I know the Burberry brand but that doesn’t mean I buy from them

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I know the iconic luxury goods brand ‘Burberry’. Established in 1856, Burberry have been clothing the rich and famous pretty much continuously since. In Sydney they have a flagship store at 343 George Street. Here’s the kicker though: I have never knowingly bought anything from Burberry.

While this may all sound fascinating, you could well be asking yourself about now what this has to do with the selling of legal services? And it wouldn’t be an unreasonable thought too.

So without further ado, let’s move on to the issue at hand.

Last week saw the publication of the Acritas Global Elite Law Firm Brand Index 2014 to much fanfare. As Acritas themselves proclaim, the Index:

“…reveals the firms which are adapting most successfully to the changing market and winning client loyalty and favorability as a result.”

And while this would seem to be a pretty compelling reason to analyse the Index more closely by itself, goes on to comment, according to the results of the Index, that:

“Multinational clients are more likely to instruct law firms which have a strong multi-jurisdictional presence and capabilities and a collaboratively working style and value focus”.

All I can say is – “Wow!”. If this is truly the case, then it goes without saying that the Index should be considered one of the most important and compelling benchmarks in the industry and it needs to be in the reading list of every managing partner, business development director and head of finance. Because the simple fact is, if my firm isn’t on and near the top of this list, I need to be very concerned.

But, before the panic starts to set in, how is the Index compiled?

Ahh, well here is where it seems to start falling apart. According to the Acritas website,

“The Sharpelegal Global Elite Brand Index is determined through four open-ended questions from the full survey to find out from general counsel:

  • the first law firms to come to mind
  • the firms most considered for multi-jurisdictional deals
  • the firms they feel most favorable towards
  • the firms most considered for multi-jurisdictional litigation.”

Did you notice that there was/is not a single open-ended question to the effect:

  • Did you actually buy legal services from this firm?, or
  • If you bought legal services from this firm, in how many different jurisdictions did you buy them in?, or
  • Did you use the same firm of lawyers in multiple jurisdictions in one transaction during the course of the last 12 months?

And therein lies the problem with the Index: while it is certainly really nice for my ego that my firm is one of the most recognised legal brands in the world (and just to be clear, I don’t actually work for the firm that came out top in the Index by some margin -Baker & McKenzie), the simple fact is that this doesn’t pay the bills.

Which brings me back to Burberry, a brand I most certainly know, would consider buying from (if I won the lottery), and feel very favourable to, but from whom I’ve never actually purchased anything…

That’s another fine mess we’ve gotten into!

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“That’s another fine mess you’ve gotten me into!” – Oliver Hardy

A lot has been written in the past few weeks on Dentons* decision to no longer publish ‘meaningless‘ (their word, not mine) annual Profits Per Equity Partner (PEP) figures, the latest of which “Partners divided on reliability of PEP and need for transparency” was published on the website last Friday.

While I have a level of sympathy with Dentons argument – and the reality is that PEP figures really are meaningless to all but those who work in the firm, at the same time I do feel that the makings of this situation are those of the law firms themselves.

To expand, in the days prior to LLP status, law firms avoided the press – both legal and non-legal – like the plague. Then publications such as Martindale-Hubbell, Chambers and Asia Pacific Legal 500 started to gain traction and firms started to disclose the business/deals they had undertaken in the past 12 months in the hopes of getting good listings/rankings. In most cases this was done without firms asking their clients if they put any credit in these rankings and their feedback on the benefits of such a strategy.