CEE Legal Matters, a publication for lawyers working in Europe’s emerging legal markets, has looked at how law firms in central and eastern Europe perform in the legal directories, and suggested that the rankings tend to favor international over local firms.
The CEE article picks up on an issue that anyone working with independent European firms will have come across: the perception that they are at a institutional disadvantage from international firms.
A quote from a partner at a Hungarian law firm at start of the article summarizes this view:
“It’s B.S. … when we were an international firm, we were a tier 1 firm. The year after we became a local brand, despite having the same team and continuing to work on the same types of projects, we dropped two tiers, only because we no longer had an international-sounding name.”
Editors from Legal 500 and Chambers & Partners are quoted in the CEE Legal Matters piece and reject the accusation that their publications are biased.
This issue is particularly noticeable in the countries of eastern Europe that have competitive local markets, and a large number of independent firms that rely heavily on referrals to compete with international firms in their home markets.
Markets like Romania are known to be acutely sensitive about their performance in legal directories – reflecting a feeling that the directories are a vital way of providing a differentiating edge over local rivals.
Some of this is of course down to resources: international firms are more likely than local independent firms to have more staff and an infrastructure set up to manage the annual effort of responding to directory submissions.
But, marketing team resources aside, is it true that simply being an international firm automatically makes you a better firm in the eyes of the directory?
Perhaps in the past, young researchers were more easily seduced by the charms of international firms.
But I’m not so sure these days.
A lot of local firms do a perfectly decent job when it comes to submissions and engage just as fully with the directories.
In some respects, they may even do better as they’re more nimble and entrepreneurial and focused on their own jurisdiction rather than bogged down in the cross-office politics and organizational inertia that slows down larger international firms.