Acritas U.S. Law Firm Brand Index Ranks Skadden as Number 1 for Fifth Straight Year

Survey Also Finds Other U.S. Firms Upping Brand Development, Closing in on Skadden


Acritas’ U.S. Law Firm Brand Index 2016 revealed the firms that are raising their brand game and closing the gap on Skadden, which was named the strongest law firm brand in the U.S. for a fifth consecutive year.

In findings released today, Acritas said Jones Day has consistently placed second overall and the gap with Skadden is closing every year, from a 31 points in 2012 to now just nine points.  

“As competition is raising its game and catching up to Skadden, the unchallenged lead that Skadden established early on is diminishing," said Acritas VP Lizzy Duffy. "Five years ago Skadden accounted for 5.1% of the total market brand equity and 19.7% of the top ten combined. Today its brand power has eroded to now account for just 3.0% of total market brand equity and 13.2% of the top ten combined.”

In the last 12 months Acritas has seen the biggest shifts at the top end of the brand landscape than ever before. Last year there were six brands within 50% of the leader and this year there are 11 – dramatic change among the largest brands where it is toughest to move the needle. The most notable rise this year comes from Morgan Lewis which gained 25 points in the Index rising from 10th to 6thposition, far ahead of the sum of Morgan Lewis and Bingham’s brands pre-combination.  

The Acritas U.S. Law Firm Brand Index is an independent brand strength audit of U.S. firms generated through market research interviews with a random sample of General Counsels and Heads of legal in the world’s largest organizations. 

The Index is not a reflection of technical competence alone – it reflects which firms are upper-most in clients’ minds, which they are most attracted to and to which they are most likely to give their work. How it changes over time is a reflection of which firms are doing a better job of making and maintaining a meaningful relevant impression with clients through experience, relationship development and aligning strategy with clients’ goals and needs.

A Strengthening Set of Leading Brands in a Crowded Market

The market is closing in on Skadden and Jones Day as seven of the top 20 increased their score by at least 12 points: Sidley Austin, Morgan Lewis, Latham & Watkins, Hogan Lovells, Wachtell Lipton, Morrison & Foerster and Paul Weiss.

Almost all firms in the top 20 this year have increased their Index score in the last 12 months. Only Baker & McKenzie and Sullivan & Cromwell have not gained points although neither one has lost significant numbers.

The Index highlights how important it is for law firms to develop strong and consistent engagement with their clients and the wider market. As the market continues to tighten, standing out from the crowd will become harder and harder as firms seek to adapt to their clients’ changing needs and reap the rewards available.

Over five years, the biggest upward movement in brand has come from DLA Piper with an increasing score every year and adding 44 points in total.

DLA Piper's View

Roger Meltzer, global co-chairman and co-chairman (Americas) of DLA Piper commented,   “There are many factors that go into success as a law firm – client service, depth of industry knowledge, innovation, and geographic reach among them. All are united under a brand and create brand equity. When DLA Piper was formed in 2005, our brand identity was that of a disruptor. Since then, we have adapted and evolved with our clients, and it is gratifying to see our strategy affirmed by the market.

“But this is no time for any firm to rest on its laurels. It is a war out there – a collegial war, but nonetheless a war – and the battle for market share and talent through the continuum of the profession will be won by the firms that understand who they are and the value proposition that they offer to clients, and  have the ability to execute and deliver results at the highest levels.”

Morgan Lewis is the second biggest mover in five years adding 35 points; and K&L Gates gaining 34 points since the 2012 Index.   

In 2012 only two firms had more than 50 points. In 2016 there are ten. Then the message for firms was: get ahead, stay ahead. Today it is: get ahead, get further ahead.

“The market forces at play over the last decade have significantly impacted the legal market," said Ms. Duffy, "both globally and in the U.S."

She added: "Globalization, economic change and mounting regulation are all being felt in different ways to clients in different industries – all of this has led to severe pressure of legal budgets for most organizations, navigating complex international markets and a heavy compliance burden. Because of this clients are attracted to firms who can help navigate international legal markets in an affordable way.”

Ultimately, the survey shows that a brand is a promise and it provides a platform of opportunity. It is then up to the lawyers to deliver on that promise. 

For more information about Acritas and its US Law Firm Brand Index, please contact Emma Hussain, PR Executive, on +44 (0)808 178 3020 or email


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