Brexit is changing the focus of legal buying patterns in the UK, according to research by legal market research consultancy Acritas. UK buyers of law firm services are looking more to key markets like Germany and the Netherlands, as they create stronger bases on the continent to secure their European business.
Price sensitive, but behind
From an inbound perspective, US companies are anticipating spending more on legal support for opportunities in the UK, due in part to low sterling rates and the possibility of a stronger US/UK trading relationship. For law firms, the report says having a strong international network covering key European and US jurisdictions is bearing fruit as clients make changes in their own areas of focus and turn to firms they know and trust to provide legal support. The biggest risers in the 2019 index are Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer with its leading German business along with Squire Patton Boggs with its extensive US presence, both rising by five ranks in the 2019 index. Jo Summers, director at Acritas explains, “The UK legal market is becoming increasingly price sensitive, with more UK legal buyers stating competitive costs as a key reason for favouring certain firms.” However, UK legal buyers are behind the rest of the world when it comes to adopting modern buying methods, including using legal technologies and the new alternative legal suppliers who are disrupting the global legal market and seeing fast rates of growth. Ms Summers explained, “In the UK, buyers are more likely to turn towards firms who can leverage national networks, which helps them access cost-effective services with the same large law quality ‘stamp’.”
The highest scoring law firm in the 2019 U.K. brand index survey is Eversheds Sutherland, followed by Pinsent Masons, Linklaters, and DLA Piper. Eversheds has regained the lead position, by some margin, the report says. The report states the firm has recovered from the typical ‘post-merger’ dip in brand seen by many firms who have gone down the merger route. The firm ticks many boxes with capabilities across Europe and the US, a national network of offices in the UK and an increasingly respected London operation. In the last year, it is litigation in particular where Eversheds Sutherland has increased its performance. In general, fans of Eversheds Sutherland talk about the practical and commercial application of their legal advice as well as perceiving the firm to offer innovative solutions. Lee Ranson, co-chief executive at Eversheds Sutherland commented “I am delighted that our brand strength continues to resonate very strongly with clients and is reflected by the fact that we have topped the Acritas index in the UK now for a record fifth time. Building a differentiated and client-focused brand is a key part of our global strategy, and it is very pleasing that our success is recognised by the market in this way.”
When comparing performance across different segments of the UK market, Acritas observed different firms taking the lead ranks. The Magic Circle still reign strong with financial institutions, taking the top five spots with legal buyers in this industry, but when looking at the largest companies in the UK, Eversheds Sutherland and Baker McKenzie make the top five. New entrants to the index this year include transatlantic firms Womble Bond Dickinson and Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner. Simmons & Simmons also returns to the index along with Bird & Bird and Fieldfisher, all of whom have reach across Mainland Europe and City firm RPC, who form part of the Terralex network, showing there is more than one strategy to offering international legal services to clients.