Chambers fights back with client survey

Knowles stands by decision to dump directories; Wheeler defends original report; The Legal 500 remains silent

Chambers & Partners is hitting back at DLA’s decision not to submit entries to legal directories.

Chambers has produced a survey of 68 DLA clients, documenting their attitudes towards its directory. The survey arrives just one week after DLA announced that it wanted to refocus its investment for 2001/2002 into other areas, including the development of its website.

The firm also intends to pull out of The Legal 500 (The Lawyer, 11 December).

The results of the Chambers survey show that 73 per cent of clients do use the directory, 12 per cent might use the directory to identify a particular law firm and only 15 per cent never use the directory.

The survey, which includes quotes from clients, is understood to have been circulated to a number of the top City law firms.

PricewaterhouseCoopers corporate finance and recovery partner Paul Evans says in the report: “I know that Chambers is regarded as a bible of law firms.”

He subsequently told The Lawyer: “I have a copy but I don’t use it. Occasionally I might use it but only for a particular specialism.”

Fiona Stark, head of legal at PowerGen, is quoted in the results of the survey as saying: “I use it as a restaurant guide.” However, she tells The Lawyer that her statement means that she flicks through it from time to time.

The survey also addresses criticism made by the Wheeler Associates report published last year (The Lawyer, 1 November 1999).

Commenting on the survey, Chambers’ editor Michael Chambers says: “The results speak for themselves. I would have thought that DLA would be interested in this information.

“Why are they pulling out of a directory that most of the law firms use? It is an extraordinary thing to do.”

But DLA managing partner Nigel Knowles stands by his decision. “All we have done is take a decision which is right for DLA. Our decision is determined by our desire to prioritise our resources in order to continually improve our service to clients,” he says.

Chambers also wants to reverse the message given by the Wheeler report which casts doubt on the usefulness of directories.

He says that Kevin Wheeler, the author of the report, has misinterpreted his own research.

He says that it is a myth that the report denigrated Chambers and points out that when asked specifically whether they use legal directories, 50 per cent of respondents said yes.

However, Wheeler says that the final question in his report speaks for itself. “Only 5 per cent of respondents say Chambers is very useful,” he says. “That sums up my point.”

Knowles says: “I am rather surprised by Michael Chambers’ reaction and very troubled by the thought that our clients have been used by him for his purposes.”

But Chambers says: “When we were conducting our research we distinguished between clients that are confidential and clients that are not and we only rang clients that are not confidential.”

Again, The Legal 500 refused to comment.

see letter, page 17