In what signals a marked return to favour for the City’s elite players, Magic Circle firm Linklaters has led the field in Legal Business’ third annual in-house survey as best overall adviser in 2014, pushing Eversheds, which emerged as the clear overall favourite in 2013, into second place.
Our 2014 survey, which drew responses from 436 individuals at major companies operating in the UK, reveals the top ten firms comprise largely the same names as last year, with the Magic Circle plus Eversheds, DLA Piper, Pinsent Masons and Baker & McKenzie all appearing. The only significant change was alternative legal services provider Axiom taking the tenth spot, pushing Herbert Smith Freehills into 11th place, demonstrating how non-law firm providers are winning over some bluechip clients.
The Magic Circle had a further vote of confidence with 47% of respondents feeling positive about their quality and value, a jump from the 32% who voted last year. Linklaters, Slaughter and May, and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer took the highest number of votes for strategic, high-quality legal advice, while Eversheds retained first place as best value for money with DLA Piper second.
The expansion of in-house teams is also evident from the findings, as more than two thirds of respondents (71%) reported growth in the size of their in-house teams over the past five years, including 28% who have seen growth of 25% or more in headcount. More than 50% of respondents spent over £1m annually on legal fees.
Eighty six percent of survey respondents cited ‘quality of legal advice’ as the most important criteria for choosing a law firm, suggesting that, despite the aggressive expansion of non-law firm legal services providers in recent years, traditional law firms will continue to take precedence for heavyweight mandates.
However, non-law firm providers voted as having the strongest proposition for company clients included Axiom, which took the top spot, followed by Berwin Leighton Paisner’s lawyer contractor Lawyers On Demand, accountancy giant PwC, Integreon and KPMG.
There is a positive outlook for law firms with indications of rising demand, as 45% of respondents feel that demand for external legal services has increased, 32% reported it as remaining stable and 23% viewed it as in decline.
For the full in-house report, see ‘Getting with the programme’ here.