Bennett Jones joins top ten in Acritas law firm brand survey

Survey of legal-service buyers found clients are looking for more business-oriented advice

Bennett Jones joins top ten in Acritas law firm brand survey
Jen Dezso is director of U.S. research and advisory service at Thomson Reuters.

In the ninth annual Acritas Canadian Law Firm Brand Index, Torys LLP and McCarthy Tétrault LLP made gains over last year, and for the first time the top ten welcomed a new entrant: Bennett Jones LLP.

The survey measures which firms resonate most and are preferred by legal services clients, polling decision-makers at companies with US$50 million or more in revenue. This year’s survey included 251 participants from the Canadian market and 69 global multinationals which use Canadian legal services. Along with a general “top-of-mind awareness,” Acritas also asked participants which firms stand out in specific practice areas, says Jen Dezso, director of U.S. research and advisory service at Thomson Reuters.

Thomson Reuters acquired Acritas in November 2019.

“What we do typically see is there's a lot of stability in the Canadian market,” says Dezso. “What really helps cement the firms who stay at the top, year after year, they really are paying attention to what those buyers are looking for in the market. And that does not stay steady, year over year.”

Once again, the top ten was led by Blake Cassels & Graydon LLP and McCarthy Tétrault LLP, who have held the top-two spots for five years running. Norton Rose Fulbright Canada LLP and Osler Hoskin & Harcourt LLP shared the bronze and were followed by Torys LLP, Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP, Stikeman Elliott LLP, Dentons, Borden Ladner Gervais LLP (BLG) and Bennett Jones LLP.

While expertise stays stagnant from year to year and is transferable, legal-services buyers have recently been keen on business-oriented legal advice, says Dezso.

“The firms that we see rising to the top of this list when we do our more qualitative assessments… the firm's that are at the top tend to be named and recognized more frequently for having that service aspect, that business savviness on how they're approaching those legal matters,” she says.

At number two, McCarthy Tétrault has improved on last year, moving closer to Blakes. It is their focus on innovation and alternative service delivery methods that are building McCarthys’ reputation in the market, Dezso says. The firm is also strong in top-level litigation, besting Blakes in that area, she says.

Also ascendant was fifth-place Torys, which increased its relevance through growth with high-revenue corporate clients.

The first eight years of the index saw a fixed top ten. This year, Bennett Jones entered the fray and bumped Gowling WLG to the 11th spot. The firm’s entrance into the top ten is due to “really strong growth” in top-level M&A work, says Dezso.

“They've made a big push for going after that work and it's really resonating in the buyers’ mind,” she says.

Though the top ten tends to stay the same, retaining a spot requires constant change, says Dezso.

“How do you stay in that spot? I think that's really where it comes down to being really attuned to what buyers in that marketplace are looking for, how their needs are changing. Clients’ needs change all the time. They're constantly looking for something different,” she says.  

“They're looking for more value from their law firms. And the firms who really are successful in staying at the top are really making changes that resonate with clients.”

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