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.


Big Growth in Firms Making Big Changes to Boost Client Service

Clients report a 60% increase in the number of law firms making changes to boost client service. Clients note selective use of client feedback, improved communication, more reaching out for client preferences, increase in firms anticipating needs, and offering proactive advice. And of course, response time is always just what it should be because you and your client agreed on the levels of response. In short, there are as many ways to improve client service as there are law firms who improved. 

The number of Best of the Best law firms making changes to improve client service increased by 1 to 8 in 2017. The Leaders, performing close to the Best of the Best, increased to 17 from 12.

Please join us in congratulating the below firms on their outstanding performance.

The law firms ranking high as Client Service Strategists in the just-released BTI Brand Elite 2017 are:

Best of the Best

Baker McKenzie
Cooley
Dentons
DLA Piper
Jones Day
Latham & Watkins
Reed Smith
Skadden

Leaders

Cravath, Swaine & Moore
Davis Polk
Eversheds Sutherland
Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson
Gibson Dunn
Jackson Lewis
K&L Gates
Littler
Morgan Lewis
Norton Rose Fulbright
Ogletree Deakins
Paul Hastings
Pillsbury
Polsinelli
Scopelitis, Garvin, Light, Hanson & Feary
Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz
Weil

Learn how your firm can garner higher profits, rates, and client retention in the new BTI Brand Elite 2017: Client Perceptions of the Best-Branded Law Firms, available now.

Clients Rank Every Law Firm Brand—Who’s Up, Down, and Best

Improve your brand and you drive your firm’s growth. Improve your brand a bit more strategically and you improve profits too. Boost your brand in all 9 factors leaving the biggest imprint on clients and you attract new clients as well. Develop the brand strength to outperform almost all others and you are looking at the potential for outsized gains—no matter what the market conditions.

Brand drives hiring decisions and value decisions—as in what clients expect to pay your firm. Your brand drives your business—whether you manage your brand or not. Weaker brand means weaker hiring and rate potential.

BTI’s newest research on law firm branding—BTI Brand Elite 2016—ranks the law firms serving large clients with the best brand standing—based solely on general counsel and legal decision maker’s input.

Clients Rank All Law Firm Brands

65% of the 650 law firms serving large companies have some level of branding. 35% of law firms serving large clients have no perceptible brand. The first 65% have a significant advantage.

Of the 422 law firms with a brand ranking, 28 outperform all others—receiving a score 13 times the average law firm.

The BTI Brand Elite 28 are:  

 

 


BTI BRAND ELITE 28

Top 26 HTML

Rank

Firm

01

Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom

02

Jones Day

03

Baker & McKenzie

04

Kirkland & Ellis

05

Sidley Austin

06

DLA Piper

07

Latham & Watkins

08

Davis Polk & Wardwell

09

Hogan Lovells

10

Sullivan & Cromwell

11

K&L Gates

12

Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher

13

Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz

14

Alston & Bird

15

Dentons

16

King & Spalding

17

Foley & Lardner

18

McGuireWoods

19

Ropes & Gray

20

Morgan Lewis

21

Mayer Brown

22

Covington & Burling

23

Seyfarth Shaw

24

Reed Smith

25

Norton Rose Fulbright

26

Greenberg Traurig

27

Bryan Cave

28

Arnold & Porter


Branding By Leaps and Bounds

This year 7 firms make leaps of 5 spots or greater and land on the BTI Brand Elite 28 by exhibiting the core factors making the most enduring and influential imprint on clients—and their own hirability and rates.

Davis Polk & Wardwell—up 12 spots to #8—has been investing in understanding clients’ business and sharing their strategies with clients—this has positioned the firm for more premium and bet-the-company work and GCs recommend Davis Polk to peers based on these strengths.

Hogan Lovells—up 5 spots to #9—has boosted their innovation with widespread client educational programs using original research. The firm has embraced educating clients about cybersecurity and product liability.

Dentons—up 25 spots to #15—has been making changes to harness its growing base of resources around clients. Clients note and are impressed by these changes—driving substantial improvement in brand.

King & Spalding—up 19 spots to #16—has been changing how it delivers its legal services in a manner which improves client service. The firm has been able to improve its consistency in complex matters for complex clients. This change offers significant value and speaks to core client goals.

McGuireWoods—up 7 spots to #18—has been making changes to deliver more value, including introducing more client-facing practice groups such as supply chain management, built around client needs instead of legal skills.

Ropes & Gray—up 11 spots to #19—has been aggressive in reaching out to clients to learn about the changes their clients want and need. GCs see this approach as innovative—both asking clients and actually making the changes clients suggest.

Covington & Burling—up 9 spots to #22—has brought more firm wide consistency to growing practices like class action, mass tort and government investigations enabling clients to rely on the firm in more matters and more high-risk matters.

MBR

Highest Rates Clients Pay Jump to $1600, Top Rates up 8%

Clients pay $1,600 an hour after any discount as the highest rate in the market—a new all-time high for the top rate. And, this is not an isolated rate—more than a few clients report paying $1,600 per hour.

4 Figure Hourly Rates Officially Part of the Legal Landscape

38% corporate counsel report paying a top rate of $1,000 an hour or higher. The 4 figure HRP is clearly embedded in the legal landscape. The largest 30 law firms, including the Magic Circle firms, lay claim to 54% of clients paying the highest rates.

Clients say new and extreme risks make the top rates worth paying. Think monster transactions, global complexity, large scale FCPA and similar enterprise-level risk. 

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The 9 Roads to Premium Rates

Brand isn’t about one thing. Your brand is about everything you do. Every action, interaction, the technology your firm uses, the client service your firm provides, or the value a client believes they get from using your firm—these all contribute to the imprint in a client’s mind; an impression which drives hiring decisions—and the rates clients think you are worth.

Strong brands influence client loyalty, hiring, and rates—especially, premium rates. BTI assessed which activities were most important to legal decision makers’ when:

  • Making hiring decisions—both consideration and ultimate hiring of law firms
  • Bestowing law firm recommendations to peers
  • Awarding premium-rate work

Subtle changes in law firm behavior greatly affect how legal decision makers perceive the firm’s overall brand. This year’s in-depth research uncovered 9 significant changes, all of which impact hiring and pricing for every law firm. These are:

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Clients Short Lists Get a Little Longer

Clients’ lists of go-to law firms just got a little longer. This means more law firms will have to fight harder to even be considered for hire for a new matter. As the number of top recommend firms shrinks corporate counsel are considering at least a few new firms to hire. One more sign of the marketing value of developing and investing in relationships as clients consider a longer list of competitors. 

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A Few More Law Firms Make Changes to Boost Client Service

More law firms are making changes to improve client service—37 more out of the 650 serving larger clients.  

This small but strategic sliver of law firms are changing their business approach and processes to improve client service. Corporate counsel’s smaller law firm rosters are forcing law firms to reconsider their client-facing activities. With client short lists getting longer, clients are demanding the absolute best service and experiences from their law firms. To their credit, some law firms are responding (the other option is letting the work go to someone else willing to respond).  

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