Skip to main content

Unloved and unappreciated by legal marketers — liked and loved by attorneys — and an awful lot of work. The good news — clients are using the top legal directories more than ever before. They have earned themselves a place in the client/outside counsel vernacular and corporate counsel life. Here are the 11 times clients turn to the top directories and rankings:


Letting clients know who will be part of the pitch is a best practice. Top legal decision makers prefer to be prepared — it shows you are thinking about your potential client. (It sets expectations about client service and how the firm operates.) Clients are likely to check you out on the top directories to prepare themselves — and see who is and isn’t ranked.


This is a reconciliation process. Top legal decision makers compare what your ranking says to your performance in the pitch. A good pitch drives clients to search for you in the leading directories as they want to learn more.

Initial Introductions

Clients will research the top directories to learn more after meeting an impressive attorney from a law firm. Top legal decision makers want to know more about who you are and what they can expect by hiring you. A good personal impression sets an expectation of finding you in the more meaningful rankings.

New Attorney Hire

Once you start work with a new client you are likely to be given another look in the top directories. Think of it as a re-acquaintance. It is a fresh reminder when setting expectations and starting the work.

Attorney Added to the Team

Expect your clients to check out any new attorneys added to their team in a substantive manner. Clients have heightened their interest in making sure their law firms are fielding the absolute best team. The top directories are one of the first steps in making this assessment.

Existing Hires for New Work

55% of clients don’t use RFPs for hiring. These clients make top directories a part of their process. The top directories can serve as a proxy for other peer references when they include client comments.

Mid-Term, Long Assignments

Some matters can extend for months if not years. Clients will look for their attorneys on the top directories — especially during dormant periods — to check in and refresh their thinking about the matter and ensure they still have the best team. In a world of high attorney turnover at law firms, this practice is on the upswing.


Direct reports are often asked to present their recommendations for law firms for high profile, contentious, or sensitive matters. These presentations are to ensure the company is hiring the best firm for the matter. This internal presentation includes the top rankings for the front-running firm(s). Rankings in the top directories are part of the underlying reasons to not only hire a law firm — but justify paying higher rates.

Due Diligence on Opposing Counsel

Sizing up opposing counsel is part of the role of corporate counsel. Some rely on outside counsel while the majority take it upon themselves and expect outside counsel to check them out as well. Clients use this insight to help them assess the nature of the strategy and approach to the matter at hand.

Client Service Failure

When something goes wrong — clients want answers. Only 18% of clients say they receive apologies or see accountability from their law firms. In the absence of ownership — clients head to the directories in search of an answer. A non-ranking serves to justify clients assigning accountability and viewing it as a pattern — a ranking helps frame the failure as an exception. An apology serves as a get-out-of-jail-free card.

Changing Jobs/Companies

36% of corporate counsel are new to their role — they have taken their jobs in the last 2 years. They inherited outside counsel — and only 21% receive any formal outreach or introduction from the law firms they inherit. These newly appointed corporate counsel head to the leading directories to check out their counsel. They form opinions, expectations, and questions to ask to ease into their role. The ranked attorneys with client commentary receive questions about their views on matters at hand — others don’t get this same level engagement level.

Top legal decision makers pick their times and place to dive into a directory. The times above cover a majority. Every client has their own preferred time and place, but they will visit at some point and include the ranking as part of their decision-making journey.

The top directories have slowly and steadily found a place in the law firm client lexicon. It impacts expectations, rates, hiring, and whether law firms are doing right by their clients. Just one more change in the VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity) world as clients tackle the largest caseloads they have ever faced.

Check out the BTI Client Service All-Star Directory to see the only attorneys recognized solely by clients — without prompting — for delivering the best client service. 38,000 top legal decision makers have already checked it out.

Best in the market ahead.

The Mad Clientist

Forwarded to you? Get your own copy every week! Subscribe below.

Keep Ahead of the Market with BTI's Latest Research Order Today!

BTI Practice Outlook 2022
BTI Litigation Outlook 2022
BTI M&A Outlook 2022

News and Events

New! BTI Litigation Outlook 2022:
Post-Pandemic and Beyond
Order Today
BTI M&A Outlook 2022:
A Whole New World of M&A
Order Today