The Times has today launched its inaugural "Best Law Firms 2019' directory as it attempts to tap into the lucrative legal directories market.
The directory, says The Times in a kick to The Lawyer and Legal Business, aims to move away from the obsession with financial performance and focus on what lawyers think themselves, apparently forgetting the weighty and worthy efforts from The Legal 500 and Chambers.
So what does the list look like?
Well, topping the list, a little like yesterday's Yellow Pages, is Aardvark Planning Law. Who? A boutique planning firm in Northampton, apparently. Congratulations to Aardvark Planning Law, but does anyone outside of the Northampton real estate world really care?
The A-Z listing is, to be fair to The Times, not perhaps the best way to use the list. Searching by legal discipline is the way forward.
But even here, the results are disappointing. We are told that Withers, for example, is the best law firm for 'Inheritance and Succession (congrats to Withers), but not why.
The description of the firm looks like a second rate lift from its website. No individuals named, no explanation of why, just a few old cases and some history.
The 'Best Law Firms 2019' completely fails to understand how people buy legal services. Expertise is important, but so to is location. If I live and work in Sheffield, I am not going to use a London firm for my divorce or to buy a crinkly shed in Bristol.
As much as The Legal 500 and Chambers are criticised, they provide the information buyers of legal services genuinely do find helpful.
The Times Law pages is the home of first class journalism - it is unrivalled and essential reading across the profession, across the UK and around the world. Its 'Best Law Firms 2019' fails to meet that high standard, and that is disappointing. Leave the directories to the experts.
Lawyers and their law firms are constantly being assessed and ranked by trade magazines or directories that seem to concoct a fresh league table every month. Those ratings are mostly obsessed with financial performance: which firm has hauled in the most revenue? Which individuals are wheelbarrowing home the most cash? However, no one has ever asked UK lawyers what they think of themselves — until now. The Times today launches its inaugural Best Law Firms guide, the lawyers’ own view of their competitors. The 200 law firms cited online are the lawyers’ lawyers in England and Wales. The list is entirely peer-selected and based on a simple question: other than your own firm, which practice would you instruct in this area of work? To find out the answers The Times teamed with the specialist business researchers Statista.