Legal market research - Nisus 2017/18

Earlier this year I reviewed the Nisus Consulting “Balanced scorecard” research report on client service in the legal profession Their latest legal market research report looks into the link between brand, service and loyalty in the UK’s largest law firms.

The report shows the responses from 2,200 buyers of legal service – split equally between legally qualified and lay clients – from 800 organisations. Three quarters are in European HQ organisations.

Merger activity remains high in the legal sector and the report laments the loss of some law firm brands during the process. The authors comment that most law firms’ performance management is internally focused and lacks external metrics that look outwards. It recommends measures on brand strength to address awareness, preference, positioning, association and finances. And client service metrics to include: responsiveness, assurance, tangibles, empathy, reliability, value for money ad budget compliance.

The key findings are:

  • Allen & Overy is the UK’s strongest law firm brand with DLA Piper and Linklaters also faring well. Allen & Overy is also noted for its sub-brands and products including Peerpoint, Aosphere, Fuse and MarginMatrix.
  • Leading the aggregated service performance and value rankings are a Magic Circle firm and two regional heavyweights: Herbert Smith Freehills, Shoosmiths and Osborne Clarke
  • Leading firms for budget compliance are Shoosmiths, Dentons and Clyde & Co
  • DAC Beachcroft, Blake Morgan and Osborne Clarke lead in the value for money category although generally legal buyers are underwhelmed in this area

The age-old question about firm brand or individual brand is neatly answered with the weighted decision-making of legal buyers being shown as:

  • 24% firm, 28% practice area and 48% partner

The report shows the benefits of a strong brand to clients as: enhanced image, lower risk and clearer offering. The report shares comments that provide powerful ammunition for those preparing law firm pitches and tenders:

“The invitation to the party is the name of the firm. Once they are in the door, then it’s the person”

“First off you need to pick a firm with significant weight to line up against the other side. Then it’s the partner, then it’s the team”

The report analyses what matters to clients and says that the most effective service factors driving client loyalty are: strategic thinking, personal chemistry and problem-solving. Leading the Net Promoter Score (NPS) loyalty rankings are: Herbert Smith Freehills (58.3%), Osborne Clarke (40.7%), Hogan Lovells (39.5%) and Shoosmiths (39.4%) against a market average of 24%.

The report authors urge firms to:

  • measure client profitability (and be selective about which clients to work with)
  • improve transparency and communication around costs
  • build a brand and align service strategy for the long term

The research report can be obtained here: