2016 Acritas Canadian Law Firm Brand Index

Acritas’ Canada Brand Index reveals Blakes is the strongest law firm brand

Acritas’ latest annual Brand Index reveals Blakes steals the top spot from Norton Rose Fulbright as Canadian firms strengthen their positions against the growing dominance of global firms in Canada. 


Blakes leads a strengthening pack of leading Canadian brands

This year’s leading brand, Blake Cassels and Graydon (Blakes) has regained the lead once more thanks to a 12-point increase in brand strength. Blakes has consistently performed strongly in all areas of the Brand Index especially consideration for major M&A and Inbound usage.

This year, an improved performance in consideration for top-level litigation has contributed to the overall gain of 12 points and contributed to securing the top rank.

Over five years, Blakes has soared ahead of the rest of the field in capturing inbound work which accounted for 26 of its Index points in 2012 and now accounts for 79 of its Index points.

When clients describe why they favour Blakes ahead of other firms, the responses suggest truly excellent relationship management. 


BLG leapfrogs ahead of competitors with the biggest rise in brand strength this year

The biggest riser in this year’s brand Index is Borden Ladner Gervais (BLG). The firm gained 24 points – almost twice that of the next biggest mover McCarthy Tétrault who gained 14 points – and moved up three places from 9th to 6th.

The rise is attributed to an improved performance on all five brand Index components within Canada and in particular a much improved level of favourability.

Favourability is a critical factor in driving law firm brand and selection. In today’s crowded legal market, clients are working with an average of ten firms and are marketed to by many more. Law firms have to work harder to ensure that they are top of mind with clients for positive reasons and associated with the right capabilities to be more likely to win work.

Lizzy Duffy, VP of Acritas US, Inc. said “While a brand gain of this size is unusual, it does demonstrate what a firm can achieve in terms of elevating its brand position and levels of consideration in the market when a clear and client-centric strategy is in place.”

Global brands account for seven times more brand equity in Canada, than five years ago

In 2012’s Index, global firms accounted for just 3% of all brand equity in the Canadian legal market and domestic firms took 85%. Five years on and global firms now account for 21% while domestic firms’ share has shrunk to 69%. 

This shift in brand power away from traditional national leaders towards global firms is driven by two major forces.

First, global firms entering the Canadian market, offering clients seamless access to advice in other jurisdictions. The proportion of Canadian companies requiring international legal advice has grown from 51% to 72% over five years.

Second, more foreign multinationals having greater needs for legal advice in Canada, and often accessing this local expertise through the Canadian offices of their global panel firms.

These increasing international needs are not going to go away and firms must be well-positioned to take share of this spend, as this is where the growth is.

The future: Index reveals opportunity to lead in Canada

While Canada’s strongest law firm brands are strengthening there is still a significant opportunity to lead the market. As yet, no single firm has managed to dominate the field across all key performance measures.

Leap-frog strategies, like BLG’s brand movement, can be successful for achieving growth in a concentrated market, particularly when based on objective and reliable market intelligence. This includes a base line reading on the firm’s current and competitive position.

In order to achieve growth and win more market share in Canada, law firms need to identify a strong point of differentiation that will resonate with clients differently than the rest of the pack. “The most successful point of differentiation for a law firm is an authentic one that holds true to clients. This begins with a deep and objective understanding of a firm from the market’s perspective, not from the inside.” revealed Lizzy Duffy, VP of Acritas US, Inc.  

“Some firms say they are innovative, some firms say they are client-centric, but clients are not feeling the benefit across the board and as a result no one firm is securing that top spot consistently, although Blakes is showing its credentials as the strongest candidate this year. No longer can firms just talk the talk, the people within the firms must walk the walk.” 



The 2016 Acritas Canadian Law Firm Brand Index was compiled from the unprompted responses of 249 senior general counsel in Canadian organizations with revenues over $50m(USD) who were asked about their awareness of and favourability towards law firms; their consideration of firms for top-level litigation and major M&A; as well as their use of firms for high value and inbound work.

A further 115 ‘elite’ (£500m+ revenue organizations) senior in-house counsel outside Canada were asked which firms they used for their legal needs in Canada.

All sample for interviews was generated from Acritas’ own database of in-house lawyer contacts and was not influenced by law firms.

Sharplegal is the world’s most comprehensive annual study of the global legal market. Compiled from interviews with over 1,400 senior law firm clients in $1bn+ (USD) revenue ‘global elite’ organizations and over 1,000 general counsel in $50m to $1bn (USD) revenue organizations.

Comprizing over $10 million of data, the research investigates many aspects of the global legal market in great depth, and helps law firms to:

  • Inform or validate your go-to market strategy
  • Align your efforts and investment with the highest areas of forecast legal growth
  • Understand what drives favorability to your firm as well as your competitors
  • Evaluate your performance across a range of service attributes
  • Develop and measure KPIs that relate directly to your firm goals

Interviews are conducted in local languages in over 55 countries including the key jurisdictions of the US, Canada, Brazil, the UK, Germany, France, China, Japan, Australia and the Middle East. Now in its eighth year, the study provides access to eight years of benchmarking data from over 16,000 interviews.

It’s an essential toolkit for anyone involved in the leadership or marketing and business development functions of a law firm.

To learn more about the ways in which Acritas’ Sharplegal insight can help improve your firm’s brand strategy and sharpen your competitive edge, please call Lizzy Duffy on +1 646 480 5738 or email eduffy@acritas.com to book a meeting or webinar.

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