Acritas scored the firms based on interviews with 491 senior in-house counsel in 11 countries. The ranking reflects how in-house legal buyers perceive law firms.
The firms were scored on top-of-mind awareness, favourability, consideration for domestic and multi-jurisdictional top-level deals and litigation, usage for high-value work by Asia-Pacific clients and inbound usage for such work among international clients.
The firm that scored the highest across these categories set the index at 100, and the other scores were calculated based on this.
This year Baker McKenzie returned to the top spot, after falling to second in 2016. It was closely followed by King & Wood Mallesons with a score of 98. Herbert Smith Freehills placed third with 79.
South Korean firm Kim & Chang came a distant fourth with a score of 38, while Ashurst and Dentons tied for fifth place on 34.
Chinese firm JunHe ranked seventh with 32, followed by MinterEllison with 30, and DLA Piper with 29. Tenth place was a tie between Allen & Overy and Allens, both on 27.
Baker McKenzie’s Asia-Pacific chair Gary Seib attributed the award to the firm’s strength in cross-border work. Acritas noted that Baker McKenzie was the top firm considered for work covering three or more jurisdictions.
“Baker McKenzie has high-value, multi-jurisdictional work at its core,” Mr Seib said.
“The world is increasingly complex, and corporates tell us that what they want most out of a legal services provider is the ability to navigate and simplify these complexities. This is our purpose as a law firm, and what will drive us as we continue to grow and innovate alongside our clients.”
While Bakers claimed the number one spot, Herbert Smith Freehills was recognised as the fastest-growing legal brand in the region. It recorded the largest points increase in the index, up from 66 in 2016 to 79 this year.
“Asia and Australia are central to our firm’s strategy and heritage and to our clients’ businesses, and our goal is to deliver consistent, high-quality advice in every part of this region,” said Sue Gilchrist, HSF’s joint managing partner, Asia and Australia.
David Johnson, account manager and head of Acritas’ London office, said the strong demand for legal services is driving innovation in the Asia-Pacific region.
“Acritas research shows that this year, more Asia-Pacific businesses expect an increase in their overall and international legal spend than other parts of the world,” he said.
“Law firms seeking to capitalise on this may need to shift away from high hourly partner rates and use innovative alternative delivery structures in order to be profitable.
“Asia-Pacific clients also place a premium on consistency, since many of their legal needs span multiple geographic borders. Law firms do best when their team serves the client as one unit, and builds multi-tiered firm-client relationships.”