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Legal Consultant Limelight: Daniel Kidd

Daniel Kidd, a former editor at Chambers, saw a need in the legal industry for a service dedicated to improving rankings, which can make a significant difference to an attorney’s reputation. Having been on the receiving end of submissions typically done in-house by ever-busy attorneys and their hard-working marketing or communications personnel, Kidd knew he was uniquely positioned to provide this service. And the market has responded: He began as an individual consultant in 2010, then teamed up with Jacob Aitken to form Kidd Aitken, which has quickly grown into a robust team with an extremely busy shop.

Lawdragon: Can you describe the types of services Kidd Aitken provides, for those who are not familiar?

Daniel Kidd: Kidd Aitken is the world’s largest legal directories consultancy, and the only one to include former Editors of both Chambers and Legal 500. The majority of our work involves advising firms – we currently work with around 150 law firms worldwide – on all aspects of their interactions with leading directories such as Chambers, Legal 500, IFLR1000 and others. Many large firms, especially in the UK and US, outsource the entire directory process to our team, which means that we are responsible for everything from advising on strategy to gathering and writing work highlight descriptions, drafting the entire written submission, and coordinating the client referee process and partner interviews. Thanks to the level of immersion we have with our clients throughout this process, we also advise on more general marketing and communications functions, and have a team of consultants with in-house experience at leading independent and international law firms.

LD: How did you first become interested in providing legal directory support?

DK: I was an Editor at Chambers for several years and was on the receiving end of hundreds of submissions, some of which were very persuasive, and some less so. I also recognized that firms often did not appreciate the importance of some specific aspects of the research process; particularly feedback from client referees. This led to me becoming an independent legal directory consultant. While it was satisfying to manage a selection of law firm clients from all over the world, it soon became apparent that there was a limit to the level of service I could provide on my own. I realized that, in order to provide a holistic service covering all aspects of the directory research process, I needed more resources. This is how Kidd Aitken came to be born.

LD: It sounds like you found a smart niche and are keeping busy!

DK: We are getting approached by more and more firms who find the legal directory process burdensome and time-consuming. They want to free their internal BD/Marketing teams’ hands of the lengthy coordination process that goes into preparing submissions, and also enable their attorneys to spend more time on billable work. These firms are attracted by the fully-outsourced model we offer.

LD: Can you describe a recent matter that you’ve handled?

DK: Last year we started working with a major regional law firm in the US who outsourced their full set of submissions to us. We allocated a former Chambers Deputy Editor to their account, who spoke to every contributing attorney and, based on those conversations, drafted their work highlights as well as the full submission. The firm’s BD/Marketing team was therefore able to take a backseat throughout the process, enabling them to focus on other areas of responsibility.

LD: Please discuss your career path. What brought you to your current work in legal directories?

DK: My career path has certainly not been a straight line! I fell into the world of legal directories almost by accident: I spent several years living and working in Japan, during which time I learned Japanese. I arrived back in the UK without a clear idea of how to use this new skill, until I noticed that Chambers & Partners were recruiting Asian language specialists. Having been hired as a researcher on the basis of my Japanese language, my first sections were actually Iceland and Vietnam! Despite such curveballs I rose up the ranks to become a Chambers Editor (with a brief excursion into the UK Civil Service as a policy advisor at the Department of the Environment), and have been immersed in the legal sector ever since.

LD: Is this the type of job you imagined yourself having as a younger person?

DK: My dream as a boy was to become a bus driver! That didn’t go anywhere, and the cross-cultural experience I gained having lived abroad inspired me to search for opportunities involving travel and different cultures. That has certainly borne fruit: I now work with lawyers from every continent of the globe, which obviously presents a unique set of cultural experiences and challenges.

LD: Is there a client in your career that stands out as a “favorite” or one that is more memorable for certain reasons?

DK: We started working with a leading independent law firm in Australia, Clayton Utz, in 2017. Our assistance led to a string of improved rankings and, ultimately, a Law Firm of the Year Award. I’m immensely proud of the difference we made to the firm’s rankings. The firm themselves were kind enough to provide a glowing recommendation of our work:

“Clayton Utz engaged Kidd Aitken to assist us across the entire directory process in 2017 (more than 60 titles across 3 directories). Prior to engaging Kidd Aitken we felt we had a good grasp of the process having spent a lot of time listening to feedback from researchers and editors on how to optimize our participation. Despite this, Kidd Aitken were able to add a whole new dimension of understanding, drawing on their first-hand experience as former directory researchers. Honestly, I think we were a little unprepared to discover just how much we didn’t know. Daniel and his team were able to break down what the researchers would be looking for in very practical terms. They brought a tremendous amount of insight and strategic thinking to every title – and particularly to the all-important referee and work highlight selection process.

Ultimately, we were rewarded by our largest improvement in Chambers ever – including Band 1 in some areas where our ranking had remained stubbornly lower than we felt was warranted for years. ‘The biggest improvement among the leaders was at Clayton Utz, which has three more band-one practice groups than last year,’ The Australian, 19 January 2018. We went on to receive Chambers Firm of the Year, 2018. I can’t speak highly enough of the insight that Daniel Kidd and the Kidd Aitken team brought to the process. We engaged them again in 2018 and have no hesitation in recommending them.”

LD: What do you do for fun outside of work?

DK: I am the father of two young children so my answer to this question is quite a bit different to how I would have answered it a few years ago. I love spending time with my family, but also enjoy live music, running and the thankless task of trying to explain the great game of cricket to people from countries unfamiliar with the sport.