M&A driving growth for US firms in Acritas’ latest Brand Index

Acritas’ Eighth annual US Law Firm Brand Index sees Jones Day maintain its lead in the market, in the most crowded field seen in the Index’s history. 

As competition intensifies in the law firm market, Acritas reports a resurgence of premium brands this year, with M&A contributing most to overall brand growth, and many of the strongest brands known to US-based GCs are missing out on inbound legal spend from foreign multinationals.

Acritas’ US 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.

This year’s results reveal an incredibly crowded field. For the first year ever, 23 firms fill the top 20 ranks. Jones Day is the strongest law firm brand in the US for the third consecutive year, with 100 points. However, its lead is diminishing as Skadden has increased by 13 points narrowing the gap to Jones Day to just two index points. A further nine firms rank within three points of the top 20: (listed in alphabetical order) Cravath, Debevoise, Dentons, Eversheds Sutherland, Greenberg Traurig, Littler Mendelson, Ogletree Deakins, Reed Smith and Vinson & Elkins. This year’s biggest riser is Sullivan & Cromwell, having increased by 26 points, now ranking at tied 8th. Morgan Lewis has increased by 25 points now ranking at 3rd place. 

Almost all of the firms that have increased their position by 10 or more points this year are Am Law 50 firms. The trend in brand growth mirroring the trend reported in law firm financial growth this year – the biggest firms are growing at the fastest pace. 

In December 2017, Acritas reported that almost one in three US legal departments were expecting to increase their legal spend during 2018, with M&A activity expected to be a key driver of this increased spend. “Fast forward to 12 months later and we are seeing this increased M&A spend borne out in the brand results as an increase in M&A brand recognition, for firms like Gibson Dunn, Kirkland & Ellis, Paul Weiss, Skadden and Sullivan & Cromwell, has been the greatest contributor to their overall standing in the Index.” said Lizzy Duffy, Vice President of Acritas US. Outside of the top 20, Debevoise and Shearman & Sterling too have seen substantial strength of their brands in the US market.

However, the Index also reveals a missed opportunity for many US law firms, including the strongest brands. “The US is the most in-demand legal market for foreign multinationals and receives the highest value of inbound legal spend” said Lizzy. However, despite these firms having offices in an average of 14 countries, fewer than half of the strongest US brands are making the top list for international clients’ US work. “There is a significant opportunity for US firms to make greater return on their investment in building an international practice, by not only servicing their US clients’ needs overseas but by capitalizing on the strength of their US brand credibility to bring work from clients in local markets back to the firm in the US.” added Lizzy.

 

Methodology

Acritas’ US Law Firm Brand Index 2019 is compiled from analysis of an extract of data from the Sharplegal US survey dataset. All data is derived from 624 interviews with respondents, in $50 million+ revenue organizations across the US, who have senior responsibility for buying legal services. It also includes the views of a further 258 non-US-based senior counsel who were asked which firms they used for their US-based legal needs.

 

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

Lizzy Duffy at +1 646 480-5738 or email eduffy@acritas.com

Michelle Nesbitt-Burrell at +44(0) 808 178 3020 or email mnesbitt-burrell@acritas.com

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