Competitive advantage key to brand strength in Canada according to Acritas’ latest Brand Index


As market concentration remains high, Acritas reports the need for firms to create and hone competitive advantage, utilize their lawyers as brand ambassadors and have a focus on securing inbound work from foreign multinational organizations.

Acritas’ Canadian Law Firm Brand Index draws on independent research among GCs, conducted by Acritas each year, to measure brand strength of law firms where it matters most – in the minds and hearts of senior legal buyers.

Blakes continues to dominate in Canada and is the leading brand again in 2019. This is the fourth year in a row that Blakes and McCarthy Tétrault have held first and second position in the Index respectively, although Blakes extends its lead by 19 points this year having continued to increase this gap year-on-year since 2016. Fasken has seen the biggest increase in brand strength in the last 12 months, increasing 11 Index points. Osler have also strengthened their brand in this time, by an impressive 9 Index points, which sees the firm climb up to 3rd position. A further five firms rank within reaching distance of the top 10: (listed in alphabetical order) Bennett Jones, Burnet Duckworth & Palmer, Davies Ward (Davies), Goodmans and Miller Thomson, and with the right strategic focus could begin to challenge for market share among the established top 10.

Among the six brand measures that contribute to the Index is being a client’s ‘most used’ firm – a measure which correlates most closely to overall profit for a firm, according to Acritas’ data. In Canada, 78% of clients name at least one of the top 10 brands among their ‘most used’ firms, compared to the US market where only 38% are working with one of the top 10 US brands. “This overlap of clients makes it even harder for firms to differentiate and achieve competitive advantage. While most firms today have a strategic focus on the clients they serve, our analysis shows the most differentiated brands in Canada are those which have created an authentic brand where its people align around a proposition that works for clients and talent,” said Lizzy Duffy, Vice President, Acritas US.  

However, it isn’t just about carving out a competitive edge. Lawyers have a crucial role to fulfil as brand ambassadors. Acritas’ latest research reveals when the brand promise is delivered by a team rather than an individual, higher performance is reported by clients and their loyalty to the brand increases. “Most firms talk about collaboration, but few have truly made it work in practice.

“The brand does not only need to work for clients, but for the talent at the firm as well. Blakes is a great example of a firm with a genuinely consistent brand, having achieved client and lateral brand alignment. It is only the strongest brands that manage to ensure the external perceptions of a firm are consistent with the internal view. On the other hand, firms that have grown by acquiring offices and groups along the way have yet to realise their full brand potential, our research shows they are functioning still as a collection of offices and practices instead of one national brand.” added Lizzy.   

The 2019 Index also reveals a missed opportunity for many Canadian law firms, as Acritas report the battle for brand strength is being won abroad. Of the six measures which formulate the Index, the one which shows the most variable performance among the top brands is being used for work in Canada by international clients. In fact, the top 10 firms most used by inbound buyers in Canada includes four firms which are outside the top 10 brands among domestic clients (Baker McKenzie, Cassels Brock, DLA Piper, McMillan). “This reveals a disconnect between many Canadian firms’ brands at home and in international markets.

“At a time when international trade faces new and uncertain pressures, non-Canadian buyers are expecting to increase their spend into the region by 11%, on balance, throughout the next 12 months. This is a much more positive outlook than this time last year (with 2% on balance predicting a decrease in spend at that time). Very different strategies can be equally successful in developing a strong brand outside of Canadian borders, but the key is to seek out these opportunities and capitalize on them,” confirmed Lizzy.   



Acritas’ Canadian Law Firm Brand Index 2019 is compiled from analysis of an extract of data from the Sharplegal survey dataset. All data is derived from 259 interviews with Canadian respondents, in $50 million+ revenue organizations, who have senior responsibility for buying legal services. It also includes the views of a further 105 non-Canadian-based senior counsel who were asked which firms they used for their Canada-based legal needs.


For more information about Acritas and its Canadian Law Firm Brand Index, please contact:

Lizzy Duffy at +1 646 480-5738 or email

Sarah Thompson at +44 (0)808 178 3020 or email

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