Eversheds Sutherland, the merged law firm giant created in February, topped the Acritas 2017 UK Law Firm Brand Index, with a 10-point lead over the second-place firm, Pinsent Masons. Eversheds alone topped the Index in both 2016 and 2015.
Acritas cited Eversheds Sutherland’s “well-balanced brand positioning and consistent brand experience” for the firm’s sustained dominance of the Index over the past three years. The results also show that “the Eversheds Sutherland merger has been effectively executed and well communicated to the market,” Acritas noted.
“Eversheds Sutherland has received extra attention since the announcement of its US merger, now offering a sizable presence in the largest and most important legal market in the world,” said Lisa Hart Shepherd, CEO of Acritas.
Second-place Pinsent Masons, which Acritas explained has alternated between second and third place in the Index over the last five years, rose eight points since last year to take the silver medal.
Indeed, there are stark similarities between how both firms approach branding in the UK legal market, said Hart Shepherd. “Key to both firms’ lead is their national coverage, gaining brand equity in regions where the City-based firms don’t have much coverage.” Both firms are also able to offer a fuller service from those lower-cost regional offices at a time when many of the London-based firms are just starting to get low-cost operations off the ground, she added.
There was a considerable drop-off after the number two spot on the list, with DLA Piper ranked third, albeit 25 points behind Pinsent Masons. Three Magic Circle firms — Slaughter & May, Linklaters and Clifford Chance — were ranked in fourth, fifth and sixth places. The Magic Circle refers to the top five law firms in the UK, and beside those three, it includes Allen & Overy (tied for 7th place) and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer (ranked 12th).
Baker McKenzie and Herbert Smith Freehills tied with Allen & Overy for 7th place; and Clyde & Co. rounded out the top 10 law firms.
Interestingly, within London, the Magic Circle firms — led Clifford Chance — and Herbert Smith Freehills still dominate the top ranks of the Index, although their leadership is being strongly challenged by global firms. “Against a backdrop of increased international competition and price pressure, the positions of premium-priced brands have been eroded over time,” Acritas noted in a release. “The UK’s Magic Circle firms have lost between 24 and a huge 62 points over the six years the Index has been calculated.”
The original “nationals” and larger City firms are now increasingly globalized to meet the developing needs of their large client bases, Acritas noted, adding that these market leaders have successfully strengthened and secured their positions at the top of the table. “They illustrate that brand can either be bought or built,” the release stated. “But key to either approach is effective execution and strong leadership.”
Acritas, a research firm that provides business intelligence to the global legal marketplace, also compiles the Canadian Law Firm Brand Index and the US Law Firm Brand Index. All its indices have demonstrated that the strongest brands are those that perform well across multiple metrics amid an increasingly competitive and discerning market, according to Acritas. (The US Law Firm Brand Index 2017 was announced in February with Jones Day topping the Index; and the Canadian Law Firm Brand Index was announced in April with Blake, Cassels & Graydon landing in first place.)
The Acritas’ UK Law Firm Brand Index 2017 is compiled from analysis of data extracted from the Sharplegal 2016 survey database. Data is derived from 309 interviews with respondents, in £25m+ revenue organizations across the UK, and 179 interviews with global buyers who have needs in the UK, and who have senior responsibility for buying legal services.
The Acritas UK Law Firm Brand Index is determined through six open-ended questions from the full Sharplegal survey to find out from senior legal buyers:
- The first law firms to come to mind (Awareness);
- The firms they feel most favorable towards (Favorability);
- The firms most considered for top-level litigation;
- The firms most considered for top-level M&A work;
- The firms most used for high-value work; and
- The firms most used by overseas buyers for UK high-value work.