How-to Chambers: USA 2023 FAQs

The Chambers USA team answer all of the questions from the USA 2023 'How to Chambers' webinar. In case there is anything you're unsure of regarding submissions, referees or research timelines here is a list of answers to the most frequently asked questions.
Just in case you missed it, you can rewatch the webinar here

Published on 16 September 2022

Referee Questions

Why do some nationwide sections not require referees?

This approach has been applied where we receive a high level of feedback at state level for core sections that we have in the majority of states, such as banking, construction and environment. The feedback from the referees collected at state level is taken into consideration when we make our ranking decisions for the relevant nationwide sections. By way of example, a firm hoping to receive a nationwide ranking for Banking & Finance should submit to the state Banking & Finance table where its department is located and pursue a ranking there. When making our ranking decisions in the nationwide Banking & Finance table, we review the feedback that firm has received in the state section where it has submitted, and any other relevant feedback it may have received in other states during the course of our research.  For all of these sections we do not accept referee lists at the nationwide level, but we would recommend still submitting a written submission so that it serves to highlight the firm's best work across all of its departments across the USA. 

You can find the list of nationwide firms which do not accept referees here.

For the sections which do not accept referees such as Antitrust, Construction etc. is that only for the national level or for the state level as well?

It is only at the nationwide level that sections like antitrust and construction do not accept client referees. At the state level these sections are still accepting referees and we strongly encourage firms to upload both submissions and referee spreadsheets.   

Is submitting referees ok for a lawyer we wish to highlight in a nationwide practice area that does not accept referees?

For nationwide sections not accepting referees, firms should check whether we rank individuals in the relevant table and upload work highlights for those individuals in the specific nationwide submission. In terms of feedback for these sections, the state-level feedback for the individuals will be taken into account during the nationwide research.

What if the majority of the clients fall under the sections that do not accept referees?

It is only a select number of Nationwide sections that do not accept referees. We would recommend submitting those clients to the relevant state section. If a department is located in Texas, but handles work across the United States, the referees should be submitted to the Texas section. Chambers ranks departments and attorneys in the state in which they are located, not where the work is located.  

Is there a template for the referee form?

You can find the referee form on the main submissions page here

When must referees be submitted to Chambers?

Referees must be submitted by the given section's deadline. These can be found on the research schedule

Do researchers typically reach out to referees via phone or email?

Our researchers will initially contact referees by email and will offer them the choice to schedule a phone call or complete an online survey. 

When we ask our referees to look out for a feedback request from Chambers, should we give them the name of the researcher?

We recommend that you do not suggest to referees to check for a specific researcher, but rather look for an email address. This is because they may be a referee for multiple sections, in which case they might be contacted by a researcher investigating a different section to the one you have submitted them for. Every email comes directly from a researcher, not a generic mailbox. 

What if our referees haven't been contacted by the end of the research period? Is there a way for contacts to affirmatively provide feedback if they didn't get or can't find the email?

In situations where a referee is telling you that they were expecting to hear from us and they haven't, and it seems that recontacting from our end isn't working, it's possible for you to give the referee the direct email address of the researcher. We ask that you run this by the researcher and them know to expect contact.

If you do decide to do this, it is best if you ask the referee to get in touch to initiate the conversation with the researcher, rather than providing feedback upfront. We want to make sure that the referees have the opportunity to fully participate in the process, and for our researchers to ask them questions that will lead to valuable, helpful feedback. In addition, we also want to make sure that all of a referee's cross referrals are covered, which might not be possible if they just email in their appraisal without first speaking with the researcher.

How many referees am I allowed to submit? Is there a minimum number of referees per submission?

The maximum number of referees per submission area for this research cycle is 30. This is a new increased limit brand new for USA 2023. It is not compulsory to submit 30 referees nor is there a minimum number required. 

Will you be able to send reminder feedback emails to any referees that have flagged they have not received the original email?

We cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so for all sections but where our researchers have time in their schedules and depending on the progress of the research, we aim to follow up with a phone call or email at the halfway point.

We do understand that emails get lost, accidentally deleted, or even caught up in spam filters, so if referees have not received the original email the best thing to do is to contact the assigned researcher. You can find which researcher is assigned to each section on the research schedule. We'd ask that you collate the names and email addresses of the clients who cannot locate a Chambers email and send this information to the researcher while research is still underway.

Who are considered among the ideal candidates for referees?

The ideal referee is a client who is able to provide informed opinions on the legal providers they're working with, but also has the time to provide that feedback. We find that referees like GCs, CLOs and CEOs are often difficult to pin down. However, referees such as Deputy/Associate GCs and even corporate or litigation counsel often have greater flexibility, and potentially greater insight into their external legal teams, including junior partners and associates.

When selecting your referees, it's normally best that all of them are clients. However, if you do have the space to include additional referees, such as in regulatory sections where clients are often disinclined to agree to be listed or areas where you're only submitting for a smaller group, you can consider including legal professionals as referees. Appropriate options include co-counsel, local-counsel, opposing-counsel, mediators, arbitrators, expert witnesses, and other legal professionals. 

Are we able to find out which referees have responded?

We do not reveal the names of the referees we have and haven't spoken to. We interview everyone on a confidential basis and take great care in protecting our sources. However, you are welcome to check in with our researchers at the halfway point and at the end of the research period to collect anonymized overall response rates. If you have access to the Referee Management tool you will be able to review outreach status of your referees. 

Is there a possibility of referees will not be contacted because another firm already listed that referee, and they are only contacted every 3 months?

Generally speaking, we will contact referees once every three months while US research is underway. When we make contact with a referee, we ask them about all the referring firms they have been put forward by. This includes referrals in both the current and previous US research cycles. This is irrespective of practice area and location. Our researchers make this feedback available to all other relevant researchers using our centralized system for storing referee feedback. 

We exercise our judgement and in certain situations recontact referees we believe would be happy to speak to us again. We always do what we can to make sure our outreach is as flexible as possible without asking your clients to give up too much of their valuable time.

Can we send our referees a link to contact the researcher?

Links to researcher calendars and links to Chambers online surveys are unique to each referee. It isn't possible to provide a general link. If your clients are expecting to hear from us but can't find an email, please see this answer.

Attorneys are sometimes reluctant to give their referee's phone numbers. Is that required information? Will you still reach out with just the email address?

Yes, we will still reach out to referees with just an email address provided. Standard practice for Chambers research is to contact referees via email in the first instance. 

When you contact a reference, do you ask them about their experience with all the firms that have listed them, or just our firm, and then call them back for other firms?

In order to keep our interactions with individual client referees as time efficient as possible, we discuss their experiences with all firms and all practice areas they are referred for in one call.

What if a referee listed in two separate categories due several months apart?

In these instances, the referee is asked about all the firms and practice areas they have been referred in connection with. The researcher conducting that interview then make that feedback available to all other relevant researchers.

Questions regarding the structure of tables and rankings

What is the difference between Elite and Highly Regarded sections?

We have employed the structure of an Elite and Highly Regarded table for firm rankings in a few different tables, including New York Litigation: General Commercial and Corporate/M&A. This is something we've done where we wish to provide the most extensive and useful coverage we can for particularly competitive markets. It gives us the opportunity to provide more helpful coverage while still recognizing the overall complexity of mandates handled, bench size and dedication to this space. 

Where we have made Elite and Highly Regarded splits each firm previously ranked and submitting to be ranked was assessed on the same comparative factors we have always considered, including the sophistication and relevance of work, the bench depth for this area, the sophistication of client base, and the level and quality of client and wider market commentary. We've then allocated the rankings into either Elite or Highly Regarded based on our analysis of these factors and where we felt the practice was best aligned. What makes a firm Elite versus Highly Regarded differs in each practice area and jurisdiction; in some transactional tables for example, it will be more to do with the size of mandates handled and representative of midmarket vs higher end deals. In general, Elite and Highly Regarded splits are decided through our overall assessment of the factors outlined above.

Would you explain the difference between Bands 1, 2 and 3?

Depending on the nature of the section, law firms and individual lawyers are ranked in bands from 1 (highest)-6 (lowest). When placing individuals into the bands we review the work they have been handling as well as the referee and peer feedback we have received. Once we have analyzed all of this data we compare practitioners across the market. Of course, any Chambers ranking is an indicator of a high-quality practice.

Diversity & Inclusion Questions

Does the diversity information impact the overall ranking?

The diversity information included on the submission will not impact the overall ranking of the firm and there's absolutely no penalty for not participating in the D&I survey. The information is for our internal use in order to assess if our rankings accurately reflect the makeup of the firms in a given area.

Where is the Diversity survey located and when it is due?

You can submit the Diversity Survey any time before the final ranking deadline. We would generally prefer that firms provide the D&I information by department on each of the submissions, however if that information is not available on a departmental basis, then you can submit on a firm-wide basis using the Diversity Survey, which can be found here.

Firm Interview Questions

Can we request that our firm is interviewed for a practice area?

Unfortunately, we're not able to interview all firms submitting to be ranked or who are currently ranked, as we prioritize speaking with clients as much as possible. We select individual attorneys to speak with in order to reflect the breadth and diversity of this market and do try to vary which firms we interview every year. With that in mind, firms are not able to request an interview, although those that submit a submission document are prioritized for a call with a researcher. 

Referee Management Tool Questions

How will the new referee management tool work in the portal?

Referee Management will be live and accessible for customers with a Profile Platform subscription from mid-July, ahead of the start of the USA 2023 Guide research cycle which begins in early August.

The tool will provide greater transparency, create efficiencies and save customer's time. The tool provides regular updates on our progress in reaching out and successfully making contact with referees. It also gives clarity on what you can do in order to maximise referee response rates. 

The independence and non-attributable nature of our conversations with referees continue to be 100% protected. The tool will keep the details of whether we ultimately interview a referee once we are in contact with them, and the content of any discussions, confidential and private. 

If you would be interested in finding out more detail about the Referee Management product, please register your interest via this form and one of our team will be pleased to get back to you. 

Research Schedule Questions

Where is the schedule for submission dates for individuals?

You can find our Research Schedule here. All submissions are made on behalf of law firm departments as opposed to on an individual basis. Anyone who wishes to be considered for a ranking, this could be an entire department or just one individual should be included on the standard submission form. If you only wish to submit for an individual attorney, you need only complete the relevant parts of the submission form

Is the Research Schedule posted on the same date every year?

While the research schedule is not released at the exact same point each year, we strive to publish it as soon as we are able in the spring prior to the research period. This allows firms plenty of time to produce submissions and referee lists.

When will Chambers Researchers be assigned to sections for 2023 submissions?

For every section, the research schedule will be updated with a new status when research begins, so it's a good idea to check in regularly around the start of each month. If you have any questions about this during the research process, or something hasn't updated as you've expected, please reach out to one of the US Research Managers and we'll be happy to advise.

Submission Questions

If you were ranked in 2022, do you need to resubmit for 2023?

Yes, we do encourage lawyers and firms to submit each year if possible. As we assess the rankings anew each cycle, having a new submission that provides recent evidence of the lawyer's work alongside referee feedback allows us to make more informed decisions about whether a lawyer or firm should remain in the rankings (and also may increase their chances of moving into a higher band).

Has the submission form changed?

You can find the latest USA submission documents here. There are no significant changes to the written submission forms this year You can now submit an extra 10 referees per practice area up to the new limit of 30. 

Is it detrimental to the submission if most of our matters are confidential?

We review all matters included on a submission for ranking purposes, whether they are listed as confidential or publishable. It is not detrimental to include mostly confidential matters as long as there is still enough relevant detail for us to be able to make a thorough assessment. 

Should a separate submission be made for each jurisdiction and practice area?

Yes, separate submissions should be made for each jurisdiction and practice area. We do appreciate that work sometimes overlaps between sections and across jurisdictions, and in cases like this you are able to include the same matters in multiple submissions.

How many lawyers should we focus on in our submission?

When thinking about which, and how many attorneys to include, it's unlikely that referees and work highlights spread thinly across multiple attorneys will result in immediate individual rankings, although evidence of a deep bench will be taken into account towards departmental rankings. It can sometimes be more effective to focus on four or five attorneys. If, for instance, there remains a star rainmaker who is comfortably well-positioned, then it can be useful to reallocate some of their referees and work highlights to those you feel may be under-ranked.

How important is it to include a matter's value on the submission?

Matter values are an important metric to gauge the significance of work highlights. Of course, we understand that they will not be applicable to all practice areas, such as white-collar litigation, but for commercial sections the matter value provides the firm an opportunity to showcase the significance of the matters on which it has worked. We should stress that the matter value where possible should demonstrate the value of the specific work undertaken by the team, rather than overall project value.

Is there a specific weighting given to the submission vs. the referees when making a ranking decision?

No, there is no specific weighting given to any one of the various elements of Chambers research. All our ranking decisions holistically consider all the available information.

How can we include an attorney from another state/office in our submission if they are the only attorney in that office/state?

We would recommend submitting for the relevant state in which that attorney works. We only rank lawyers in the state section corresponding to where they practice. If you are just submitting for one individual attorney, you need only complete the relevant parts of the standard submission form.

For National Submissions that are based on state submissions, if we submit directly for the national ranking, should that submission include our strongest work highlights from our state submissions?

Yes, those submissions should showcase the best work being handled by the firm across the country. 

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