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General counsel favour global law firms with non-lawyer managers

Only one magic-circle law firm is a top-five global brand, survey finds

29 September 2015

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By Manju Manglani, Editor (@ManjuManglani)

Only one magic-circle law firm ranks among the top five global law firm brands.

That’s according to a global survey of 1,059 senior buyers of legal services in US$1 billion+ revenue organisations around the world.

Baker & McKenzie continues to be regarded as the top global law firm, followed by DLA Piper in second place and Clifford Chance in third place.

The fourth and fifth positions are held by Norton Rose Fulbright and Hogan Lovells, both of which were created by transatlantic combinations.

All of the top-five firms in Acritas’ Global Elite Law Firm Brand Index have brand equity in every major region of the world.

 “Today’s clients are global and they expect their firms to be moving that way too,” said Lisa Hart Shepherd, CEO of Acritas.

“Firms that are investing in building the most expansive footprints with deep local knowledge, not just a flag in the ground, are winning brand equity in the market.”

Historically, all four global magic-circle firms were recognised by clients within the top-five set.

However, Freshfields now takes seventh place in the global rankings, followed by Linklaters in eighth and Allen & Overy in ninth place.

The research found that law firms with non-lawyer professional managers enjoyed the highest growth in brand recognition among clients.

“The firms that are seeing the largest growth have all engaged non-legal business professionals to help the direction and execution of their strategy. It is this type of firm that we see making the most progress in growing their firm’s brand equity,” commented Hart Shepherd.

Diverse leadership was also highlighted as key to law firms gaining a strong market position.

“We have found that firms with a clear strategy and strong, yet diverse leadership to execute that strategy are on track to become the global leaders of the next generation,” she said.

“When I say more diverse leadership I mean in every sense, so the geographic spread of representation on a firm’s Board, across the world not just from one or two key markets, and to ensure diversity in gender, ethnicity, age and professional backgrounds too.”

The brand index is based on open-ended survey responses from senior legal buyers on:

  • the first law firms to come to mind;

  • the firms they feel most favourable towards;

  • the firms most considered for multi-jurisdictional deals across three or more countries; and

  • the firms most considered for multi-jurisdictional litigation across three or more countries.



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