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Clients favour global law firms with collaborative cultures, research finds

Baker & McKenzie ranks highest for global brand strength

1 October 2014

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By Manju Manglani, Editor (@ManjuManglani)

Multinational clients are more likely to instruct law firms which have a strong multi-jurisdictional presence and capabilities and a collaborative working style and value focus.

That's according to Sharplegal research for Acritas' fifth annual Global Elite Law Firm Brand Index 2014, which is based on 1,185 interviews with buyers of legal services in US$1bn+ revenue organisations around the world.

Baker & McKenzie retains its top position for the fifth year running, with a clear 39-point lead over its nearest competitor, Clifford Chance.

Commented Eduardo Leite, chair of Baker & McKenzie's executive committee: "The market for legal services gets more competitive every year and it is very pleasing that the significant investments that Baker & McKenzie continues to make in the quality and client-driven approach to our work has been recognized by the participants of this study - our clients and prospective clients."

For the first time in the rankings, positions three and four - held by magic circle firms for the last four years - have been conceded to rising stars Norton Rose Fulbright and DLA Piper.

"In such a dynamic, competitive market, it is vital for firms to listen to clients and swiftly adapt to their changing needs. The firms gaining brand strength most rapidly are those which consistently invest in understanding the market and who aren't afraid to take new approaches," said Lisa Hart Shepherd, CEO of Acritas.

A series of successful mergers have fuelled Norton Rose Fulbright's meteoric rise from 15th place in the 2010 index to third this year - the greatest five-year rise of any firm in the index. The firm has benefited from the expanded reach and expertise created through its combinations to achieve high levels of favourability among in-house counsel, who also value the firm's key industry sector approach.

DLA Piper has also reaped the rewards of merger and having a strong brand in the US. This status, combined with its reputation for multi-jurisdictional litigation and expertise, particularly in the technology sector, has contributed to the firm's steady rise through the ranks to fourth this year from tenth in 2011.

Successful combinations have in part driven the popularity of several other firms among in-house counsel. King & Wood Mallesons first entered the Index in 2012 in 16th place and has risen a rank each year thanks to its continued growth in its traditional heartland of Asia Pacific and by expanding its reach and expertise through merging with SJ Berwin.

Commenting on the results, Stuart Fuller, global managing partner of King & Wood Mallesons, said: "It is our unique ability to connect Asia to the world and the world to Asia that creates opportunities for our clients and differentiates us in an increasingly crowded market".

Herbert Smith Freehills takes 11th position in the rankings, far exceeding its revenue rank of 19th thanks to its strength in Asia Pacific and the UK, multi-jurisdictional litigation and among energy clients.

Dentons has also benefited from growing its international reach through its three-way merger last year, which saw it enter the ranks of the leading global brands. This year it has advanced two ranks, moving to tied 17th place.

Acritas' research underlines the power that the top brands command, with the top 20 controlling a disproportionate share of total global brand equity: 34 per cent of all awareness globally; 28 per cent of favourability; and a staggering 56 per cent of consideration for multi-jurisdictional deals and 57 per cent of consideration for multi-jurisdictional litigation.

"Clear vision, strong leadership and sophisticated management of both the front and back office are fundamental to success. It is clear from the highest risers in the index that a long-term investment and planning approach pays off. Despite this, some firms choose to ignore this route in favour of short term profits - at their peril," commented Hart Shepherd.

"Never has it been more important to develop a well-defined offering that meets clients' current and anticipated needs and to communicate this point of difference clearly and consistently. Successful brands engender confidence and higher levels of client satisfaction and loyalty, which in turn lead to greater market share and profits."



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