(Photo: Diego M. Radzinschi/ALM)

Baker McKenzie topped Acritas’ inaugural index of law firm brand strength in mainland Europe, as global firms stood out above their independent Europe-based rivals.

The legal market research company has been ranking the visibility of law firm brands on a worldwide basis since 2010, and Baker McKenzie has topped the list every single year. The new report indicates that Europe is a key part of that success.

Acritas interviewed 448 respondents with responsibility for buying legal services at billion-dollar organizations across mainland Europe and asked them to name the most well-known law firms, those that they perceived favorably, and those they would likely consider for top-level litigation, major M&A, multijurisdictional litigation and deals and other high-value work.

The company also weighed the input of 311 senior legal buyers from outside the region with international legal needs in France, Germany, Netherlands, Russia, Italy and Spain.

One-third of respondents in Europe said they expected to increase their legal spend locally and outside their home country over the next year, in an uneasy environment marked by the unsolved puzzle of Brexit, rising protectionism in the U.S., and the growing clout of Asian markets.

“Given such levels of change and uncertainty, it is perhaps unsurprising that our research shows that both domestic and international legal spend by clients based in this region is set to grow,” Acritas director Jo Summers said. “This means international firms that have had the strategic foresight to build a powerful capability in mainland Europe have a higher chance of securing that growth opportunity.”

Baker McKenzie topped runner-up Linklaters by 29 points on the 100-point scale, registering plaudits for its top-level and multijurisdictional litigation credentials. Linklaters meanwhile scored highest among all firms for its reputation in top-level M&A.

The top five was rounded out by Freshfields, boosted by its long-standing brand strength in Germany, followed closely by DLA Piper and Clifford Chance. DLA Piper scored especially highly for its work in France and Italy, while Clifford Chance was the sole Magic Circle firm deemed to have strength across all of the six key jurisdictions.

Europe-based firms trailed their global rivals. Germany’s Gleiss Lutz and Hengeler Mueller landed at ninth and 14th on the index, respectively. They were trailed by Austria’s Schoenherr, Spain’s Cuatrecasas and Uria Menendez, and Italy’s BonelliErede.

“With the right proposition, elite independent firms can catch the wave too,” Summers added.

As it has been doing worldwide for the last two years, Acritas also examined the brand strength of alternative legal service providers. Here, the Big Four accounting firms were dominant, clustered together far above the other name to make the list: Wolters Kluwer. The order matched that of the global list: PwC led, followed by Deloitte, EY and then KPMG.

“Nontraditional legal advisers, in the markets they are allowed to practice in, are gaining credibility and are perceived to offer more innovative, self-sufficient solutions to clients,” Summers noted.

Read More: 

Where Else Will the Big Four Pop-up in Legal?

Why PwC and Deloitte Are Betting on Immigration Law