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21 January 2020

Baker McKenzie extends lead over global rivals in Acritas brand ranking

Bakers tops brand index ahead of DLA Piper and Clifford Chance while Dentons emerges as one of decade's fastest risers

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Baker McKenzie has consolidated its status as the world’s favourite cross-border corporate legal adviser ahead of DLA Piper and Clifford Chance, according to the Acritas 2020 Global Elite Law Firm Brand Index.

Bakers has stretched its lead at the top of the ranking for the seventh year running, securing an index score of 100, with DLA Piper moving up one spot from last year to second place with a score of 43. It swopped places with Clifford Chance (CC), the UK magic circle firm having secured 33 points. 

Jones Day, Allen & Overy (A&O), Hogan Lovells, Norton Rose Fulbright, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Linklaters and White & Case complete the top ten (see table below).

The annual research is based on 1,596 interviews with general counsel and other buyers of legal services at companies with revenue of $1bn-plus.

Respondents are asked to name: the first law firms to come to mind; the firms they feel most favourable towards; the firms most considered for multi-jurisdictional deals across three or more countries; and the firms most considered for multi-jurisdictional litigation across three or more countries. 

The research took place before a disciplinary hearing kicked off in London in which Bakers was criticised over its handling of a sexual harrassment complaint made in 2012 against former London office managing partner Gary Senior. The hearing, which generated widespread publicity in the national UK press, has been adjourned until the end of April.

The Acritas ranking is in marked contrast to Mergermarket’s 2019 M&A league table of global advisers, with White & Case being the only firm to feature in both rankings.

This year not a single UK magic circle firm made the global M&A top 10 by value, which is dominated by elite US firms including the New York-based trio of Wachtell Lipton Rosen & Katz, Sullivan & Cromwell and Davis Polk & Wardwell.

In contrast, of the UK magic circle only the London independent Slaughter and May is absent from the Acritas top ten ranking with CC, A&O, Freshfields and Linklaters all making the grade.

Lisa Hart Shepherd, vice president of research and advisory Services at Thomson Reuters, which acquired Acritas in November, said:  “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.”

She pointed to Bakers’ long-term strategy of building a global network. “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.”

Meanwhile, there was also evidence that Dentons’ strategy of building a global network is paying off: it was the biggest riser through the table over the last decade, closing the gap on Bakers by 16 points and securing 11th place this year.

King & Wood Mallesons, the second-biggest riser over the same time period, benefited from its dominance in China, according to Acritas. It was ranked 14th with 21 points.

Rank Change Firm Score
1 - Baker McKenzie 100
2 + 1 DLA Piper 43
3 - 1 Clifford Chance 33
4 +2 Jones Day 32
5= +1 Allen & Overy 29
5= +3 Hogan Lovells 29
7 -3 Norton Rose Fulbright 27
8= +1 Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer 26
8=  -3 Linklaters 26
8= +3 White & Case 26

Source: Acritas

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