Leaders to Follow: David Goulthorpe

Leaders to Follow: David Goulthorpe

Sara Santos

Sara Santos

David Goulthorpe, managing partner of  The Legal 500, responde a las preguntas de nuestro serial Leaders to Follow donde aprovecha a desgranar su experiencia en The Legal 500, sus mejores momentos en la última década en ese directorio, el boom de los directorios y rankings que azota al sector legal y sus consecuencias para los despachos.


Tell us a bit about yourself. You’ve been with Legal 500 for over 10 years. What is your experience managing such a prestigious Directory? What attracted you most about the company and the role?

Wow, 10 years, that has gone in flash! In a month’s time it will be 11 years. I joined The legal 500 / Legalease after 13 years running a media business in the licensed trade (pubs, bars, clubs , hotels & restaurants) and travel business. I loved that business and, in truth, I thought that I would never find a company & an industry that excited me as much as that. How wrong was I? The last 11 years have gone so quickly & it only seems like yesterday that I joined The Legal 500. I love The Legal 500, working with a great product and a highly motivated and incredibly talented team. What attracted you most about the company and the role? I could see that it was a well-run company, with great values & ethics (which aligned with mine) & that it had great quality products, but I felt they still had further growth potential. I felt that the company still had plenty of opportunities to grow, to engage more with its market & to extend the scope of the business. And those instincts have been borne out. I have been like a kid in a candy shop these last 11 years. I am incredibly proud of what we have achieved & the reason we have been able to expand and drive the business forward is because we have great products and great people. The team at The Legal 500 & across Legalease is outstanding & none of what we have achieved would have been possible without their drive, ambition, enthusiasm , expertise, and excellence.

Managing The Legal 500 has been the most rewarding role in my professional career. I have been very fortunate in that the business is privately​ owned, and there is a long-term view of the company and its products. We are only interested in building a long-term, sustainable business. Our mission is that everything we do has to be of the highest quality and value to the market we serve. Private ownership is incredibly liberating because it means we can be very agile, not bogged down by bureaucracy and therefore we can make the right decisions for our market as opposed to being driven by short termism. It’s a contrast to many of our competitors who are owned by private equity. Ultimately, I think it means we provide better products.

The Legal 500 has really evolved since its origins, what are some of the most remarkable highlights that have happened over the last 10 years?

Both The Legal 500 and the parent company Legalease have grown substantially in the last 10 years. The core business has never been stronger – revenues are at record levels, users of The Legal 500 are at record levels (we attract twice the number of users to our website compared to our nearest competitor) & we are truly a global business operating in every major legal market across the globe. We have strengthened the rankings business whilst simultaneously adding an exciting variety of new elements to The Legal 500 brand. I am proud of so many things that we have achieved over the last 10 years, but just some of the highlights are: turning The Legal 500 from a directory to a business with an extensive portfolio, which engages with the legal market in a variety of different ways; building our in-house portfolio – The GC Powerlist has proven to be an outstanding initiative, recognising the very best GCs & in-house legal teams in every major legal market across the globe. building our events business – going from 2 events 10 years ago to over 200 (in-person & virtual) this year. We run events across the globe in every major legal market ranging from Spain, Portugal, US, UK, Germany through to Mongolia, Lebanon & Uruguay. Every market is important to us. Growing the business significantly every year (revenue, traffic/users, portfolio, innovation) demonstrating that the directory business is stronger than ever Continually innovating – every year we have launched new initiatives – GC Powerlists, Events, Webinars, making law firm submissions easier with tools like ConvertNow, helping firms with in-depth analysis from products like Research+, showcasing law departmental expertise with new functionality​ like Meet the Teams, and allowing leading figures at firms to communicate directly to our audience via initiatives such as our «Partner Perspectives» and «Corporate Conversations» series, not forgetting building a comprehensive library of international practice advice in our Comparative Guides.


Since the start of the Legal 500, there have been many directories and rankings that have emerged. What would you say are the strengths and distinctive features of the Legal 500?

Our business is built on the strength of the research we conduct. To have a credible rankings business you must have robust research. If you have robust, quality research you then have a product which the market should value & will use. But you have to build the community & that is what we have done. Our web users are at the highest level they have ever been & they are twice the number of our nearest competitor. I spend a huge amount of time engaging with in-house counsel & this has enabled me to understand their needs and to know that we have a product that they use & value. As an example, I have had to take out a second LinkedIn account as they only allow a maximum of 30,000. I now have 2 LinkedIn accounts with 42,000 1st connections. And this is growing every day. It’s built up, primarily, of in-house connections & enables me to contact the in-house community with relevant updates on our rankings, events, Powerlists, Comparative Guides and any other content which may be relevant to them. My view is that law firms should evaluate the directories, rankings and awards they engage with. If they don’t have a robust research programme and cannot demonstrate that their product is being used, then why bother with them? I say that knowing that if firms evaluate The Legal 500 properly they will know that they cannot afford not to use us.


Do you think that directories are still a good business placement tool for law firms today? What would you say to the «non-believers» who don’t yet perceive the value?

Absolutely. Our business is stronger than ever. If firms don’t see the value then we have not done a good enough job telling them about what we do, the size of our audience and influence we have & why The Legal 500 must be a part of your marketing plan. Alternatively, those firms haven’t allowed us to communicate what we are doing. If in doubt, talk to us. Our business is changing and we are doing more & more in Spain, in Europe, in the America’s & across the globe. Don’t assume you know everything about The Legal 500 unless you allow us to keep you updated. Over the last 10 years, I have seen firms lose out on very significant business because they have not been visible on The Legal 500, I have had GCs set up meetings with firms to tell them to improve their profile on The Legal 500 & I have countless examples of firms who have won business because of their visibility on The Legal 500. In the end, I have to live & breath this every day & I have to know that The Legal 500 is still relevant & still used as a source to find the best law firm. I know that we are. Ultimately, we provide law firms with a fantastic endorsement of the great work they do & our website provides a fantastic platform to demonstrate their value to clients.


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