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The legal researcher Acritas recently named Baker & McKenzie as the world’s most powerful legal brand for the third year in a row. The firm received the highest marks against the four measurements against which the competition was measured.

The Global Elite Brand Index measured law firms by polling general counsel from companies around the world on the following questions:

–        The first law firms to come to mind?

–        The firms they feel most favourable towards?

–        The firms most considered for multi-jurisdictional deals?

–        The firms most considered for multi-jurisdictional litigation?

You can view a list of the 20 firms that they consider to be the most powerful law firms by brand by clicking here.

The most interesting finding to come from the index is that, according to their rating of ‘power’, the structure of the legal market – or should we say “the balance of power” – is undergoing dramatic change.  The new reality is that young, ambitious

firms with global reach are closing in on the traditional legacy firms.

Just take a look at King & Wood Mallesons. They placed 16, outpacing Eversheds and putting the pressure on some of the leading Magic Circle and Big Law firms.

A mix of circumstances (including demand for price-sensitivity, innovative structures, technology, outsourcing, offshoring, project management and flexibility) has come together to create an ideal environment for these ‘challenger brands’ to come to prominence and enjoy success.

Lisa Hart Shepherd, CEO of Acritas has said that the research suggests a changing future distribution of global law firm brands, in which the market structure becomes like the international accountancy market, but with a “big 15” as opposed to a “big 4” group of law firms.  And not before time, say we here at Elephant Creative Towers.

She added: “top law firms face a fundamental strategic decision between working to secure a position as one of these dominant global players and reacting according to market forces; or choosing a more specialist role, and becoming more ‘boutique’ as a result.”

In March 2012 Brand Finance released its listing of the world’s 500 most valuable brands. No law firms featured in the 500, casting a question over the value of a ‘top 20 powerful brands’ study.

David Haigh of Brand Finance encapsulated why brands are so important:

“Brands are the most valuable assets in business today. They drive demand, motivate staff, secure business partners and reassure financial markets. Leading edge organisations recognise the need to understand brand equity and brand value when making strategic decisions.”

The two surveys provide a great deal of thought for law firms… indeed, when viewed together, within the context of the choice of wording – powerful – they make for very interesting reading.  With this in mind, can we really say that ANY law firm is currently in a market position of power?  What is it that they say?  In the land of the blind the one-eyed man is king.

In spite of the challenging conditions, the opportunities exist for law firms to experiment with new and exciting processes. In a November 2012 blog we wrote about the possibility for law firms to think differently and to reimagine how they present themselves to the consumer.  Next month we’re launching a white paper looking at the cultural branding differences between UK and US firms.  Clearly we consider it important.

So why can’t law firms create brand equity and market themselves like banks, accountancy firms, consultancies and supermarkets? It really should be food for thought.  Dare we say it… nondescript accountancy firms have made it into the global 500 of brands; as have smaller businesses… and if they can do it, then so can law firms of any size and location.  It just takes a bit of lateral thought and imagination.

photo credit: Neil Crosby via photopin cc