EY Law jumped to the top spot in a worldwide survey of legal service provider brand recognition, solidifying the notion that the Big Four accountancy’s recent buying spree has further put its legal division on the map.
In fact, the law divisions of each of the Big Four companies dominated the 2019 Global Alternative Legal Brand Index issued for the third year by Acritas, a legal market analysis, advisory, and research firm.
EY moved up from No. 4 last year to replace PwC Legal, which dropped to second. KPMG Legal finished fourth, just ahead of Deloitte Legal, which tied for fifth with Axiom, a lawyer staffing company that focuses on corporate law departments.
Elevate, which has e-discovery and artificial intelligence-infused automation products in its portfolio, jumped up 13 spots to ninth.
The global rankings, including EY Law at the top, make sense, said Andrew Baker, a senior director of HBR Consulting, a legal industry consultancy.
“This roughly matches what we would expect,” according to Baker, who also noted that alternative providers are becoming more important.
Corporate counsel spending on these companies, compared to money that goes to law firms or is spent internally, jumped from 2% to 6% from 2015 to 2018, according to HBR data, Baker said.
“Some of those ALSPs are really growing up,” he said.
The legal divisions of PwC and EY also finished third and fourth, respectively, in Acritas’s 2019 U.S. market brand rankings, an index derived specifically from the roughly 400 U.S.-based in-house counsel, a subsection of the 1,169 interviews conducted for the main global survey.
The slightly lower Big Four rankings in the U.S.-focused survey correlate with the fact that they’re prevented from offering a full range of legal services in the United States. State bars restrict law firm ownership.
Acritas, and officials with some of the companies on the list, believe the global recognition rise of EY and Elevate in large part had to do with their respective acquisition sprees over the past year. Elevate Chairman and CEO Liam Brown prefers to call his business a “law company” instead of an alternative legal service provider.
“Our acquisitions in the past twelve months have added management talent, extended our consulting and global services capabilities, and added AI to our software offerings,” Brown said in a statement. “As the legal market embraces new ways of working, we see growing demand for our multi-disciplinary solutions for legal and business teams, reflecting improving awareness of our brand as the law company.”
Recent Elevate purchases have included law company Yerra Solutions, Hong Kong-based legal resourcing company Cognatio Law, and enterprise consulting and legal-focused artificial intelligence tech firm LexPredict.
EY also has been on a legal services buying binge, including most notably legal outsourcing business Pangea3 from Thomson Reuters in April, and Riverside Law, a tech-focused law firm, in 2018.
According to Acritas, its index was compiled from an analysis of data from the Sharplegal Global Elite 2019 survey. The interviews of senior legal buyers within general counsel offices were conducted by phone in 51 countries between October 2018 and July of this year.
Brand-recognition rankings were determined by answers to three questions that tried to determine the legal service providers—not counting law firms—that first come to mind; the providers they feel most favorably toward; and the service suppliers they are working with that demonstrate “modern innovation practices.”