Directories under fire for wasting firms' millions

Law firms are squandering millions of pounds on supporting legal directories, according to a new survey of in-house lawyers.

The shock study will provide ammunition to the growing band of law firms fed up with the huge cost of marketing themselves in directories.

Some City firms are known to be planning a boycott of the directories. One marketing director from a magic circle firm says: “We have had several discussions with other firms over the past year about pulling out. It is just such a waste of time and resources.”

Researchers believe the top 20 firms each spend up to £100,000 a year on such publications.

The report reveals that just 5 per cent of respondents felt directories were “very important” when selecting law firms for advice; nearly half said they were “not important at all or not very important”.

According to the survey, by market researchers Wheeler Associates, only two directories – Chambers & Partners and The Legal 500 – are used on a regular basis. More than 39 per cent of businesses used Chambers when deciding which firms to approach for specialist advice, and 30 per cent referred to The Legal 500.

Deborah Morgan, global head of legal at Barclays Capital, says: “I don't use a legal directory unless it is a specialist subject. It is pretty rare for us to even look at them.

“We tend to rely on our panel to provide us with everything we need to outsource.”

John Fenwick, head of group legal services at investment group Amec, says: “Word of mouth is more important. If you are dealing with a legal department that is experienced the chances are they will know who to use. I would rather speak to a lawyer I know. I generally only use reference books overseas.”

Stephen Cantle, chairman of Kennedys, says: “I have spoken to a number of my clients about the benefits from directories. Their response, without exception, is they don't use them and they don't derive any benefit from them.”

Cantle says the same happens in his office: “Directories are impressive looking and something to keep on the shelf. But most of mine still have the wrapping on.”

Mark Cusick, publishing legal director of The Legal 500, says in a previous survey IT clients ranked directories in joint second place with websites as a source. Word of mouth advice came first.

Chambers was unavailable for comment.