Best of the Best in 5 Branding Factors and 14 Law Firms Boosting Their Already Strong Brand

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Only 1 strategy drives a better brand—making a better direct and indirect client experience in the 9 factors driving brand. This means leveraging strength and intentional branding while minimizing unintentional acts of branding.

Once law firms reach the BTI Brand Elite 28—it becomes exponentially harder to improve your brand. But 14 firms have figured it out. Each of the firms who manage to move up have different approaches focused on a common goal. They are focused on improving key parts of the client experience which have the most impact.

Please join me in congratulating the 14 firms who were able to increase their rank to get into or while in the BTI Brand Elite:

And, don’t miss out on the significant changes in the 5 other key branding factors clients rely on to separate one law firm from another, make hiring decisions, and pick and choose who they ultimately work with—and who they don’t:

Clients See a Few Law Firms Become Premium Worthy
More Bet-the-Company Work but Fewer Bet-the-Company Law Firms
Clients See More Law Firms Ready to Lead the Industry
Clients Shorten Short Lists
Fewer Law Firms Earning Client Recommendations

Learn how to earn premium worthy status, and keep it, in the new BTI Brand Elite 2018: Client Perceptions of the Best-Branded Law Firms, available now.

Clients See a Few Law Firms Become Premium Worthy

Clients pay you more when you bring more. They pay you premiums when you bring insight others don’t. Clients face more complex work and a greater quantity of it—making insights all the more valuable.

Clients single out 3 more law firms able to bring this premium insight—increasing the number of premium-worthy law firms by 3% over last year. However, none of the 2018 newcomers made Best of the Best, leaving the number unchanged from last year.

Please congratulate these premium-worthy firms:

Leaders

Learn how to earn premium worthy status, and keep it, in the new BTI Brand Elite 2018: Client Perceptions of the Best-Branded Law Firms, available now.

More Bet-the-Company Work but Fewer Bet-the-Company Law Firms

Top legal decision makers report they have more bet-the-company work than ever, but the number of firms clients think can handle the pinnacle of all matters shrank by 11%. Client demand and expectations for this high-risk work are going up faster than supply—good news for those firms who can brand themselves as a bet-the-company firm. Please join us in congratulating the following firms with the best bet-the-company brands:

Leaders

Learn more about why legal decision makers think fewer law firms are a sure bet in the new in the new BTI Brand Elite 2018: Client Perceptions of the Best-Branded Law Firms, available now.

Clients See More Law Firms Ready to Lead the Industry

Clients want to work with the firm who will be around to lead the industry. Top legal decision makers don’t want to work with law firms they think will get merged away or otherwise disappear. This is especially true for litigation which can last years. From a relationship standpoint, clients get concerned about conflicts, changes in command, and loss of institutional knowledge—so they want to work with the long-term leaders, almost as a risk management tool.

Top legal decision makers see 51 more law firms than last year as The Survivors. Please congratulate the following firms on their ability to convince the most demanding clients they will be last firm standing:

Learn more about the future market leaders—and how your firm can join them—in the new BTI Brand Elite 2018: Client Perceptions of the Best-Branded Law Firms, available now.

Clients Shorten Short Lists

Clients Shorten Short Lists

Everyone wants to at least be on the short list. But clients want no part of it—trimming their short lists by 1% this year and 22% over the last 3. Clients indicate they want more knowledge from fewer firms. They have cut their law firm rosters to record lows. Short lists were bound to follow this path. The firms who remain or regain their place are looking at bigger chunks of business.

We found 3 fewer Best of the Best and 7 fewer Leaders. Please join us in giving an especially hearty congratulations to the firms below who lead the pack in claiming their place on client short lists. The law firms enjoying a strong position on client Short Lists in the just-released BTI Brand Elite 2018 are: 

Learn how to secure—and continually defend—your position on client short lists in the new BTI Brand Elite 2018: Client Perceptions of the Best-Branded Law Firms, available now.

Fewer Law Firms Earning Client Recommendations

Top legal decision makers recommend 241 law firms, 19.7% fewer law firms for 2018, continuing a 3-year downtrend. The same decision makers recommended 345 law firms in 2015.

Clients are facing more complex work. They largely have lost patience for any law firms who don’t relish this work or who can’t keep within budget and keep them in up-to-the-minute news. 

Clients rely on peer-to-peer recommendations as their best source of learning about new law firms—meaning recommended firms have an edge. Please join us in congratulating the firms with the best branding in earning unprompted recommendations from top legal decision makers:

Leaders

Learn exactly who is earning client recommendations—and why—and where you stand compared to everyone else in the new BTI Brand Elite 2018: Client Perceptions of the Best-Branded Law Firms, available now.

14 Firms Move Up in the BTI Brand Elite 28 for 2018

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Try as you might to manage, control, focus, and provide clarity—ultimately clients define your brand based on their experience with you. Law firm brands are volatile. Clients change their perceptions of law firms based on their direct and indirect experience.

Despite this, or perhaps because of these changes—clients identify 4 new law firms as part of the 2018 BTI Brand Elite 28—the law firms with brands 7 times stronger than all other law firms. 14 firms within the BTI Brand Elite moved up—all edging for the number-one spot—because they will get the most inbound referrals.

4 New Firms Join the 2018 BTI Brand Elite 28

Akin Gump, Paul Hastings, and Paul, Weiss make their debut appearances in the BTI Brand Elite 28 while Mayer Brown returns after a brief absence. Clients note an increase in client service and innovation at Akin Gump, Paul Hastings and Paul, Weiss. Clients credit increasing innovation from Mayer Brown for the return to the BTI Brand Elite 28.

Jones Day Takes the Top Brand

Top legal decision makers rank Jones Day as the strongest brand for the 2nd year in a row. The world’s most demanding clients rank Jones Day as Best of the Best in all 9 branding attributes. The firm has been able to continue to improve its client service, innovation, and can be relied on for the truly bet-the-company work. This is not a random set of events. Improving on an already best-in-class performance demands vision, a plan, implementation, commitment, and the will.

14 Firms Moved Up

Brands are more volatile than most people give them credit for, resulting in lost deals and lower rates. Despite this we are pleased to report half of the BTI Brand Elite 28 from 2017 moved up at least one place in 2018. The firms below demonstrated the behaviors behind the 9 factors driving brand hirability. Please congratulate the 28 law firms with the best brand according to the most demanding clients.

 
  1. 1. Jones Day
  2. 2. Skadden
  3. 3. Latham & Watkins
  4. 4. Dentons
  5. 5. DLA Piper
  6. 6. Cooley
  7. 7. Baker McKenzie
  8. 8. Gibson Dunn
  9. 9. Sidley
  10. 10. Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz
  11. 11. White & Case
  12. 12. Hogan Lovells
  13. 13. Morgan Lewis
  14. 14. Dechert
  1. 15. Cravath, Swaine & Moore
  2. 16. Kirkland & Ellis
  3. 17. Davis Polk
  4. 18. Sullivan & Cromwell
  5. 19. Greenberg Traurig
  6. 20. Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld
  7. 21. Reed Smith
  8. 22. McGuireWoods
  9. 23. Paul, Weiss
  10. 24. Pillsbury
  11. 25. Mayer Brown
  12. 26. Norton Rose Fulbright
  13. 27. Polsinelli
  14. 28. Paul Hastings

You can learn about the detailed changes in your firm’s brand with your copy of the BTI Brand Elite 2018: Client Perceptions of the Best-Branded Law Firms, available now.

Any change in client experience can easily change the brand. Some of these changes are strategic and intentional—others are the result of unintended branding events.

BTI conducted more than 686 interviews with top legal decision makers to single out the law firms with the best and strongest brands. Each of the CLOs provided detailed answers and explanations—and have deep opinions about law firm brands.

MBR

Innovation Runs Rampant in the Legal World

Innovation is rampant. Top legal decision makers recognize a whopping 40% increase in the number of innovative law firms over last year. This translates into 200 law firms—of the 650 who compete for business from Fortune 1000 and large companies—standing out in a noticeable way, up from 143 last year.

Clients are resetting their expectations and perceptions of innovation as they continue to see more innovative thinking from their law firms. But, 9 firms stand out with the most impressive and impactful innovation. 4 of these firms—Jones Day, Kirkland & Ellis, Latham & Watkins, and Skadden—repeat their Best of the Best performances from last year, while the other 5 are newly recognized.

You’ll find the top Innovators—this year's Movers & Shakers—from the just-released BTI Brand Elite 2017 at the bottom of this post.

And, don’t miss out on the significant changes in the other 8 branding factors clients rely on to separate one law firm from another, make hiring decisions, and pick and choose who they ultimately work with—and who they don’t:

Big Growth in Firms Making Big Changes to Boost Client Service

Number of Law Firms Worth Premium Rates Continues to Climb

Clients Name More Tech-Savvy Law Firms in 2017

Clients See Fewer Bet-the-Company Law Firms as This Work Surges

Many More Law Firms Delivering More Value

Clients Name the Long Term Law Firm Survivors

Clients Keep Shrinking Their Law Firm Short Lists

A Downward Trend in Law Firms Earning Client Recommendations

Please join us in congratulating the below world-class innovators in the legal world.

The law firms climbing to the top of the Mover & Shaker ranks in the just-released BTI Brand Elite 2017 are:

Best of the Best

Baker McKenzie
Cooley
Dentons
DLA Piper
Jones Day
Kirkland & Ellis
Latham & Watkins
Skadden
Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz

Leaders

BakerHostetler
Bryan Cave
Covington
Cravath, Swaine & Moore
Davis Polk
Dechert
Gibson Dunn
Greenberg Traurig
Hogan Lovells
K&L Gates
King & Spalding
McDermott Will & Emery
McGuireWoods
Morgan Lewis
Ogletree Deakins
Pillsbury
Polsinelli
Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan
Reed Smith
Ropes & Gray
Sidley
Simpson Thacher
Sullivan & Cromwell
Weil
White & Case

Learn more about how your firm can influence both clients—and competitors—in the new BTI Brand Elite 2017: Client Perceptions of the Best-Branded Law Firms, available now.

A Downward Trend in Law Firms Earning Client Recommendations

The number of top legal decision makers recommending firms to their peers dropped for the 2nd year in a row. A concerning trend as clients continue to expect more. This is even more concerning when you factor in the shrinking number of law firms clients keep on their short list for hire. We go into 2017 with 13.4% fewer law firms earning client recommendations than in 2015. Client expectations are changing, growing, and only moving up. Law firms who engage in comprehensive client feedback programs earn dramatically more recommendations than those who don’t.

Broad and penetrating client feedback fundamentally drives the delivery of steadily improving client service. Think feedback with at least 45 top clients, if not well more. The firms who gather 3rd party client feedback from a large enough client group see their performance substantially improve. The reason: firms performing client feedback learn about the changes clients are making first, can stay ahead of those changes, and provide the client service clients have come to expect—and tell their peers about.

In a world where it’s harder to deliver the kind of client service earning an unprompted client recommendation, please join us in congratulating the below firms who do.

The law firms climbing the ranks for Client Recommendations in the just-released BTI Brand Elite 2017 are:

Best of the Best

Cooley
Dentons
DLA Piper
Gibson Dunn
Jones Day
Kirkland & Ellis
Skadden

Leaders

Alston & Bird
Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer
Baker Botts
Baker McKenzie
BakerHostetler
Boies Schiller & Flexner
Bryan Cave
Cleary Gottlieb
Covington
Cravath, Swaine & Moore
Crowell & Moring
Davis Polk
Dechert
Eversheds Sutherland
Faegre Baker Daniels
Fish & Richardson
Greenberg Traurig
Hogan Lovells
Holland & Hart
Holland & Knight
Hunton & Williams
Jackson Lewis
K&L Gates
King & Spalding
Latham & Watkins
Littler
Mayer Brown
McDermott Will & Emery
McGuireWoods
Morgan Lewis
Morrison & Foerster
Norton Rose Fulbright
Ogletree Deakins
Orrick
Paul, Weiss
Pillsbury
Polsinelli
Reed Smith
Ropes & Gray
Scopelitis, Garvin, Light, Hanson & Feary
Seyfarth Shaw
Sidley
Simpson Thacher
Squire Patton Boggs
Sullivan & Cromwell
Troutman Sanders
Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz
Weil
White & Case
WilmerHale

Learn how your firm can earn client recommendations in the new BTI Brand Elite 2017: Client Perceptions of the Best-Branded Law Firms, available now.

Clients Keep Shrinking Their Law Firm Short Lists

Clients cut more law firms from their Short Lists for Hire than in any other of the 9 attributes impacting hiring decisions—dropping 21.5% of firms from their 2016 short lists. Top legal decision makers are no longer considering firms who are on the margins of performance. Clients keep wanting more and getting less—and law firms who can’t meet the minimum expectations are simply leaving clients’ consciousness.

Please join us in giving an especially hearty congratulations to the firms below who lead the pack in claiming their place on client short lists.

The law firms enjoying a strong position on client Short Lists in the just-released BTI Brand Elite 2017 are:

Best of the Best

Baker McKenzie
Dentons
DLA Piper
Hogan Lovells
Jackson Lewis
Jones Day
King & Spalding
Morgan Lewis
Polsinelli
Sidley
Skadden
Sullivan & Cromwell
Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz
Winston & Strawn

Leaders

Allen & Overy
Alston & Bird
Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer
Cadwalader
Davis Polk
Dechert
Eversheds Sutherland
Fish & Richardson
Gibson Dunn
K&L Gates
Kelley Drye & Warren
Kirkland & Ellis
Latham & Watkins
Morrison & Foerster
Parker Poe
Reed Smith
Simpson Thacher
Smith Anderson
Thompson Hine
Troutman Sanders
Vinson & Elkins
Weil
Winstead

Learn how to secure—and continually defend—the position of core law firm in the new BTI Brand Elite 2017: Client Perceptions of the Best-Branded Law Firms, available now.

Clients Name the Long Term Law Firm Survivors

The pace ebbs and flows, but every client knows the legal industry is steadily consolidating. Clients want to work with the survivors. Every time top legal decision makers hire a law firm for a matter with a potential to last for years, they think about whether the firm will be merged or changed in some way. Clients don’t want the distraction. BTI research reveals a surge in the number of firms clients see as the long-term survivors. Dentons and Latham & Watkins are newcomers to the firms clients see as the Best of the Best of the Long-Term Survivors, and join the firms repeating as Best of the Best Survivors from last year.

Please join us in congratulating the below long-term leaders. And congratulate the 12 firms who clients name as the Leaders of the Surviving Law Firms over the long term.

The Best in Class Future Leaders named in the just-released BTI Brand Elite 2017 are:

Best of the Best

Baker McKenzie
Dentons
DLA Piper
Jones Day
Latham & Watkins
Skadden

Leaders

Cooley
Cravath, Swaine & Moore
Davis Polk
Gibson Dunn
Hogan Lovells
K&L Gates
Kirkland & Ellis
Norton Rose Fulbright
Reed Smith
Sullivan & Cromwell
Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz
White & Case

Learn more about the future market leaders—and how your firm can join them— in the new BTI Brand Elite 2017: Client Perceptions of the Best-Branded Law Firms, available now.

 

Many More Law Firms Delivering More Value

We can only look at the underlying data and believe there are big changes brewing in the law firm value proposition. This year clients report the number of law firms making changes to deliver more value, at 267, nearly doubled from last year when it was 138. These firms are offering everything from more aggressive use of client facing budgeting tools, alternative staffing, AFAs, new work processes, new pricing strategies, using non lawyers, and a few others. Clients see this as a move in the right direction. 6 of the 8 firms recognized as Best of the Best are new in 2017, joined by 2 repeat firms from last year.

The law firms Driving the most Value with clients in the just-released BTI Brand Elite 2017 are:

Best of the Best

Cooley
Dentons
Jones Day
Latham & Watkins
McGuireWoods
Reed Smith
Skadden
Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz

Leaders

Alston & Bird
Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer
Baker McKenzie
BakerHostetler
Bryan Cave
Cravath, Swaine & Moore
DLA Piper
Gibson Dunn
Hogan Lovells
K&L Gates
Ogletree Deakins
Polsinelli
Ropes & Gray
Seyfarth Shaw
Shook, Hardy & Bacon

Learn how to become a value driver in the new BTI Brand Elite 2017: Client Perceptions of the Best-Branded Law Firms, available now.

Clients See Fewer Bet-the-Company Law Firms as This Work Surges

The number of clients reporting they face Bet-the-Company work quadrupled over the last 4 years. But, top legal decision makers at these companies report 17% fewer law firms are equipped to handle these high-risk matters. Clients see 126 law firms able to handle their Bet-the-Company matters—less than 20% of all law firms serving large clients. Clients look to business understanding and the ability to assess risk quickly when looking for Bet-the-Company firms.

Please join us in congratulating the below firms in earning one of the most difficult to achieve branding attributes.

The law firms setting the pace for Bet-the-Company work in the just-released BTI Brand Elite 2017 are:

Best of the Best

Dentons
DLA Piper
Jones Day
Kirkland & Ellis
Latham & Watkins
Sidley
Skadden
Sullivan & Cromwell
Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz

Leaders

Baker McKenzie
Cooley
Cravath, Swaine & Moore
Davis Polk
Debevoise & Plimpton
Dechert
Gibson Dunn
Hogan Lovells
Morgan Lewis
Paul, Weiss
Perkins Coie
Simpson Thacher
Sutherland
Weil
White & Case

Learn more about why legal decision makers consider fewer than 20% of law firms a sure bet in the new BTI Brand Elite 2017: Client Perceptions of the Best-Branded Law Firms, available now.

Clients Name More Tech-Savvy Law Firms in 2017

More law firms are upping their client-facing tech savvy. Clients recognize 33 more law firms than last year for Tech Savvy—an impressive 38% increase over last year. Clients are looking for technology which streamlines processes and communication, and enables improved reporting about budget and work to date. Clients name 119 law firms standing out for Tech Savvy.

Please join us in congratulating all the Tech Savvy law firms and especially the 5 Best of the Best and the 15 Leading firms close behind them.

The law firms climbing the Tech-Savvy ranks in the just-released BTI Brand Elite 2017 are:

Best of the Best

Cooley
Dentons
DLA Piper
Jones Day
Skadden

Leaders

Baker McKenzie
Cravath, Swaine & Moore
Dechert
Gibson Dunn
Greenberg Traurig
K&L Gates
Kirkland & Ellis
Latham & Watkins
Littler
Morgan Lewis
Polsinelli
Reed Smith
Seyfarth Shaw
Sidley
Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz

See direct client feedback and learn more about how tech-savvy firms are adding firepower to their client service performance in the new BTI Brand Elite 2017: Client Perceptions of the Best-Branded Law Firms, available now.

Number of Law Firms Worth Premium Rates Continues to Climb

Top legal decision makers are paying more law firms premium rates than last year. This is a direct result of the surge in Bet-the-Company work and the growing number of law firms delivering more value. BTI research shows 28 law firms gained newly earned status in especially hard to get Premium Worthy recognition in 2017. While the number of Best of the Best Premium-Worthy law firms remains unchanged at 9, the names of the firms did.

Please join us in congratulating the below firms on their ability to gain premium rates in a cost-conscious world.

The Best in Class Premium-Worthy Firms in the just-released BTI Brand Elite 2017 are:

Best of the Best

Cooley
Cravath, Swaine & Moore
Dentons
DLA Piper
Gibson Dunn
Jones Day
Kirkland & Ellis
Latham & Watkins
Skadden

Leaders

Allen & Overy
Baker McKenzie
Davis Polk
Dechert
Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson
Greenberg Traurig
Hogan Lovells
McGuireWoods
Morgan Lewis
Paul Hastings
Paul, Weiss
Pillsbury
Proskauer Rose
Reed Smith
Seyfarth Shaw
Sidley
Simpson Thacher
Sullivan & Cromwell
Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz
Weil
Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati
Winston & Strawn

Learn more about what makes premium rates worthwhile to general counsel in the new BTI Brand Elite 2017: Client Perceptions of the Best-Branded Law Firms, available now.