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Domestic law firms challenging global law firms in Asia Pacific

Strongest attain 'highest levels of client loyalty recorded across the world', survey finds 

12 August 2014

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By Manju Manglani, Editor (@ManjuManglani)

Law firms founded in Asia Pacific are ranking highly with general counsel in the region and giving international firms founded in the US or UK a run for their money.

That’s according to an Acritas survey of 379 senior in-house counsel in US$50m+ organisations based in Asia Pacific plus over 200 in-house counsel with needs in the region.

It found that King & Wood Mallesons (KWM) and Baker & McKenzie have the strongest brands across the region, with KWM achieving particularly high levels of awareness and favourability in China and Australia.

Taking third place is Herbert Smith Freehills, which also has strong awareness and favourability ratings in the Australia.

Indian law firm Amarchand Mangaldas has succeeded in building a brand in its home market of such strength that it ranks fourth in the overall brand index. According to the research, 50 per cent of in-house counsel based in India expect to increase their overall legal spend in the next 12 months.

A further example of local dominance is Korean law firm Kim & Chang, in sixth place. The firm is the primary player in a market in which the third and final stage of liberalisation will not come into force until 2016 for European firms and 2017 for US firms.

Across the rest of the Asia-Pacific region, the research found that firms which are able to offer detailed local knowledge and full-service international capabilities are in prime position to meet the complex needs of rapidly-globalising clients.

"As in many other areas of the world, clients' needs are becoming ever-more sophisticated through specialisation, internationalisation and the pressure to operate as business entities," commented Sarah Chisman-Duffy, director and head of Asia Pacific at Acritas.

"As a result, clients in Asia Pacific are looking for firms which offer a mix of international and domestic expertise combined with the ability to manage costs, operate efficiently and provide innovative solutions. Attaining this exalted position is rewarded with some of the highest levels of client loyalty recorded across the world."

For many firms, achieving this position is a two-stage process of merger followed by cultural change to ensure that partners in the legacy domestic firm very quickly begin to operate with a new, internationally-focused mindset, according to Acritas.

"Strong leadership and detailed global key account programmes are the secrets to success in creating a wide-ranging and streamlined service offering across the firm's network," it noted.

"The challenge lies in remaining true to the brand while still providing the types of advice and levels of service expected by clients in individual countries."

The survey found that, among the individual jurisdictions, the top law firm brands in Asia Pacific are: KWM in China; Herbert Smith Freehills in Australia; Amarchand Mangaldas in India; Mori Hamada in Japan; and Allen & Gledhill in Singapore.



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