If you’re ready to embark on the submissions for Chambers, due in mid-December, you need to hit pause and check that you’re meeting the recently updated Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) requirements on confidentiality and client information.
The new guidelines mean that all SRA regulated firms could be subject to a spot check to show consent by the client for information shared around all cases, including those used in directory submissions and marketing materials.
And, since the guidelines are broad, we have to assume that law firms need client consent for all material; this includes pitches that name a client and matters that are of public record. Even when you plan on anonymising a client, the SRA has made it clear (to my knowledge) that you must let the client know that information relating to their case/matter/deal will be shared.
Sounds scary, I know. But bear with me.
How to navigate the new guidelines for this year’s submissions?
To make sure you meet the new requirements, you need to start earlier with your client referees programme. Our sense is that if you submit referees and offer no matters, you will still get ranked by the directories if you are already ranked.
During this process, you can also ask clients for consent for inclusions as matter. If it’s a publicly listed matter, they will most likely agree, especially if you emphasise it’s a factual write-up. You can also give them the option to be anonymous. Otherwise, just offering them an option of yes or no, may result in high rejections or a lack of opt-ins.
For this time round, you might even have to consider the possibility of not having many willing clients.
How to plan for future submissions?
Make it part of your engagement letter for next year with new matters and clients. You can carefully word it however you like, but let them know that, unless it’s a highly confidential matter, you can say you acted for them/ on a specific case. Enlist your risk/onboarding team to help them craft your need for this.
What happens if clients want to remove consent or get a new General Counsel?
If your client appoints a new General Counsel (GC) you need to remind them what the engagement letter looks like, which will showcase the public elements of the relationship.
If consent is removed, it’s up to you to quickly exclude their name. Meaning you have to be on top of all of your materials and know where each client is named. If you’re a larger firm using a central content management system, like PitchPerfect, for your materials will smoothen out this process.
What does all this really mean for my law firm’s marketing team?
The new SRA regulations can spark worry at first, but when you take a closer look, it’s easy to see how the guidelines can be met through a process which will quickly become normalised.
Although it will be a bit painful, it’s better than some career-defining SRA spot check that sees your firm become an example of what not to do!
If you need any help with submissions, please get in touch with our team today.
Will I need permission from clients for all of the materials my law firm publishes on them?
Yes, absolutely everything from websites to brochureware to directories needs to have client permission.
Do I need permission from clients even for internally used materials?
Yes, you should seek permission from clients for internal materials like pitches.
If I don’t get permission from a client, can I still submit their information to a directory submission?
No, everything you submit must have been approved by the client
Do I need to get permission for client case studies used previously?
Yes, you must backlog all of your materials.
Do I need permission for clients even if I plan on anonymising them?
Yes, I believe under the new guidelines, you must let a client know if you plan on using material about them, even if you plan to make them anonymous.