Chambers, an independent research company, conducts a series of in-depth interviews with clients and lawyers each year. Quotes from these interviews are interspersed with numerical rankings, and the performance of practice groups and individual lawyers is ranked in bands 1—6 by the survey, with 1 being the best.
Individual lawyer performance is also ranked in the annual survey. Mallesons led the pack with 25 individual lawyers ranking in the top band. Blake Dawson had 19 top-ranked lawyers, while Allens and Freehills had 17 and 15 respectively. See graph: ‘Chambers Global survey top ranking firms and practitioners: 2008’.
So what does it all mean? As one lawyer listed in the guide told Lawyers Weekly last week, there’s an air of “black magic” to Chambers Global guide. Mallesons partner David Friedlander said that the survey is an important source of client feedback for the firm, and the firm reads closely into the rather general, and occasionally cryptic, commentary.
“What we’ve done is we’ve really focused on the subtleties to see whether they have started a trend,” he explained.
“For example, a couple of years ago we noticed in the survey that we were getting really good praise for legal work but not as much praise for just general client service. And so we really put a lot of effort into client service. We actually place a lot of emphasis on the subtlety of the feedback.”
The impact of the Qantas takeover bid on the rankings highlights the qualitative nature of the Global Chambers survey. The lawyers concerned can take heart, even if their clients’ weren’t overjoyed with the outcome (the bid fell over in May 2007), they must have had plenty of positive things to say about their service. All three firms credited with involvement (Mallesons, Allens and Freehills) achieved a number one ranking for Corporate/M&A representation. See box: Mallesons flying high on Qantas bid.
Friedlander said the strong survey results came as no surprise to Mallesons, and represent an incremental upwards trend. “Generally year-on-year you won’t have major changes in these types of surveys, it’s very rare that a firm will go from being at one level one year and then completely [leap] another.”
The top ranking of 25 lawyers from Mallesons in the survey confirmed Friedlander’s own views the firms’ key strength, its depth of talent. “We’ve always thought that some of the other firms have a few real stars, but that we have a broad team of high quality. That’s always been our own perception,” Friedlander said. “What’s interesting is that a few years ago … there was a comment in Chambers that said that the firm has a ‘deeper bench’. And that subtlety meant a lot to us because … it was reflecting back to us what we felt about our own team.”