EY Law has surpassed PwC Legal to emerge as the new leader in Acritas’ third Annual Global Alternative Legal Services Provider Brand Index, showing that acquisitions can bring quick returns in building a global legal super brand. PwC Legal just fell two points behind, dropping to second rank.

Cornelius Grossmann, EY Global Law Co-Leader commented; “The combination of global domain knowledge and scale with process rigor and technology-enabled service delivery helps EY clients achieve better business outcomes. We are thrilled to have the market recognize the value that comes from an integrated enterprise legal services offering and multidisciplinary approach."

Elevate, who has also acquired multiple businesses over the last 12 months, achieved the second highest gain in index points, rising an impressive 13 ranks to reach the top 10 and take the ninth rank. Elevate was specifically called out for its innovative approach.

“Our acquisitions in the past twelve months have added management talent, extended our consulting and global services capabilities, and added AI to our software offerings”, said Liam Brown, Chairman and CEO of Elevate. “As the legal market embraces new ways of working, we see growing demand for our multi-disciplinary solutions for legal and business teams, reflecting improving awareness of our brand as the law company.”

In Acritas’ annual global study, more than 1,000 senior in-house counsel were asked a series of questions about both traditional law firms and the new law/alternative competitors, including which providers were top of mind, which were most favored and which stood out as the most innovative.

Once again, Thomson Reuters dominated as the most innovative provider in the legal industry, but the rising power of the EY brand in legal pushed the technology provider into third place. Perhaps not surprising, given its recent divestment of its legal managed services business to EY.

KPMG Legal moved up a spot to fourth place, whereas Deloitte Legal bucked the trend of the other Big Four dropping two ranks to tied fifth place.

Axiom, who recently hit the headlines in 2019 following its strategic investment from VC Permira, moved up one spot to tied fifth rank. Lexis Nexis and LOD holding steady in seventh and eight ranks.

Rounding out the top 10 was Wolters Kluwer.


The Acritas Global Alternative Legal Brand Index portrays the competitive set of alternative legal brands, indexed from the leader at 100 points.


Lisa Hart Shepherd, CEO of Acritas, commented; “More than 90 different organizations ranked in our alternative index. However, three-quarters of the points reside with the top 10. To cut through and become a serious global player, new law companies need to build mega brands, which is very difficult to do, in a market already crowded with thousands of traditional law firms. It is no surprise to see organizations like EY Law and Elevate surge ahead. They have made significant market noise through notable acquisitions and heavy investment in marketing to make the most of these strategic moves.”

Although Acritas only releases the top 10, a glimpse at the next 10 reveals which other brands are gaining ground in this highly dynamic part of the market. Consilio Managed Services and UnitedLex are rapid risers – increasing by 21 and 39 ranks respectively, both coming from a very low global brand level in 2018 to now sitting just outside the top 10 this year. LawGeex, which didn’t appear in the 2018 study, was a new entrant in the top 20.

As the market segments of traditional and new law start to blur, the 2019 Alternative Index features an increasing number of international law firms. These firms have been recognized for their innovation, as opposed to being seen as new law companies. Of the law firms, Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance and Baker McKenzie stood out the most for innovation this year, although still remain some distance from the top ten. When the Acritas Global Elite Law Firm index is released in January, it will be interesting to note if the new law companies’ brands are resonating more strongly in the traditional law firm space.

Lisa commented; “Each year, more clients are recognizing one or more of their law firms as innovative, for a range of different adaptations of the traditional operating model. At the same time, the new law companies are broadening their offerings and moving up the food chain in terms of work value and breadth of services. While most clients still see traditional firms in a different space to the alternatives, the lines are becoming increasingly blurred.”

While this index represents the collective global view, the holders of the top ranks vary considerably around the world – much like the picture in the traditional Law Firm Brand Index. Thomson Reuters takes the lead in the US, followed by Axiom while the Big Four legal brands are clearly held back by the regulatory constraints. However, the Big Four take the top four ranks in the UK and Europe, led by PwC Legal and in Asia Pacific region it is EY Law that takes the lead.


Acritas is able to offer a short report which explores the data and results in more detail. Please do get in touch if this is something you would be interested in for your firm. Or for more information on how Acritas can support you in understanding innovation from the client’s perspective and advancing your firm’s innovation efforts, please contact:

Jo Summers on +44(0) 808 178 3020 / jsummers@acritas.com


Laura Smith on +44(0) 808 178 3020 / lsmith@acritas.com



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