Oslers tops for Canadian law firm brands: survey

Osler Hoskin & Harcourt LLP ranks as the top Canadian law firm brand, according to a new survey by legal market research firm Acritas.

While Oslers didn’t rank as highly for unprompted brand awareness, it did score first when it came to questions around which firms general counsel favour, the most used, and the most likely candidates for top-level work.

“Overall, Osler was not first for unprompted brand awareness. That was actually McCarthy,” says Elizabeth Duffy, vice president of Acritas US Inc.

Acritas carried out the survey by asking 250 Canadian-based general counsel which law firms come first to mind; which they most favour; and which they’ll consider when it comes to top-level mergers-and-acquisitions work, bet-the-company litigation, and high-value files. It also asked 302 general counsel elsewhere which Canadians firms they’d mostly likely use for their legal needs here.

The survey shows, among other things, that bigger isn’t necessarily better. On this score, it gave the example of Torys LLP. “The firm sits in third place on the index, but despite its smaller (in relative terms) size and not being one of the top choices for international buyers, it still has a stronger brand than other larger firms,” Acritas noted in announcing the survey results.

In addition, the survey noted the trend of business clients seeking greater value from their law firms, an issue Duffy says doesn’t always relate to price. “Clients are not price-sensitive but they are value-sensitive. It’s less so much about dollar amounts and what they feel they’re getting for it.”

The value equation, according to Duffy, comes down in part to communication and relationships. As a result, law firms need to ensure they tailor the work they do to the business context and involve the client in decisions, she says.

Another trend identified by Acritas is the shift in work to second-tier law firms. In response to the economic downturn and tightening budgets, “we are seeing a shift across the global legal market as clients use top tier firms less for high value work overall,” Acritas noted. “Instead, they are thinking more carefully about which firm will provide the appropriate quality for the right price. What is true of the global legal market also stands for the Canadian market.”

According to Duffy, that means companies aren’t necessarily using the top-paid legal specialists for all of their needs. “They’re looking at the context of each piece of work,” she says, a trend accentuated by the increased choices available as more global law firms pop up.

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