Clients looking for law firms that can “connect the dots” on complex regulatory, international issues

4 minute read

REUTERS/Toru Hanai

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Even as companies and their law firms continue to navigate the difficult terrain of the on-going fall-out from the global pandemic, one of the biggest strategic challenges driving legal demand in the Asia-Pacific region is the still-changing regulatory environments in which global clients operate.

According to the new , Asia-Pacific-based General Counsel (GCs) are looking for strategic legal partners who can help identify and manage these challenges across boundaries. As a result, we’re anticipating that legal spend in the areas of regulatory work, litigation, and labor & employment will all increase. In fact, Asia-Pacific corporate clients surveyed cited that localized legal knowledge that is applicable across multiple jurisdictions is one of the main factors they look for in selecting their outside counsel.

That means those Asia-Pacific law firms that were seen as able to connect the dots for clients internationally saw a big boost in this year’s Index. As our survey shows, the number of clients in the Asia-Pacific region looking to allocate more of their budget to cross-border work and seeking access to key markets across the region have increased in the last 12 months.

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Of course, with this increased spend comes a shift in what clients are seeking from their outside counsel. In the Asia-Pacific region and across the world, we are seeing a law firm’s professionalism, proven track record, reputation, and trustworthiness have all declined in importance in clients’ minds after having gained quite a bit of currency through the pandemic. During the crisis, clients gravitated to the firms that they felt provided them with a sense of comfort and safety in a time of massive uncertainty.

Now however, other attributes have risen in importance, shifting clients’ perception of a law firm’s brand. For example, we have seen technical specialty grow in significance as clients want to know that their firms are on top of all the latest developments and are the definitive experts in their field.

<i><b>Looking for the global platform</b></i>

At the top of the , we saw a bit of a reshuffle as Baker McKenzie regained the top position after delivering on both the need for global and local legal support. Clients noted that Baker McKenzie’s ability to deliver on this support has translated into incredibly strong levels of consideration for cross-border work. In fact, the firm received three times the number of points for cross-border deal consideration than the next closest firm, and twice the number of points than the next closest firm for multi-jurisdictional litigation.

The two other firms in the Top 3 of the Index — King & Wood Mallesons and Herbert Smith Freehills, ranked 2nd and 3rd, respectively — both had very strong showings. Always a top performer in the Index, King & Wood Mallesons continues to combine quality and service focus to help guide clients moving forward, which in turn has generated the highest levels of brand favorability and selection for more high-value work than any other firm in this year’s Index.

Clients also cited Herbert Smith Freehills’ ability to combine quality, specialist knowledge, and a real commercial focus. The firm’s understanding of clients’ sectors and strategic goals has been a big point of differentiation for the firm across the region.

Round out the Top 5 in the Index, Chinese law firm heavyweights JunHe and Zhong Lun were ranked in 4th and 5th place, respectively, and both firms were cited by clients for their impeccable service, demonstrating the importance of the Chinese market to the region.

Thomson Reuters’ covers the legal markets in five separate countries or regions — the United States, the United Kingdom, Mainland Europe, Canada, and the Asia-Pacific region. Each Index is based on data compiled in 2021 from Thomson Reuters Sharplegal study.

As the Index demonstrates, corporate clients and legal service buyers in the Asia-Pacific region and around the world are seeking out those legal partners that can demonstrate a deeper focus on factors that will best position clients to take advantage of coming opportunities and face future challenges.

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