, and strives to avoid being over-inclusive. We aim to cover only firms and litigators that are of an elite status – our rankings are divided up into simply those who are “recommended” and “highly recommended.” Firms included in both tiers were deemed worthy of inclusion via our studies of the market, with the “highly recommended” firms earning the most mentions as being dominant in their field.
- Our firm is ranked “X” in Chambers. Why are we ranked “Y” in Benchmark?
Benchmark’s methodology is potentially different from other publications, with a potentially different sample of peers and clients being canvassed for their feedback. Benchmark’s editorial staff is very lean, which provides for very hands-on oversight of the research process, yielding more scrupulously managed results.
- How much influence do we have over our rankings vs. the external market?
Firms are encouraged to tell their story via our printed questionnaire and attorney interviews. We then measure the firm’s input against the feedback we receive via studying the market. If our studies are in harmony with the firm’s assertions, we weight them equally. If there is an extreme disparity between the firm’s views and a pronounced percentage of the market, we will provide greater weight to the market consensus.
- How do we elevate our firm in the rankings and/or get more editorial exposure?
There is no way to guarantee that a firm will attain a higher ranking. However, it is helpful to participate to the point that this may bring individuals and matters to our attention that may not have yet come to the attention of the market. This allows us to potentially insert this information into conversations with partners at other firms, which occasionally does jog their memory and/or favorably change their perception of your firm and lawyers. The greater level of substance provided to us by the firm also allows for more editorial coverage, should the firm be ranked.
- If we participate, are we guaranteed to get ranked and/or an editorial?
No, there is no guarantee that a firm who submits a questionnaire and/or an attorney that interviews with us will be ranked and/or receive editorial coverage.
- XYZ got nominated as a litigation star – why is he/she not mentioned in the firm editorial?
There is only so much print space that we can provide to any one firm. “Highly recommended” firms are provided anywhere from 250 to 400 words, with “Recommended” firms bring provided 100 to 200 words. With that print space, we aim to include editorial coverage that we feel provides the most color with regard to the firm’s strengths, and this often means focusing on the partners that have received the strongest and most pithy quotes from peers or clients and/or have the strongest examples of representative work.
- Benchmark noted our strength in X practice area, but what about our Y practice? How do we get more recognition for that?
If the firm strives to promote a specific practice area(s) for which it feels it has not received significant enough coverage, please feel free to bring this to our attention so that we can query the market about it. But be realistic – if the firm’s efforts to build a specific practice area(s) are fairly recent, the traction and recognition within the market for said practice(s) simply may not be at the level yet to which we credibly can rank the firm. In time, if the practice grows in strength and recognition, we may be able to do so then.
- Should we list confidential cases/clients? How do we ensure these remain confidential?
Feel free to list confidential clients/cases only if you feel that it would behoove the firm for us to be aware of these, and we will certainly be respectful of confidential agreements – just please be sure to clearly note on your questionnaire that this is the case so that we do not report on it.
- Since you cover all 50 US states (plus DC) how is the book organized geographically?
Benchmark takes a three-pronged approach to its geographic editorial coverage:
- NATIONAL FIRMS – these are the elite group of firms that have been held as dominant in the eyes of their peers for their bench of recognized stars and their involvement in national-level high-profile work in a number of different practice areas. Often these will be firms with several offices, but not always.
- MULTI-STATE FIRMS – this includes a group of firms that not only have offices in several different states but also has demonstrated litigation bench strength in these offices, as exemplified through the litigators in these offices appearing as Benchmark litigation stars in a number of different practice areas. Often these will be firms that are dominant in one particular region, although others may have a more disparate presence.
- STATE FIRMS – these are firms that are viewed as the dominant players on a state level, the ones who are most often retained as local counsel, with a proven bench of local stars attending to primarily local work.
- When/how do you contact clients?
We contact clients by email, and we do this as soon as contact information is provided via the questionnaire. We query clients about their relationship with the firm, specific counsel within the firm, and any specific talents or acumen that their counsel brought to the table. The email contact allows clients to respond at their leisure, which provides for a better response rate and more substantial responses. We also occasionally conduct in-person meetings with corporate in-house counsel when invited to do so, whether or not they have been provided as a reference by a firm.
- What are the other Benchmark publications (Top 250 Women in Litigation, etc.)?
Because the print edition of Benchmark is quite large, we have also dedicated a separate forum for select groups of litigation stars that we have deemed worthy of a special recognition. The Top 250 Women in Litigation focuses on specifically the leading 250 female litigators from across the US. The guide contains novel editorial on these select candidates, but otherwise the methodology mirrors that of the master edition of Benchmark.
- What about these individual partner questionnaires? We’ve never seen these before. Are these new, and are they mandatory? Will it negatively affect the firm or any partners if said partners decline to complete it?
The individual questionnaires are a new development, and are for the purposes of some additional data mining on our part, via targeted questions aimed specifically at individual litigators as opposed to a firm-wide contact. Examples include providing us with their exact practice areas for which they MOST RECENTLY consider their primary concentration (thus avoiding any margin of error on our part when it comes to listing their practices in the guide). We also ask lawyers some specific questions with regard to their experiences with in-house counsel, including highlighting some exemplary standouts in this capacity. These questionnaires are independent of the firm questionnaires, and we do not expect business development or marketing professionals to be responsible for their completion. If the individual attorneys decline to complete them, they can simply ignore them. They are not mandatory and will not negatively impact individual lawyers in the rankings if they do decline to fulfill them.
- You have XYZ listed as a “future star,” but he’s been practicing for 15 years. Is that an error?
“Future stars” are those individuals who have been deemed as emerging in the market and earning an increasing level of recognition to the point where they could foreseeably be successors to some of the more established names within our rankings, and thus are put on this “watch list” of sorts. Although there are naturally a lot of younger or junior partners in the “future star” category, it is not necessarily indicative of age or lack of experience. Ideally, future stars would, within a year or two, receive enough definitive peer and/or client review to earn them a migration from the future star list to the established litigation star list. In the event that this does not happen, future stars remain as such for three years maximum before being dropped from our list entirely.
- Do you only rank those of partner level?
Yes. Benchmark does not rank associates or senior counsel, the latter category includes former Benchmark stars who have since been de-equitized from their firms.
- You have us listed as “recommended,” but our litigators are just as good as XYZ “highly recommended firm.”
The “recommended” and “highly recommended” categories are not necessarily indicative of a firm’s quality or that of its lawyers or representative work. Rather, it is simply a measurement of market dominance and recognition. All firms to have achieved either “recommended” or “highly recommended” status in Benchmark were deemed leaders in their respective markets. The “highly recommended” firms simply received the most mentions and/or have exhibited unquestioned market share.
- There is an error in our firm editorial – how did this happen and what can be done about it?
Although we are making scrupulous efforts to keep the margin of editorial error as slim as possible, the unfortunate reality of journalism is that it is nearly impossible to sidestep the reality of the occasional human error. In the event of a FACTUAL error in a firm editorial (not just an issue with one of our rankings), please contact us immediately and we will rectify the information on our website as soon as possible.
- You had us ranked “highly recommended” last year. This year we are “recommended.” What did we do wrong?
Benchmark’s annual research process strives to capture the most up-to-the-minute movements within the litigation market. That being the case, our rankings can and do change, sometimes subtly and sometimes dramatically, with each year. Firms can and do move up and down in our rankings, and can even move on and off – and on again – our rankings entirely, based upon their position in the market for that particular research cycle. The same is true for individual lawyers – attorneys can and do appear as a star on our lists one year, not appear the next year, and then reappear, depending on their career trajectory. We do this to maintain fairness to all the firms, some of whom may have had more active years than others, and to prevent the lists from becoming too overcrowded and/or diluted and losing value to the user.
- We’re a small boutique firm – what chance do we stand against the big brand name firms in your rankings?
Because Benchmark focuses exclusively on disputes, for which work is increasingly being referred out to boutiques and specialty shops, smaller firms stand a very good chance of being just as highly rated as large corporate firms, and in some cases even more highly rated.
- We don’t do a lot of “bet-the-company” work. We do plain vanilla general commercial work, but we do a lot of it, we have a great client base, and they have given us rave reviews. What kind of chance do we stand in your rankings?
A very good chance. Benchmark’s researchers are aware that only a small percentage of litigation is going to be “bet-the-company” trial work, and we have also become aware through our studies that many in-house counsel are increasingly shopping for more cost-effective firms with high-quality litigators (which are often found in our “recommended” category) to handle work that is not necessarily of the level of “bet-the-company” but still valuable enough to demand solid commercial counsel that also has the flexibility to offer fee structures that many of the bigger “highly recommended” firms cannot match.
- Why is X firm ranked nationally and we are ranked as a multi-state/regional firm? We have more offices than X firm does.
This designation does not merely apply to the number of offices, but also the level of recognition for a firm’s lawyers and/or its representative work. Like the rest of our rankings, these categories are mutable and can allow for change among the selected firms on a year-to-year basis.
- How do we get an in-person interview?
In-person interviews are welcomed on a local level (New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Philadelphia, Delaware). Simply contact us and request one, and, depending on the schedule flexibility of our researchers, we can arrange one. We also conduct annual visits to various rotating jurisdictions around the US. In the event that we are visiting your jurisdiction, we would reach out to your firm to invite you to meet.
- Is there any flexibility on the number of interviews you can conduct/partners you can speak to?
Depending on scheduling flexibility, it is possible that we could speak to more than the stated maximum (5 partners per firm via phone, 10 per firm via in-person meeting). Client firms may also receive additional interviews. However, in either case, to maintain fairness to all the firms, this is entirely contingent upon the schedule of our researchers.
- Should I wait until the firm questionnaire is complete before scheduling partner interviews?
NO! There is a common misconception that our researchers need to have the completed questionnaire in hand prior to conducting interviews. It is absolutely not the case. Interviews allow for lawyers to tell our researchers their stories in general personal summary form, and provide us with the feedback that we require regarding peer review, market trends, in-house counsel references, etc. Questionnaires simply flesh out the firm summary in more granular detail. It is not necessary for interviewed partners to come armed with all of the hard details behind their work. The best practice for interviewing with us is to start as early in the process as possible. Our researchers have much more flexibility in their schedules in March and April than they will in May or June, providing for much more choice regarding time slots. Conversely, there is also often a desire among the partners to wait until the questionnaires are completed before being interviewed. That is their choice – however, waiting until later in the research process means coping with a much smaller window of flexibility in scheduling, and possibly being shut out of the interview process altogether. It greatly behooves both the firms and our researchers if you don’t wait.
- Can I review my firm’s editorial in advance of press and suggest changes to it?
No. Firms cannot be allowed to view their editorials prior to press, and are never allowed to have their own input into how they read.
- Can I see a full list of my firm’s ranked stars prior to press?
A full list of ranked firm stars is made available to firms for a $500 administrative fee. This fee is waived for existing clients or those who sign on to become new clients.
- How do you choose award shortlist nominees and winners?
The shortlists for awards are chosen by a careful review of the highlights of our most recent research cycle. Based on these findings, the strongest players in each category are shortlisted, with a winner chosen based upon a final review, which is augmented by interviews with key leaders in certain areas in both the private practice and in-house capacities.
- You have XYZ firm/partner ranked – I never see them. Why are they in your rankings?
Many partners ranked in Benchmark are specialists, and many firms are specialty firms. Two lawyers/firms working in completely separate specialty areas may never be aware of each other. However, others in their same specialty category have acknowledged them as being prominent enough in their field to achieve star status.
- Is Benchmark "pay-to-play?" If I don’t support the project financially do I still get ranked?
Benchmark is absolutely not "pay-to-play." Firms cannot pay to appear in the guide, and can only be ranked if the market deems them worthy of consideration. Financial support is eventually solicited from the firms, as a form of an endorsement for your firm being selected by a quality resource like Benchmark and as a means of allowing us to continue financing the enterprise. However, this financial support can only be provided by firms that have been vetted by the research and editorial process beforehand. Declining to financially support Benchmark will not in any way affect a firm’s rankings or editorial status. However, conversely, client firms do enjoy additional benefits such as complete lists of ranked lawyers prior to press, first priority with receiving web results, and scheduling priority and increased travel budgets for non-local in-person interviews.
- What is your distribution? What is your web presence?
Benchmark’s print distribution is linked to the entirety of that of Euromoney Instutional Investor, a global publishing entity with thousands of names on its distribution list. Participating firms and in-house counsel are provided complimentary hard copies. Our web stats are measured monthly and can be furnished at any point upon request.
- Does Benchmark even make a difference to potential clients?
In the past, there have been mixed reviews on whether or not legal directories in general bear any influence on a potential client’s decision to hire a firm. However, within the last several years, there has been a noticeable spike in interest in Benchmark from in-house counsel. We are actively engaged with general counsel at many of the corporates throughout the US and Canada, and this has generated a pronounced increase in awareness on their parts, as well an increased presence at Benchmark-hosted events.
- I have a question that’s not answered here. Can I contact anyone to ask it?
Please contact editor Michael Rafalowich at email@example.com, deputy editor Jennifer Ruther at Jennifer.firstname.lastname@example.org, or publisher Jonathan McReynolds at email@example.com