Baker McKenzie has held on to its No. 1 spot as the top law firm brand in the Asia Pacific region, according to the 2018 Asia Pacific Law Firm Brand Index published by London-based market research firm Acritas.
Baker McKenzie has been the top law firm brand on this ranking almost every year since 2013. The exception was in 2016 when King & Wood Mallesons took the No. 1 spot. But the Sino-Australian firm dropped to second place last year following turmoil in its European offices that ultimately led to the legacy SJ Berwin arm being placed under administration.
In the new rankings, King & Wood Mallesons and Herbert Smith Freehills placed second and third, respectively—unchanged from last year.
Acritas said the three firms took the top spots in 2018 for the same reasons they earned those rankings last year. Baker McKenzie once again earned the top spot largely because of a continuing demand in the region for law firms with strong international capabilities, the report said. The firm has 17 offices across the Asia Pacific and was noted for its cross-border work and received top scores for its multijurisdictional litigation and deals work; King & Wood Mallesons was recognized for delivering high-value work to clients; and Herbert Smith Freehills was noted for its litigation and contentious work.
Although the top three remained unchanged from last year, this year’s rankings saw four newcomers: Clifford Chance returned to the list in fourth place; Japan’s Nishimura & Asahi also returned to the top 10, ranking seventh, while Mori Hamada & Matsumoto made its debut in the top 10, ranking 10th. In addition, Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas & Co, took ninth place, becoming the first Indian law firm to make the rankings since the 2015 split of legacy Amarchand & Mangaldas & Suresh A. Shroff & Co.
This year’s list also saw four firms from last year’s top 10 edged out: Dentons, after rising 14 places to fifth in 2017, fell out of the top 10 this year; as did Ashurst, Allen & Overy and Australia’s Allens.
The rest of the top 10 included the Chinese firm JunHe, which rose two places to fifth, while Korea’s Kim & Chang dropped two places to sixth. Australian firm MinterEllison and DLA Piper tied for seventh and 10th, respectively.
In this year’s index, Asia Pacific firms accounted for approximately half of the firms mentioned and half of all brand equity in the market. A smaller number of global and multinational firms (13 percent of firms named) achieved a more substantial brand strength, accounting for 36 percent of the brand index points, Acritas said.
In contrast, U.S. firms appear to be facing the most competition: they were twice as numerous as the global firms (26 percent of firms mentioned) but much weaker in brand strength, according to the report. Together, U.S. firms accounted for just 10 percent of brand equity in the market.
Baker McKenzie, King & Wood Mallesons and Lex Mundi, an international referral network whose member firms include JunHe and Shardul Amarchand, are listed on Acritas’ website as clients. Acritas said the research was not influenced by law firms.
Acritas said the 2018 index was based on responses from 441 senior in-house lawyers across 11 countries in the Asia Pacific, with over 58 percent of the respondents based in mainland China, Australia and Japan. Acritas said all interview respondents were drawn from its own database of in-house counsel contacts and all came from organizations with $50 million or more in revenue.
In-house lawyers were asked about their awareness of and favorability toward law firms; their consideration of firms for top-level litigation and major mergers and acquisitions; and their use of firms for high-value work.
The London-based research firm said it also asked an additional 358 senior in-house counsel from companies with $1 billion annual revenue or more about their legal needs in seven Asian markets other than their base.
David Johnson, account director of Acritas, said the survey found Asia Pacific legal buyers spend 40 percent of their budget on resources outside their home country.
“The pace of spending is expected to accelerate with growth in the region,” Johnson said in a statement. “The challenge for global firms is to figure out how they can develop strong local client relationships based on expertise and a deep understanding of their businesses and markets to maintain this service promise across the firm as the international need of their clients grow.”