Acritas’ UK Law Firm Brand Index reveals four year market winners

Smart strategic moves, a differentiated proposition and affinity with female buyers drive success for the UK’s leading law firm brands.

Over the last four years, the UK legal market has seen many changes. Mergers together with new entrants from overseas and increasingly complex and sophisticated strategies have shaped the face of the market as we know it today. As part of its annual, global survey of over 2,300 general counsel, Acritas has been tracking how legal buyers select their firms and analyzing those firms winning – and losing - brand equity.

2015 is the launch of the fourth annual UK brand index. Whilst the year-to-year picture has reflected the volatility in the market, the four year trends present some interesting surprises:

  • Firms with rising brands are the ones making smart strategic moves and offering a proposition that resonates more clearly with client demands
  • London-centric market leaders are losing brand equity in the broader UK market, as competitors strengthen and gain at the leaders’ expense
  • Women buyers present a lucrative and highly effective point of differentiation

Outside of the top 20, the US international firms are the ‘ones to watch’.

“When looking at which firms are making smart moves and compelling propositions, Pinsent Masons is the star of the show,” revealed Lisa Hart Shepherd, CEO of Acritas. “This firm has managed to rise six ranks over four years – an astonishing 30 points (double that of the next biggest riser) – through a combination of a merger and smart marketing. It also makes the top 10 in London this year for the first time. Its successful merger with the premier brand in Scotland, McGrigors, shows that it isn’t just politics that can be impacted by having a strong local presence in Scotland.”

Firms can resonate effectively with clients in a range of ways, but this is centred on the fact that firms need a strong point of differentiation. Some of the examples noted in Acritas’ findings include substantive international footprint, leveraging lower cost national offices, deep and authentic sector knowledge, delivering innovative added value and simply looking after their clients more effectively.

In the City, it is the Magic Circle brands and Herbert Smith Freehills who continue to dominate the much prized London market, with Linklaters making major brand gains despite an overall decline in international markets. We have however seen the overall brand equity of the Magic Circle diminish by a collective 15% in the broader UK market, as competitors have strengthened and gained brand equity at the former leaders’ expense.

Lisa also confirmed Eversheds’ consistent performance over the past four years along with its first entry into the top 10 of Acritas’ London Law Firm Brand Index, which she believes reflects its efforts to build brand in the capital as well as its alignment with an under-recognized source of brand affinity – female buyers. The average firm has a 27% favourable female following, and according to Lisa, “One of the unique differentiators in Eversheds’ brand profile is its appeal to women. It is the only UK firm to have a statistically significant higher brand performance among this lucrative group of buyers; Eversheds achieves 45% with DLA Piper close behind at 38%, whereas Magic Circle brands average just 20%.”

Looking beyond the top 20, the US international firms are the ‘ones to watch’, particularly those with a credible international footprint. Slowly but consistently growing brand, Reed Smith, Jones Day, White & Case and MoFo have all moved up the rankings, reflecting their efforts in building capabilities in London. Reed Smith is now nine ranks away from making the top 20.

Commenting on the findings overall, Lisa explained that brand-building is not optional but obligatory for survival and growth, “There is no ‘right answer’ to the question about which approach to take in the pursuit of success in today’s market. Every firm has its own particular goals. However, our data makes it very clear that investing in awareness-raising and building favorability with clients accelerates a firm’s progression to the top tiers of its chosen niche.

“Firms vying for the highest positions in the Index need to ensure they are ‘firing on all brand cylinders’ by offering that elusive combination of service, expertise, commercial awareness, value, business understanding and geographic coverage.”

For more information about Acritas and its UK Brand Index, please contact Michelle Nesbitt-Burrell, Head of Brand Experience on 0808 178 3020 or email


Acritas' UK Law Firm Brand Index 2015



Acritas' London Law Firm Brand Index 2015




The Acritas UK Law Firm Brand Index 2015 was compiled from the unprompted responses of 360 senior general counsel in UK organizations with revenues over £25m who were asked about their awareness of and favorability 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.

Interviews were conducted across all industry sectors. 47% of interviews were with senior corporate counsel who work in ‘elite’ ($1bn+ revenue) organisations (19% of which were with $6bn+ revenue organizations) and 53% were with ‘mid-market’ ($50m to $1bn revenue) organizations.

A further 200 ‘elite’ ($1bn+ revenue organizations) senior in-house counsel outside the UK were asked which firms they used for their legal needs in the UK.

The Acritas London Law Firm Brand Index 2015 was compiled from the unprompted responses of over 140 senior general counsel in UK organizations with revenues over $50m who, as part of Sharplegal 2014 research, were asked about their awareness of and favorability 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 work.

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+ revenue ‘global elite’ organizations and over 1,000 general counsel in $50m to $1bn revenue organizations.

Comprising over $8 million of data, the research investigates many aspects of the global legal market in great depth, and helps law firms to:

  • Understand current perceptions of their brand and its strength in target markets
  • Ensure they are operating in/moving into the right markets
  • Access the latest market insight to help increase pitch Improve client retention by better understanding clients’ needs and behaviors
  • Analyse their pricing policy in light of peer group and world trends.

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.


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