This if the time of year that several legal directories are published.  It leads to an inevitable pattern of behaviour.  Thanks to law lecturer John Bates we can all now understand the coded language of the legal directory.


As soon as the directories are published there is a regular, if not repetitive pattern:

The official press release

As soon as the directory comes out the PR people at the firm or chambers get immediately to work.

“We are pleased to announce that we are, again, in the top five firms in Casterbridge specialising in poultry and and associated hen laying disputes”.

The legal journalist’s travails

Every one of the firms and chambers mentioned in the directories immediately sends of press releases to the legal press.  This has been described as “John Hyde’s annual tweet” (I have seen more or less identical tweets from Neil Rose of Litigation Futures.

Dear lawyers. Firstly, delighted for you getting into the Legal500 list. Fully deserved. Have a pint on me. Just one thing… IT’S NOT NEWS SO PLEASE STOP SENDING PRESS RELEASES. Thanks

The humblebrag

In addition to the “official” press releases lawyers often use the power of social media to express their “surprise and delight” at  being included.

“Delighted and surprised to be rated in band c Counsel this year following my work in obtaining an unopposed adjournment in the seminal case of Jarndyce -v-  Jarndyce “

Humblebrags are not necessarily bad

The humblebrag is such a feature of legal life that many humlebraggers accept this and willingly pay a “fine” – a donation to the Billable Hour charity.


Solicitor and law lecturer John Bates has decoded the entries for us. With his permission I have set these out below:


Amid all the lovely posts in our timelines, think of the trying to decode the language used by referees in legal directories, to find out about firms/chambers and their lawyers.

‘wealth of experience’ = [equity partner nearing retirement]

‘massively improved its positioning‘ = [hired a marketing Svengali with directory contacts]

‘Rising star’ = [desperate for partnership, and will use this as ammunition]

‘Friendly’ = [unworried by a firm’s time-recording system]

‘Pro-active’ = [charges for work in solving problems which haven’t yet arisen]

‘Engages in ADR‘ = [a convert to mediation after a swingeing adverse costs order and a client complaint]

‘very sharp’ = [abrasive to clients, opponents and colleagues]

‘on top of all facts‘ = [obsessive, and somewhere on a diagnostic spectrum]

‘always over-delivers’ = [consistently underpromises services and underestimates bills]

‘strategic’ = [has mysteriously achieved partnership quickly]

‘personable‘ = [can’t think of anything else to add about this person]

‘tenacious’ = [knows way around firm’s grievance procedure]

‘puts clients at ease‘ =[has biscuits in the office, and tissues at court]

‘ethical’ = [oddly considers this a positive marketing point, rather than a ‘given’]

‘uncompromising‘ = [likes trials and their impact on billing targets]

widely recognised‘ = [has recently engaged in a local radio ‘quirky’ ad campaign]

‘fiercely intellectual’ = [lacking soft skills]

‘beyond the call of duty‘ = [eternally regrets giving mobile number to *that* client]

‘commercial’ = [likes to be paid; loathes writing off costs]

‘outgoing’ = [will attend every social event]

‘pragmatic’ = [rarely looks at the law]

‘quickly identifies strengths and weaknesses’ = [refuses CFA work]

‘ensures a quick turnaround‘ = [light on work]

‘Next Generation Firm’ = [venture capital, light on post-qualification experience]

‘adept’ = [slippery]

‘gives robust advice’ = [instructed by solicitors who cannot face giving clients bad news]

‘an imposing presence’ = [difficult to share a post-court taxi with]

‘analytical’ = [costly]

‘looks at problems from different perspectives‘ = [indecisive. See also ‘overthinking snooker player’]

‘very good with vulnerable clients’ = [shares limited vocabulary but can smile]

‘has a diverse practice‘ = [new baby on way, will do anything]”

‘tenacious advocate’ = [despised by judges and ushers]

‘superb on the papers‘ = [avoids court, pedantic about instructions, will cry at nested emails]