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‘Reflecting the market right now, not several years back’ – The Legal 500

Late last month we published the first Legal 500 UK guide since I took over as editor. While changing something the size of the UK guide is going to take time (for context we include some 1,300 UK and US firms across more than 10,000 individual rankings) readers will have already noticed some improvements.

The legal industry has never had a reputation for being the fastest-moving sector, and the same criticism has at times been levelled against the analysts that assess the profession. As a research business we always start with the quantitative data and tangible evidence as the basis of our research – this means there will inevitably be some time lag between what we are ranking firms on and what is happening within their practice right now.

But one of my priorities since taking over the UK guide is making our research as dynamic as possible to ensure that The Legal 500 rankings reflect the market as it is right now, not as it stood several years back. This means much more movement in the rankings, up and down. You can already see this approach in this year’s guide and readers can expect this trend to accelerate in years to come.

Firms obviously will not be yo-yoing up and down the rankings based on a single hire or exit, but we will be making a judgement call earlier on the impact of partner moves, strategy shifts and signs of investment or retrenchment.

The scale of movement in the lateral market in London and elsewhere in recent years, and the amount of consolidation taking place, means some firms investing heavily in a practice line are able to make rapid inroads. Our rankings need to reflect that.

Another shift is to ensure we have more time, effort and rigour pouring into the marquee practice lines that generate hundreds of millions of pounds in fees annually to reflect their importance to the vast UK legal economy. The net result of all this should be authoritative and critical analysis that casts a questioning eye over the market. It will get progressively harder to earn those tier-one rankings; exactly the kind of guide our GC readers would expect. While there is a shift in approach, in many ways this takes us back to exactly the spirit of robust independent scrutiny that The Legal 500 established with its pioneering launch over 30 years ago.

I also want our guide to be as helpful as possible to those using it – whether in-house counsel, law firms or chief executives – and demonstrate more of the market knowledge and information we have considered as part of the ranking process. For this reason you’ll have noticed that our editorial now provides a more complete picture of the firms ranked – the biggest deals, the key clients and the client quotes.

The rankings are only a part of the UK Legal 500, of course. Our work does not start and end with the core research period. I’m going to be out meeting firms throughout the year to ensure our analysis of the market is as up-to-date as possible.

And we are going to be continuing to turn the spotlight on individual firms and practices throughout the year in our regular Legal Business column – The Legal 500 View – which will pick apart the key factors driving change in the most competitive rankings, with a view to shaking things up further still next year.

If you have any thoughts I’d be glad to hear them – please get in touch at georgina.stanley@legal500.com.

The Legal 500 UK 2020 is out now.

Georgina Stanley is editor of The Legal 500 UK Solicitors.


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