The global pandemic that continues to disrupt worldwide business and the legal industry brought into sharp focus the importance for clients to be able to rely on their most trusted advisors, a factor that’s strongly reflected in the recent Index of global law firms.
Indeed, today’s launch of the 11th annual Global Elite Law Firm Brand Index 2021, from Thomson Reuters Acritas, showed that clients gravitated to their most trusted advisors and law firms, doubling down on their strongest relationships.
Firms that have had a strategic focus on building client relationships and clear definitions of the type of client they are focusing on, have benefited in this environment, according to Acritas. However, those firms without this strict focus and discipline or those firms that are trying to be all things to all clients struggled in 2020, and will continue to do so going forward.
“The pressures of the pandemic in 2020 have accentuated clients’ needs for their law firms to provide fast, business-ready advice,” says Elizabeth Duffy, senior director of Global Client Services at Thomson Reuters Acritas. “More than ever, a law firm’s investment in client relationships is a long-term commitment and requires multi-faceted support for lawyers in terms of tools, training, and support.” Now, with remote working a reality for still some time to come, the challenge for firms is how to deliver a differentiated client experience without the office-based norms and environment of normal times, Duffy adds.
According to this year’s Index, Baker McKenzie continues to hold the top spot for the 11th consecutive year, while DLA Piper holds on to second place after moving up last year.
“More than ever, a law firm’s investment in client relationships is a long-term commitment and requires multi-faceted support for lawyers in terms of tools, training, and support.”
Dentons, now in third place, continues to be the biggest rising brand in over ten years and is the highest riser this year, as it moved up from 11th place previously. Not only is Dentons favorability growing globally, but the firm has also been successful in building a reliable track record for quality and understanding clients’ businesses, according to Acritas.
Elsewhere in the Index, six other firms also increased their rank including: Linklaters; Sidley Austin; King & Wood Mallesons; Herbert Smith Freehills; Kirkland & Ellis; and Skadden.
Another major factor that influenced the index in the past year was how firms were able to thrive locally during a year in which travel had come to a stand-still for most organizations. As the index showed, global coverage is not enough without strength of local presence; and when clients can’t travel to locations for business, they rely upon their most trusted law firms to represent them locally — if those firms have the right capabilities.
In compiling the annual Index, Acritas continued to track the four core measures that it collects during its Global Sharplegal survey of senior in-house legal clients. These measures include:
- law firms that first come to mind;
- most favored law firms;
- firms most considered for multi-jurisdictional deals covering three or more countries; and
- firms most considered for multi-jurisdictional litigation.
Given the pandemic and how remote working quickly became the norm throughout the legal industry, it wasn’t surprising to learn that some professionals have embraced the change and want to retain this flexibility in how they work in future, Acritas learned. For law firms, adapting to significant change is essential for survival and growth, and this year’s results point to four areas which are important to get right:
- Clear vision and values — In a remote-working world, it is more important than ever that lawyers are delivering on the vision of what the firm should stand for.
- Building a platform for client growth — There are three areas where focus remains critical for relationship partners:
- genuine interest in what’s making clients’ lives difficult;
- regular outreach to key contacts to stay on top of developments; and
- exploring collaborative ways to make efficiency more central and visible.
- Delivering the growth — Lawyers need to look for considered, proactive approaches to bring new colleagues into relationships. They should also seek out mechanisms for all lawyers to contribute to the development of clients and proactive, holistic approaches to helping clients deliver more effective, efficient legal services while mitigating legal risk.
- Collaboration — Lawyers need to be more intentional and explore ways to motivate and incentivize the ownership of clients’ full scope of needs because, especially now, it’s much less likely to just happen without careful planning.
You can download Acritas’ 11th annual Global Elite Law Firm Brand Index 2021 here, and you can view a new video discussing the Index here.