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How-to Chambers: USA 2022 FAQs

The Chambers USA team answer all of the questions from the How to Chambers: USA 2022 webinar which was attended by over 900 legal professionals, offering fantastic insights into all areas of a submission and rankings to help your firm submit and rank successfully.

Published on 6 July 2021
Written by Vian Chowdhury, Zahra Damji, James Haggerty, Joseph Chapman, Maddy Vincent, Alek Tomasevic and Jane Pasquali
Vian Chowdhury
Zahra Damji
James Haggerty
Joseph Chapman
Madeira Vincent
Alek Tomasevic
Jane Pasquali

Ranking questions

You mentioned that there is a correlation between the number of lawyers ranked & the firm's ranking. How does this work for smaller, boutique firms, who may have fewer attorneys, but a more niche practice in the department than larger firms? 

Bench strength is just one of the factors we take into account when deciding on departmental rankings, which also include the sophistication of work and quality of feedback. We do recognize that smaller firms may have fewer lawyers in that space but might be doing a higher quality of work and receiving more effusive feedback which will merit a higher ranking. We try very hard to ensure that firms are not being penalised in the rankings because of the size of their firm.  

Can you talk about the Highly Regarded and Elite categories in some practice areas? 

We have previously 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. There are a few more tables we have restructured this cycle to also fit this model. This is something we’ve done where we wish to provide the most extensive and useful coverage we can for particularly competitive markets, and gives us the opportunity to provide more helpful coverage while still recognising the overall complexity of mandates handled, bench size and dedication to this space. 

In sections where we have done this, 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. As these terms apply to different practice areas, there isn’t a set definition for what makes a firm Elite versus Highly Regarded. In some transactional tables, it will be more to do with the size of mandates handled and be more representative of midmarket vs higher end deals. In general, though, it was devised through our overall assessment of the factors outlined above. 

Any tips for increasing Band ranking or getting ranked when submitting for the first time? 

We consider a number of different factors when deciding on a firm's ranking, including the sophistication of work, bench strength and the quality of client feedback and market commentary. None of these factors are more important than another but the rankings are a comparative exercise and we will usually look at how a firm's work, feedback and bench strength overall compare with the other firms ranked in the section. A firm will usually move up if the evidence suggests that the firm's overall offering in that area is comparable to those ranked in the Band above.  

How long can an attorney be ranked Up and Coming? 

Generally, we will rank someone as Up & Coming for around 2 years, but this time frame might be longer or shorter depending on how their work and feedback compare to the lawyers recognized in the Bands.  

Is the submission, referees and peer feedback weighted equally or is one or more given more weight? 

There is no official weighting given to any of the factors. The ranking decisions are made by looking at these different factors together, but there is no catch all approach we take for every category.   

We place such a high emphasis on client feedback because it is so reliable – we are speaking to people who have recent experience working with the firm and can give an honest assessment as to the quality of the client service, which is what we are trying to reflect in our rankings. Ultimately, if a client says one thing and a market peer says another thing, we are going to go with the client.  

The work is key because you could have clients saying incredibly nice things about a firm, but if the work they are handling doesn’t compare favourably to that of the others in the rankings, it doesn’t make sense to rank them in the higher bands.  

Market feedback, i.e. feedback from non-clients, is probably the most challenging to assess, because we are always trying to determine how reliable someone’s feedback is. Some lawyers may have a hidden agenda to try to further their own cause, which we have to guard against. Instead, we look for themes in the market feedback we receive and ignore anything that we consider to be an isolated comment or unreliable. There are occasions when market feedback can be incredibly useful and will have a significant impact on the rankings, however we will always be assessing the context within which it is being provided. 

Is there a typical number of years of experience Chambers looks for in candidates in the "Up and Comers" category? 

Generally speaking, lawyers with less than twenty years’ experience will be considered for the Up & Coming ranking, although not everyone with that level of experience will be automatically considered for U and might instead go into the Bands immediately depending on the sophistication of their work, level of activity and the quality of feedback they are receiving.  

What do you look for individual recognitions? If there are multiple high-profile practitioners for the same submission area, what criteria do you prioritize? 

When ranking individual lawyers, we look at the sophistication of their work, their referee and market feedback and their level of activity. There is no limit on how many individual lawyers can be ranked at a particular firm. We look at each lawyer separately to decide if their work and feedback are sufficient to be ranked, and how highly, regardless of any other lawyers at the firm who are being considered for ranking.  

Is it possible for a lawyer to be selected for the same practice area but in two different jurisdictions? 

As things stand, we recognize attorneys in the state in which they are based. Attorneys splitting time between offices will generally be considered on the basis of their primary office, unless we feel they split their time equally or are sufficiently well known in both markets to justify a ranking. It is taken on a case by case basis. We will, of course, consider the work they are doing outside of the state when assessing their rankings, and we have a number of nationwide sections for a variety of practice areas to rank attorneys on a national level. 

What are the criteria to consider and rank attorneys as "up and coming"? 

The Up & Coming ranking recognizes lawyers who do not yet have an established reputation but who are still key contributors to their firm's growth. We use the same factors to consider lawyers for the Up & Coming ranking, I.e. sophistication of work, client commentary and market commentary, however, we would not expect lawyers we are considering for the Up & Coming designation to be leading as many complex mandates, or have as much visibility among the market, as the lawyers ranked in the Bands. 

Can lawyers be ranked in two different practice areas? 

Yes, lawyers can be ranked in two different practice areas.  

Is Senior Statesperson a higher ranking than Band 1? 

The Senior Statesperson ranking is not higher than a Band 1 ranking. It can be considered a comparable ranking to Band 1, however, given that lawyers need to meet a robust set of criteria to be recognised as a Senior Statesperson.  

Referee contacting questions

Are referees interviewed via email, phone or both? 

Our researchers will initially contact referees by email and will offer them the choice to respond either via email or to schedule a phone call. 

If another firm includes the same referee, will you not contact that referee? 

Generally speaking, we will contact referees once every three months or so once we are on research. When we make contact with a referee, we will ask them about all referring firms they have been put forward to discuss in both the current and previous US research cycles. This is regardless of practice area and location. Our researchers will then make this feedback available to all other relevant researchers using our centralised system for storing referee feedback. 

What % of referees do you typically get to connect with? 

The percentage of referees we connect with is so variable from firm to firm, section to section and year to year that it’s not something we can really give an accurate number for and even if we could, it wouldn’t be a helpful guide for what counts as an average referee response rate as it is so variable. 

Do you still keep reference feedback from year's past to help with current rankings? Is it worth listing them again year on year or can we assume last year's feedback will be taken into consideration? 

It can be helpful for us to speak to referees we have previously interviewed where they have continued to work with a firm, so that we can get their most up-to-date views about that firm. However, we’d encourage firms to switch up their referee lists where possible to prevent referees from becoming fatigued with the Chambers process, and to ensure that we have wide range of referee feedback. We do sometimes refer to feedback from previous years to inform our ranking decisions, particularly where there are repeating themes in the feedback, however we will always use the most recent referee feedback as an indicator of the firm’s current strength in a section. 

Does Chambers contact every referee listed on submissions, or do they select only a few to contact? 

We do contact all of a firm’s referees by email unless the firm has provided more than the maximum twenty referees allowed per subsection, in which case we will contact a random twenty. The only exception is where a referee has asked Chambers not to contact them again, but this is very rare. 

Submission questions

If our firm has never been ranked and does not have a Chambers account, how do we begin our process to submit for the first time in this year's chambers submission? 

Welcome to the wonderful world of Chambers submissions. The process can seem challenging to navigate without prior experience, but we are keen to make this as accessible and inclusive as possible.

Our website provides guidance on how to complete a submission form and referee spreadsheet, as well as the templates we would encourage you to use. We would also love to speak to anyone new to this process and would welcome any questions you may have. You can get in touch with us at [email protected] and find more information on the US editorial team here

What is the strategy behind having individuals or whole practices ranked?  how do we spotlight both in our submission? 

The majority of our sections will include rankings for both individual attorneys and firms, although there are some exceptions to this. Firms will usually need to upload just one submission document and referee spreadsheet to each section, which will cover both the individual attorneys and the practice as a whole. We will then review these looking for both individual attorneys we could rank and evidence for a firm ranking. The submission template gives you the chance to highlight the practice’s strengths (section B10) as well as signposting us to the particular attorneys we should consider for ranking (section B9). You would then need to ensure that the work highlights included are representative of the practice’s best matters in the last year while also showcasing matters handled by the attorneys you are singling out for ranking attention. Likewise, it’s a good idea to ensure that the referees put forward include those who can speak to the team as a whole as well as the individual attorneys within the practice. Including referees who have direct experience with more than one attorney within the team is a good way of maximising the space available on the referee spreadsheet.    

Is the diversity section required? 

We would strongly encourage firms to complete the diversity statistics section of the submission document, as this provides us with much more useful context for our research. If it is not possible for you to complete this on a practice by practice basis, you can provide the firm-wide statistics using the survey link included on the submission template. 

What are you looking for in the matter value field? 

This will vary according to the section in question and the sort of work you are including. For transactional sections, the matter value would usually be the value of the transaction itself. In contentious sections, the value would be representative of the size of the dispute and what was at stake. If the work completed was advisory, it may not be relevant to include a matter value.  

How do you define the cross border in US?  another state or another country? 

We would define this as work involving other countries rather than other states. We do look for strength across states when we’re ranking firms at nationwide level, but the cross-border heading within work highlights on our submission template refers directly to other countries. We also acknowledge that this is only relevant to certain practice areas and markets, and so we would not be looking for cross-border expertise as a prerequisite for ranking in most of our tables.  

Does it disadvantage a firm to submit mostly confidential matters? 

We will review all matters included on a submission for ranking purposes, whether listed as confidential or publishable. There is no disadvantage to including mostly confidential matters as long as these are still provided with enough relevant detail for us to be able to thoroughly assess them.  

Should we submit submissions on all departments and lawyers each year? If a department/lawyer is currently recognized, should we resubmit a submission? 

Yes, we would encourage lawyers and firms to submit each year if possible. We assess the rankings anew each cycle and having a submission providing 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). 

What is the time period for which we can submit matters this year? 

You should aim to include matters that have taken place within the 12 months preceding the submission deadline. They do not have to have closed or started within that time, but we'd expect significant work on the matter in question to have taken place.   

This is not a hard and fast rule, so if an important matter closed outside of that window you are able to include it. We are flexible on this, especially considering the ongoing challenges COVID-19 poses. However, your focus should be matters that have been handled within the 12 months leading to the submission deadline. 

Are there any major differences to this year's submission versus last year? 

There are no major differences to this year’s submission template. There are two additional options included, which are detailed below: 

  • The option to provide firm-wide diversity statistics using a survey link included on the template 
  • The option to provide more context in situations in which an attorney is less present on the submission due to a change in personal circumstances. For more information, please see our leave policy

Is it necessary to provide 20 work highlights?  Put another way, if we think 10 highlights reflect well what we have done over the past year, is it necessary to provide an additional 10? 

We would always recommend making the most of the space on the submission by including the full 20 work highlights, as most firms will take this approach and it gives you the opportunity to present more mandates for us to assess. This would however still mean presenting the strongest and most relevant work undertaken by the team, and so if there is a situation in which there are fewer than 20 matters that fall in that category, we would recommend submitting these without bulking the document out by including less relevant or significant matters.   

If we have one attorney ranked in a state, do we need to submit a complete submission (20 matters/20 referees)? 

You can still use the full 20 matters and referees in this situation, but it’s certainly not obligatory to do so. We would also suggest using the B10 section of the submission document to tell us that the submission is just directed at one individual. 

For partners who joined our firm in the last year, are we able to include matter highlights for work done at their prior firm? 

Where a lawyer has moved firms in the last year, you can include work they undertook at their previous firm but please ensure that it is clear in the submission that the work was done during their time at another firm.  

When is the diversity survey due? 

You can submit the Diversity Survey anytime before the final ranking deadline (which is 2nd December 2021). 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

Outside of the paid report/Insight, how can we learn more about either department submission or an individual attorney's information and how that submission can be improved/what it's lacking? 

The US deputy editors will still provide limited feedback on submissions. Please get in touch with the relevant individual and they will be able to assist.  

Once Chambers listed must submissions be completed every year? 

Yes, we would encourage lawyers and firms to submit each year if possible. We assess the rankings anew each year and having a submission providing recent evidence of the lawyer's work and 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). 

Can we include more than 10 publishable clients if we decrease the number of confidential clients for a total of 20 

You can divide them up as you wish, as long as the total number of clients listed in the submission does not exceed 20.  

If we consistently have the same attorneys on the list, should we diversify and highlight other attorneys/references that can speak about others on the team to hopefully highlight new attorneys in the rankings? 

It is often worthwhile to include more highlights & references of non-ranked lawyers compared to the more established, already ranked lawyers. This is not to say that those who are already ranked need none of their highlights showcased or references put forward, but replacing some of their highlights and/or references with those of others who are yet to be ranked is a good way of potentially boosting the profiles of non-ranked lawyers.  

The form in the past has only allowed for 10 publishable and 10 confidential. We can really do 5 and 15? 

Yes, as long as the total number of highlights don’t exceed 20, you can split them up as you wish, e.g. 5 publishable matters and 15 confidential ones, instead of 10 of each. Please include all confidential matters in section E. 

Is it preferable to submit a limited amount of matters that have significant resolutions or make sure that 20 are filed? 

It is best to include the full 20 work highlights, regardless of whether the matters have significant resolutions or not. 

Will an attorney not working full time affect ranking potential? 

In terms of lawyers who work part time in general, yes, they can be considered for a ranking.  

Do we need to provide physical addresses for our referees or will email/phone information be good enough as long as we use the referee template? 

It is best to include all the required information in the referee spreadsheet, however if that is not possible, please do include at least the email address and phone number.  

If a section’s matters are within a state area, but there is no geographic section available, is it appropriate to submit for nationwide? 

This depends on the section in question. Please contact the relevant US deputy editor for clarification on the specific section.  

If the department I am submitting for has multiple matters for a single client, can I consolidate these into one listing, or would you prefer me to submit each matter individually. 

This depends on the section in question. For sections such as M&A and Capital Markets, we accept multiple, similar highlights for the same client being consolidated into one work highlight. For other sections, such as Litigation, it is best to split the work highlights out individually. Please contact the relevant US deputy editor for clarification on what is best for your specific section.  

Nationwide referee questions

What was the reasoning behind the decision to remove references from nationwide submissions? 

  • During the US 2021 research cycle, we trialled the approach of removing the option to submit referees for certain nationwide sections. These were sections that traditionally drew heavily from our existing state coverage, and were usually researched towards the end of the cycle. 
  • We always placed a significant emphasis on feedback from state-wide categories when ranking many of our nationwide tables. Nationwide referees would largely ‘top up’ the feedback we received elsewhere, although we found that response rates were generally lower than average, as people were less available to talk to us around the holiday season.  
  • As a result of this new approach, researching these tables was made more efficient by removing what often resulted in a duplication of efforts, allowing more time for a comprehensive analysis of the submissions put forward. We will therefore be continuing with this in the upcoming US 2022 research cycle. Please note that this does not apply to all nationwide sections, as some are researched without drawing extensively from state research. 

Where can I find a list of sections that this applies to? 

The sections that we will not be accepting referees for are listed below: 

  • Nationwide Antitrust  
  • Nationwide Antitrust: Plaintiffs  
  • Nationwide Banking & Finance  
  • Nationwide Bankruptcy/Restructuring  
  • Nationwide Construction  
  • Nationwide Corporate Crime & Investigations  
  • Nationwide Corporate 
  • Nationwide Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation  
  • Nationwide Environment  
  • Nationwide False Claims Act  
  • Nationwide Healthcare  
  • Nationwide Insurance: Dispute Resolution: Insurer  
  • Nationwide Insurance: Dispute Resolution: Policyholder  
  • Nationwide Insurance: Dispute Resolution: Reinsurance  
  • Nationwide Insurance: Transactional & Regulatory  
  • Nationwide Intellectual Property  
  • Nationwide Intellectual Property: Trademark, Copyright & Trade Secrets  
  • Nationwide Labor & Employment  
  • Nationwide Litigation: Trial Lawyers  
  • Nationwide Private Equity: Buyouts 
  • Nationwide Real Estate  
  • Nationwide Securities Litigation  
  • Nationwide Securities Litigation: Mainly Plaintiff  
  • Nationwide Tax: Corporate & Finance 

Are there other practice areas for which we don’t need to include referees? 

We would encourage you to submit referees as usual along with your submissions for all Chambers USA sections outside of those nationwide tables noted above. 

Does this mean we need to submit referees to the state sections that feed into the nationwide sections you’re no longer accepting them for? 

  • We would strongly encourage firms to upload both submissions and referee spreadsheets to state sections that inform these nationwide tables. We have always looked for firms to be performing well in key states when considering them for nationwide ranking - there are exceptions to this, for example if our practice area coverage didn’t extend to states where a firm is based, but usually we would need evidence of state rankings. 
  • Submitting to the corresponding state sections will give us access to more client commentary and should also continue to shore up the state rankings, which then feed into the nationwide ranking decisions. If necessary, it’s possible to just submit referee spreadsheets rather than submissions as well. 

Do we need to still upload the written submissions to nationwide if you’re no longer accepting referees for that section? 

  • Yes, we would definitely advise putting together a written submission specifically for nationwide. You can use the same submission template to this.  
  • This will give you the opportunity to highlight your strongest nationwide work in terms of both geographical scope and complexity. We appreciate that some of this will have already been included on the state submissions, and so replicating your best work on your nationwide submission is completely fine. There may also be new matters or updates that you are only in a position to provide by the time we get to the nationwide deadlines. 

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