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‘Strongly differentiated’ law firm brands most favoured by corporate counsel

Survey finds clear offerings and identities are key to success in the UK legal market 

20 May 2014

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By Manju Manglani, Editor (@ManjuManglani)

Law firms that are strongly differentiated and have clear offerings and identities are most able to succeed in the highly competitive UK legal market.

That's according to a survey of 344 senior general counsel in UK organisations with revenues of more than £25m on their perceptions of law firms in the nation. A further 120 senior in-house counsel outside of the UK were asked which firms they used for their legal needs in the UK.

It found that Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer ranked highest both nationwide and in the capital city for top-of-mind awareness and was the firm most used for high value work. It was also the second strongest performer among firms most considered for major M&A deals.

"There has been an increase in the number of firms being hired and… clients are much more willing to try new options, led by the need for specialist expertise and the drive for value," commented Lisa Hart Shepherd, CEO of Acritas, which conducted the annual Sharplegal research.

"This is putting those firms which are clear about their market positioning at a considerable advantage. Time-pressed in-house teams have little opportunity to seek firms out of obscurity and naturally gravitate towards those which have established a reputation for client service excellence and sector expertise."

Eversheds and Pinsent Masons dropped a place each from first and second position in the annual UK rankings. Meanwhile, Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) rose four places to joint fourth position in the UK index and two places to second in the London rankings.

HSF's rise was primarily driven by its litigation work, for which it received over twice as many mentions as its nearest competitor. It also benefited from the consolidation of its 2012 merger, which resulted in high levels of positive brand exposure over the past 18 months.

Other firms that have continued to invest in building their brands and market positions and developing well-defined offerings during the recession are reaping the rewards.

The law firms that had the greatest gains in the London index are DLA Piper, Baker & McKenzie and Slaughter and May, each of which rose three places this year.

Commenting on the firm's position, Chris Saul, senior partner at Slaughter and May, said: "Our organic growth and multi-specialist approach has allowed us to build a highly collegiate team of lawyers who offer clients a calibrated, commercial view. This, together with high partner involvement and a focus on value add rather than time spent, helps us to build genuine trusted adviser relationships with our clients."

Paul Rawlinson, London managing partner at Baker & McKenzie, said of his firm's rise in the rankings: "We feel that this stand-out performance is down to our instinctively collaborative approach with clients and increasing 'fit' of our client proposition to UK corporates and banks in today's global economy."

A notable rapid riser in the UK rankings is Squire Sanders, which climbed eight places this year to fifteenth place following the development of its industry focus and internationalisation of client relationships.

Addleshaw Goddard also made significant gains, rising four positions in the national tables to fourteenth place following the launch of its Value Dynamics toolkit and associated marketing campaign.



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