Acritas rankings highlight Freshfields reality gap

Freshfields may be going great guns in the US, but the magic circle is apparently losing its grip on the all-important brand equity, if the latest research by Acritas is to believed.

Freshfields and magic circle rival Linklaters held the third and fourth positions last year in the Global Elite Law Firm Brand Index but were pushed into fifth and sixth respectively by Norton Rose Fulbright and DLA Piper. Indeed, Norton Rose Fulbright has shot up the rankings recently, from fifteenth place in 2010 to seventh last year and third this year.

In top spot was Baker & McKenzie, noted by Acritas for its “unmatched global footprint” and particularly multi-jurisdictional workload while the magic circle did make an appearance in second place in the shape of Clifford Chance.

UK heritage firms make up the bulk of the top 10, with Jones Day and Skadden being the only US-based representatives other than Bakers to make a showing, snaring the ninth and tenth positions.

Norton Rose Fulbright and DLA Piper’s elevated positions in the rankings is thought to be down to their activity in the US last year, something that Freshfields has hardly been neglecting recently. Over the past few weeks it has made a series of bold US lateral hires including Fried Frank’s head of capital markets Valerie Ford Jacob along with two corporate partners in New York.

And as our feature this week reveals, the firm is taking on corporate America as part of a wider mission, to become a leading player not in the magic circle but in the ‘international elite’.

There’s clearly still plenty of work to be done.

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