Differentiation is key in a competitive legal market, survey shows

The new “US Law Firm Brand Index 2022” shows that US law firms really need to hone their legal skills to stand out in this competitive market.

Thomson Reuters’ US Law Firm Brand Indexshows that the legal market in the United States remains one of the most competitive in the world, and that the strong competition is largely driven by the growth potential that the US provides to law firms.

The caveat, of course, is that for a law firm to differentiate itself in the minds of clients or simply stand out in this marketplace requires the firms and their best lawyer to hone an ever-evolving skill set.

Sign up now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com

For example, responsiveness to clients no longer makes a law firm stand out as unique, nor can firms promote their responsiveness as more than just table stakes. However, newer skills, such as being proactive communicators, will still allow a firm and its key attorneys to appeal to what their clients say they want to see from their outside legal counsel.

From a brand perspective, you can see that this post-pandemic shift is clearly occurring as traditional differentiators of law firms, such as historical reputation or relationships with individual attorneys, gave way to other factors, such as the clients’ need for fast and reliable advice from their outside lawyer. The rapid response aspect of legal work was becoming increasingly important to clients, especially as the workload of in-house attorneys continues to grow.

Furthermore, our survey data shows that clients in almost every country or region plan to increase the level of their legal spending in 2022, and that was true of the US legal market as well. In fact, it appears that the impact The ongoing pandemic has kept client legal budgets strong and corporate law departments’ reliance on outside counsel at a high level, much to the benefit of traditional law firms and other legal service providers.

React to changing customer needs

The impact of the global pandemic demonstrated to law firms within the US legal industry, as well as firms within legal markets around the world, that the importance of having a respected and clearly defined brand when it comes to attracting customers, earning their trust, and building strong relationships was paramount. Now, as law firms seek to help their clients navigate still uncertain waters in the wake of the pandemic, they are seeing how critical maintaining these high-quality relationships is to their success.

Thomson Reuters’ showed how those law firms that were able to establish high favorability and brand recognition in the minds of clients, and thereby strengthen these client relationships, saw the most growth in this year’s Index. The regional index covers legal markets in five separate countries or regions: the United States, the United Kingdom, continental Europe, Canada, and the Asia-Pacific region. Each index is based on data compiled in 2021 from the Thomson Reuters Sharplegal study.

This year’s US Law Firm Brand Index clearly reflected this new reality and, for the first time, Latham & Watkins is ranked number one in the US Brand Index. the top awareness score among US-based clients, but also the one clients turn to the most for high-value work matters.

Second place went to Kirkland & Ellis, which continues to build its brand as a top-tier firm. For the past two years in a row, the firm was cited as the most highly regarded for high-end litigation and M&A work. Additionally, this year’s Index showed two new companies breaking into the Top 20 for the first time: Alston & Bird and Winston & Strawn. Both firms have climbed the ranks by leveraging their strong regional reputations into a national presence that has resonated with clients.


As we began to move away from the worst of the pandemic crisis, clients clearly began to shift their focus as to what they wanted from both their internal legal teams and their external law firms. As a result, legal action focused more on forward-looking factors, such as how well law firms understood their clients’ business and market sector. Now, as we move forward, clients in the United States and elsewhere continue to crave this specialized expertise and holistic service from their legal partners.

Sign up now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com

The opinions expressed are those of the author. They do not reflect the views of Reuters News, which, according to the Trust Principles, is committed to integrity, independence and freedom from bias. The Thomson Reuters Institute is owned by Thomson Reuters and operates independently of Reuters News.

Thomson Reuters Institute

The Thomson Reuters Institute brings together people from the legal, corporate, tax and accounting, and government communities to spark conversations and debate, make sense of the latest events and trends, and provide essential guidance on the opportunities and challenges facing your world today.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.