Baker McKenzie’s offices in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Diego M. Radzinschi/ALM)

Baker McKenzie may play third fiddle to other global law firms when it comes to revenue and head count, but when it comes to the strength of its brand, the firm is still No. 1. 

Legal market research company Acritas said Tuesday that Baker McKenzie took first place in its study of global law firm brands—besting the competition for the ninth year in a row. 

As it’s done since 2010, Acritas interviewed 1,600 respondents with responsibility for buying legal services at billion-dollar organizations across more than 50 countries and asked them to name the most well-known law firms, those that they perceived favorably, and those they would be most likely to use for cross-border deals and disputes.

For the second straight year, Baker McKenzie’s brand was twice as strong as its closest rival. In 2018, this was Clifford Chance, surpassing 2017 runner-up DLA Piper, which slipped to third place.

Acritas CEO Lisa Hart Shepherd credited Baker McKenzie’s commitment to a long-term strategy focused on a sweeping international reach for its continued dominance in the company’s rankings.

They chose their path of wanting to be the most global firm and put that as the main priority of what they were going to do. The first mover advantage helped too,” she said. “They may not lead anywhere, but they’re in the top-5, top-10 position in every market in the world.”

Meanwhile, the 2016 trans-Atlantic merger that created Eversheds Sutherland appears to be paying off for the firm. It’s the highest-rising brand in the 2018 index, jumping from 20th to 12th.

“When we look at both the newcomers to the index and those who have risen significantly up the ranks, since we first published the index nine years ago, there has almost always been a trans-Atlantic merger involved. Norton Rose Fulbright, Dentons and Eversheds Sutherland being prime examples,” Shepherd said.

She added that anxiety over Brexit was pushing multinational clients to seek out firms with credible coverage of the European continent, flagging not just Baker McKenzie and Clifford Chance but also fifth-ranked Linklaters, which moved up three spots from the previous year.

“Most multinationals have a presence in the U.K., so many of them are having to move or refocus their operations to mainland Europe,” she said. “That gives firms that have more strength across mainland Europe an advantage.”

Innovation was also a focus of this year’s report. Baker McKenzie and Eversheds Sutherland stood out among their peers in this area, according to survey respondents. Allen & Overy, third most recognized for innovation, climbed from seventh to sixth overall. According to Shepherd, clients are impressed with firms that are “trying to change, investing money in improving their offerings and not being complacent.”

There was one newcomer on this year’s list: technology-focused Bird & Bird, which tied for the 20th spot. Meanwhile, Latham & Watkins rose to its highest ranking ever, 11th, on the basis of its global reputation in finance.

Jones Day, which led the pack in Acritas’ ranking of American law firms, tied for sixth in the global rankings, a drop of two places from the previous year.

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