Baker McKenzie has once again been named the top law firm brand in the Asia Pacific region, according to a recent survey by London-based market research firm Acritas.
In the 2017 Asia Pacific Law Firm Brand Index, Baker McKenzie returned to the top position, which it held since 2013 but lost last year, displaced by King & Wood Mallesons . But the Sino-Australian firm came in second this year, after turmoil in the European offices that ultimately led the legacy SJ Berwin arm to be placed under administration in January. The duo have dominated the top two positions of this ranking for four consecutive years.
The remainder of the top five remain unchanged from last year, with Herbert Smith Freehills in third place and Korea’s Kim & Chang and Ashurst taking fourth and fifth place, respectively. The rest of the top 10 saw three newcomers: Dentons tied for fifth place, and Australia’s Allens and a returning Allen & Overy tied for 10th. JunHe, Minter Ellison and DLA Piper took the seventh to the ninth places, respectively.
Dentons, following mergers in China, Singapore and Australia, experienced the largest leap in the rankings, rising 14 places from last year’s 19th. Allen & Overy became the only Magic Circle firm that made the top 10; Clifford Chance and Linklaters dropped to 12th and 15th, respectively. Tokyo-based Nishimura & Asahi was also edged out of the top 10.
Acritas said the brand index was based on telephone interviews of 491 senior in-house lawyers across 11 countries in Asia Pacific, and 255 additional legal buyers based outside the region. All respondents come from organizations with $50 million or more in revenue, according to Acritas.
Respondents were asked more than 60 questions related to “top of mind awareness,” favorability, and several specific considerations in major M&A, multijurisdictional litigation and transactions and high-value domestic work, according to Acritas. On average, each legal buyer uses 13 firms a year, the survey reported.
The survey also found that clients value firm brands based on different criteria. The top two firms, Baker McKenzie and King & Wood Mallesons, were valued for different reasons: While Baker McKenzie is the top firm considered for work covering three or more jurisdictions, King & Wood Mallesons was the favorite firm across the region and is considered for high-value work more than any other firm in the region, the survey showed.
Survey results also indicated fee pressure in the region requires more innovation in delivering service and creating value. “Average rates in Asia are lower than the global average rates and buyers are more likely to demand the security of the fixed fees,” said Jo Aitken, director for client development at Acritas. “This means it takes a new innovative approach to delivering quality services to clients within a lower pricing structure.”
Aitken said firms need to come up with innovative fee structures and shift away from the high hourly rates in order to develop a profitable brand that also meets clients’ value expectations.
Anna Zhang is based in Hong Kong, where she writes about the business of law and legal issues in Asia and Australia. Contact her at email@example.com . On Twitter: @annazhangc.