July 24, 2024


The Legal System

Canadian Law Firm Brand Index: Clients looking for practical, localized legal advice


In the new “Canada Law Firm Brand Index”, we see how buyers of legal services in Canada are looking to their outside counsel for practical business advice and localized legal knowledge across multiple jurisdictions.

Before the global pandemic, it was a bit easier to decipher what corporate clients wanted from their law firms. Differentiators such as strong personal relationships, a long-standing reputation, and responsiveness were often the keys to locking in client business for years at a time.

Now, in Canada and the rest of the world, those attributes are actually declining as defining characteristics for those law firms most-favored by clients. Instead, clients and buyers of legal services — in Canada and elsewhere — are placing a much greater emphasis on the value of practical business advice and the broader strength of lawyers.

Indeed, in the latest Canada Law Firm Brand Index, Canadian clients cited both of those attributes, along with localized legal knowledge across multiple jurisdictions, as the main characteristics they are seeking most in their outside counsel.

This shift is hardly surprising. As companies push forward and hope to get back to a more normal state following the massive upheaval of the global pandemic, business risk itself is being redefined. That means that corporate clients are seeking outside counsel that hold a wider perspective and specific strengths that can help clients navigate the still-turbulent waters in 2022 and in the future. Further, clients in Canada and elsewhere are looking for those outside law firms that can demonstrate a solid track record of quality results, efficient delivery, and future-looking commercial solutions, the Index showed.

Elizabeth Duffy, Senior Director of Global Client Services at Thomson Reuters, said their research shows that clients in Canada and around the world were prioritizing specialist expertise over historical relationships or reputation. “In 2021, as businesses emerged from the crisis, legal service buying patterns are focusing on forward-facing factors like understanding the client’s business and knowledge of their sector,” Duffy explains.

In the minds of many clients, their outside law firms should be leveraging all their skills towards solving not just today’s legal challenges, but those that clients may not yet have anticipated. Indeed, clients are depending on their legal partners to identify and solve these yet-unseen problems. Those outside law firms — the ones that are truly proactive in their advice and innovative in their delivery — will continue to find themselves most favored by Canada-based corporate clients, the Index shows.

You can watch Jennifer Dezso, Director of Client Relations at Thomson Reuters, breakdown not just the Canadian legal market, but also the markets in the US, UK, Mainland Europe, and the Asia-Pacific region.

As part of this realignment of the risk mindset, Canadian legal buyers — like those in many parts of the world — have indicated that they are prepared to increase their legal spending in 2022. In fact, more than 42% of GCs at companies in Canada who were surveyed said their organization plans to increase its overall legal spend this year. That increase in spend, however, comes with a higher bar for their outside counsel to meet in terms of innovative collaboration and specialized business-focused knowledge.

Redefining risk

This year’s Canada Law Firm Brand Index clearly reflected this redefinition of risk, even as the Index itself remained relatively stable. The top 4 spots remained the same from the previous year, even as the individual scores among the top group grew closer.

The Index shows that Blake, Cassels & Graydon (Blakes) remains the Canadian market leader for the seventh consecutive year. In fact, Blakes’ staying power deftly illustrates this shift in risk assessment as the firm has cemented its position at the top by building on its deep relationships with its clients and demonstrating a clear understanding of clients’ businesses.

The rest of the top 4 — McCarthy Tétrault at number 2; Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt (3); and Norton Rose Fulbright (4) — each leveraged separate brand differentiators to secure their spot in this market. And three other law firms — Torys, Borden Ladner Gervais, and Bennett Jones — showed that there is still room to climb the Canadian law firm rankings as they all finished strong in the Index, each individually pursuing a strategy that combined a valuable understanding of clients’ businesses with deep legal expertise. Clearly, as the Index shows, these two factors are the most powerful combination that clients are seeking as they navigate new legal risks.

Thomson Reuters’ Regional Law Firm Brand Index 2022 illustrated how those law firms in Canada and around the world that saw the most growth in this year’s Index were the ones that were able to establish themselves in the minds of clients in areas of brand awareness and client favorability. The Regional Index 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.


In today’s post-crisis environment, as the worst of the pandemic seems behind us, corporate clients are not going back to the traditional ways of assessing their outside legal counsel. Instead, clients and legal service buyers in Canada and elsewhere are seeking legal partners that can demonstrate a deeper focus on factors that will best position those clients to take advantage of coming opportunities and best face future challenges.

You can download the Canada Law Firm Brand Index here:


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