Norton Rose Fulbright continues to disrupt the Canadian competitive legal landscape

Norton Rose Fulbright’s successful growth campaign continues in Canada where it has regained the top spot in Acritas' Canadian Law Firm Brand Index 2015, released today.

Download your copy of our Canadian 'Brandscape Overview' from the top right of the web page which contains deeper interpretation of the movement in the Index rankings.

In last year’s Index, Blake, Cassels & Graydon (Blakes) claimed pole position from the global firm, but this year Norton Rose Fulbright has once again been declared the number one brand by Canadian clients, leaving Blakes in second place.

The Index recognizes the law firms which clients recall as top of mind, those they most favor, those they consider for top level work and which firms they use most for their high value work. This Index is client driven and includes foreign multinationals and the firms they use for their high value Canadian work.

Historically, Canada has had a strong group of leading brands not just one dominant market leader.  In the past six years, the market has changed significantly and there are now just two firms that hold clear brand advantage; Norton Rose Fulbright and Blakes.

As the gap separating these two brand leaders from the rest of the field widens, others will be looking to understand the success drivers for the leaders – and where other firms are falling short. 

 On the surface, Canada’s top two brands may not look much alike – one has grown through mergers and only existed as a Canadian brand since 2011 while the other is one of Canada’s first ‘national’ law firms and an original “Seven Sister”. However, when analyzing why clients are attracted to these firms, Elizabeth Duffy, Vice President of Acritas US, Inc., is seeing something remarkable in what they share in common. “Both firms are perceived to be very much aligned with what clients tell us they need. Undoubtedly this includes expertise in specialist areas, but today expertise in a client’s eyes is usually a given. Where both these firms are exceling and achieving a distinctive brand experience, is in the commercial delivery of their service and the strong relationships that are being developed on the back of high quality and practical advice.”

Importantly, Canadian clients are increasingly international and the requirements from foreign multinationals for Canadian legal work are also on the rise. This is another area where these two firms are distinctive. “Norton Rose Fulbright and Blakes have both established similar reputations among clients for offering increasingly global or international coverage, albeit in different ways. They are both are winning out over other firms because they are aligning with client demand, client behaviour and client needs”, says Elizabeth. It will be interesting to see the impact DLA Piper will make through its entry to the market through its recently announced merger with Davis.

While Norton Rose Fulbright and Blakes have differing brand profiles across market segments and value propositions overall, according to Elizabeth, both unique offerings are proving effective and enabling them to stand out from the crowd. "Both firms have been successful at presenting a very clear brand proposition to the market that is responsive to clients’ evolving needs and – most importantly – delivering an authentic experience that lives up to the brand promise.”

Law firms that listen to the evolving needs of clients are equipped to deliver competitive advantage through building a more compelling brand proposition.

Elizabeth added: “Over time the reasons why clients are attracted to law firms have been shifting. As clients become more sophisticated, they are better able to recognize high quality and specialized knowledge. But clients also want their attorneys to take a more business-like and commercial approach to delivering advice, so they can quickly and effectively pass on the advice to their own internal clients. Global coverage is increasingly important as clients have growing international legal needs outside of Canada.”

To compile the Index, Acritas uses data generated from interviews with 249 Canada-based senior corporate counsel in 2014, evaluating top of mind awareness; favourability; consideration for top level M&A; consideration for top level litigation and most used for high value work. In addition, the firms being used for high value work in Canada by foreign multinationals are also analyzed. Across these metrics, Norton Rose Fulbright and Blakes win out over the rest of the Canadian legal market according to clients.

Commenting on how all firms can learn from the two leaders and ensure successful brand growth in the future, Elizabeth said: “Firms need to start listening and responding to what clients need. As the market becomes even more competitive and more international firms enter, a firm needs to more effectively communicate its distinctive strengths.

“A successful firm of the future is one that aligns itself with each specific market and offers relevant, tailored offering to clients, delivered  through clear communications, from your website headline messages right through to how individual lawyers on the ground talk to clients and about the firm.”

For further information or to arrange an interview with Elizabeth Duffy, please contact:

Michelle on +44 (0)808 178 3020


The Canadian Law Firm Brand Index 2015 is based on data from Acritas’ Sharplegal 2014 study of the global legal market, comprising interviews across 55 countries with 2500 corporate counsel who have senior responsibility for buying legal services in organizations with revenues over $50m (USD). 249 interviews were conducted with senior corporate counsel in Canada between March and October 2014.

The complete survey includes more than 60 questions about law firm brands, usage and market trends. Five of these questions are used to generate Acritas’ Canadian Law Firm Brand Index:

  • Top of mind awareness
  • Favorability towards law firms
  • Consideration for major M&A
  • Consideration for top level litigation
  • Most used overall.

The Index also takes into account the views of a further 107 ‘elite’ ($1bn+ USD revenue organizations) non-Canada senior corporate counsel who were asked which firms they used most for their Canada-based legal needs. 

Interviews were conducted across all Canadian provinces, with the majority of interviews in Ontario, Alberta, Québec and British Columbia and across all industry sectors. Over 40% of the interviews were with senior corporate counsel who work in ‘elite’ ($1bn+ USD revenue) organizations, 59% were with ‘mid-market’ ($50m-$1bn USD revenue) organizations. All sample for interviews was generated from Acritas’ own database of in-house attorney contacts and was not influenced by law firms.


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