Baker McKenzie, DLA Piper and Clifford Chance Top the 2020 Acritas Global Elite Brand Index, Highlighting Increasing Global Commitment of Top Firms

Acritas, now part of Thomson Reuters, announced the 2020 Global Elite Brand Index. Not only does Baker McKenzie lead this year’s index, but the firm has consistently increased its lead over the last seven years. DLA Piper and Clifford Chance swapped positions from last year’s index, with DLA Piper moving up to number two and Clifford Chance slipping to the third position.


The Acritas Global Elite Brand Index measures the firms that are most top of mind and most favored by corporate clients with more than US$1B in global revenues, as well as most considered for multi-jurisdictional deals and litigation.


Although many firms moved up or down within the top 20 this year, only four firms closed the gap on Baker McKenzie based on points: White & Case, CMS, Morgan Lewis and Kirkland & Ellis.


The annual research shows that clients’ needs have become increasingly global over the last decade. Each year, more clients have expressed a greater need for international reach across a broader set of countries, and as a result, an increasing share of spend has been allocated internationally. Clients say they are looking for advisors who can provide multi-jurisdictional support across a range of different practice areas in a consistent and coordinated manner.


Lisa Hart Shepherd, vice president of Research and Advisory Services at Thomson Reuters, commented, “Clients segment firms in much simpler ways today. They are either looking for a value choice, premium reputation or global coverage, depending on the needs at the time. Quality can be found in all three segments. For firms, choosing an overarching focus and sticking with it is essential to developing a differentiated brand.


“Baker McKenzie has shown that commitment to a long-term strategy that is in line with evolving client needs will deliver financial success. This strategic focus on global reach makes for a clear purpose that its people can get behind and that its clients can easily understand. Whilst in the early years, this meant the firm suffered financially, this long-term commitment is now paying financial dividends, with the firm posting year-on-year rises in revenue and profits-per-equity-partner for the last three years.”


Dentons is the biggest riser in the index over the last decade, closing the gap on Baker McKenzie by 16 points. Over this period, the firm increased its global coverage to a huge 73 countries. King & Wood Mallesons, the second-biggest riser over the same time period, has particularly benefited from its dominance in China. The world’s most populous country has gained significant global power, closing the gap on the U.S. in terms of GDP and being the headquarters location to many of the world’s largest companies.


Next Up: Acritas Prestige Law Firm Brand Index


In February, Acritas will release its inaugural Prestige Law Firm Brand Index, comprising a mix of both best-in-class domestic and international firms. The Prestige Law Firm Brand Index will focus on consideration for top-level work, as well as the firms that are perceived to have boardroom credibility and a higher proportion of their partners nominated as stand-out.


Hart Shepherd commented, “Many large firms are at a crossroads. Seeking a full-service, broader and deeper global capability takes huge investment and management focus. These firms will also need to make large tech investments to stay modern and defend against the Big Four and other disrupters. This is a long-term play that doesn’t maximize profits in the short or medium term. Therefore, many firms instead seek to move to the premium end of the market, replicating at a firm-wide level what they may have in one or two niches. But, being prestigious, by definition, is limited to the few. To succeed in an increasingly dynamic and diverse competitive marketplace, firms need to make realistic strategic choices that stretch the firm but are achievable, and then focus.”



Acritas’ Global Elite Law Firm Brand Index 2020 is compiled from analysis of an extract of data from the Sharplegal Global Elite survey 2019 dataset. All data is derived from 1,596 interviews with respondents, in $1 billion+ revenue organizations across the world, who have senior responsibility for buying legal services (elite clients).

All interviews were conducted by telephone in local languages across 55 countries between October 2018 and October 2019 as part of Acritas’ ongoing Sharplegal survey.

All interviewing was undertaken by Acritas in strict accordance with the rules governing best practice in research. As such, no law firm or other third party had any involvement in selecting sample, analyzing or influencing responses or the Index rankings.
The Acritas Global Elite Law Firm Brand Index is determined through four open-ended questions from the full Sharplegal survey to find out from senior legal buyers:

  • The first law firms to come to mind (Awareness)
  • The firms they feel most favorable towards (Favorability)
  • The firms most considered for multi-jurisdictional deals across three or more countries (Consideration)
  • The firms most considered for multi-jurisdictional litigation across three or more countries (Consideration).

The geographic spread of the interviews is determined by three factors: the number of Forbes 2000 companies headquartered, GDP and the average legal spend in each market around the world.
Incorporating over 50 questions, the full Sharplegal survey is an independent and robust market research study of the current global legal market that generates data and insight on law firm brands, usage, market trends, spend, international needs and


For more detailed information on Acritas’ study of law firms and the Global Elite Law Firm Brand Index, please contact:

Jo Summers on +44(0) 808 178 3020 /

Or for press enquiries:

Sarah Thompson on +44(0) 808 178 3020 /

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