Two years after combining with Montreal-based Ogilvy Renault and a year after tying up with Calgary-based Macleod Dixon, Norton Rose has claimed the title of top law firm brand in Canada, according to a survey released Wednesday by market research and advisory firm Acritas.

Norton Rose’s rise to the number one spot on the survey follows its eighth-place finish in last year’s Acritas rankings. The firm’s ascension has been helped by the marketing and publicity surrounding the Canadian combinations and by a vast global platform that has boosted both its favorability and its reputation for multi-jurisdictional work, the Acritas report says.

Like last year’s inaugural Canadian brand index, the 2013 edition is based on the answers to five questions posed to general counsel at 245 Canadian companies: when considering Canadian law firms, which come to mind first; which do they favor most; and which do they turn to for high-value work, M&A transactions, and bet-the-company litigation. In addition, 55 general counsel at international corporations were surveyed about which law firms they use for work in Canada. (Firms earned the points used to compile the rankings based on the order in which GCs mentioned their names; the final scores were calculated on a 100-point scale.)

Acritas also compiles brand indexes for U.S.-based and global law firms, which Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom and Baker & McKenzie topped, respectively.

Norton Rose’s rise has disrupted a Canadian legal market long dominated by the so-called Seven Sister firms: Blakes, Cassels & Graydon; Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg; Goodmans; McCarthy Tetrault; Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt; Stikeman Elliott; and Torys, according to the Acritas report says. Osler, for example, suffered one of the biggest drops on the brand index between 2012 and this year, switching places with Norton Rose by tumbling from the top spot last year to eighth place this year. "When one firm sees major gains, it has to come away from somewhere else," says Elizabeth Duffy, vice president of Acritas US, Inc.

The Acritas survey did leave one question unanswered: what impact the newly formed Dentons—the combination of Canadian firm Fraser Milner Casgrain (FMC) with European firm Salans and SNR Denton—will have on the Canadian legal market. The tie-up officially took effect on April 2, after the Acritas survey was conducted.

"We’re all anxious to see if [that combination] is going to have as much of an impact as Norton Rose’s," Duffy says.