Part of a series of interviews with movers and shakers in the legal media world, held at the Legal Marketing Association conference in Las Vegas in March 2017.
LP: Can you introduce yourselves?
LHS/ED: I’m Lisa Hart Shepherd, CEO of Acritas, and I’m Elizabeth Duffy, the vice president of Acritas in the US. Acritas is a market research company specializing in the legal sector. We conduct market surveys of general counsel around the world, speaking to 2,500 each year as part of our Sharplegal program. We’ve been doing that for 10 years. And we also survey star lawyers within law firms around the world.
LP: For those that are not familiar, can you explain your “Sharplegal” survey – this is like your flagship survey?
LHS/ED: It’s an annual survey conducted by Acritas. We speak to 2500 GCs around the world every year in large companies, and we do it all by telephone in their local language. We ask them about different law firm brands to track law firm brand strength. We also ask about buyer behavior – understanding how GC’s find and use their law firms. And we also ask about legal spend so that we can track what the next 12 months will look like, what the opportunities will be. There’s also an element of client feedback, so we can understand the levels and drivers of satisfaction in different parts of the world.
LP: When you publish your survey, what factors influence brand strength? What would differentiate the number one firm from number 20?
LHS/ED: The components that go into the brand index are top-of-mind brand awareness. Without giving them a list, we ask them who is top of mind, and those firms that they are most likely to think of when a new matter arises. That correlates into winning new work. We also ask about favorability – which firms they favor the most. There have been some changes over time, so today for instance clients are more interested in international capability, they talk more about pricing, and value, and the commercial aspects, whereas 10 years ago, it was a lot more focused on expertise and speed of service. Size is a factor because the more lawyers a firm has, they’re touching more companies in the market, and that leads to stronger brand awareness. So, the larger you firm, the more likely you are to be near the top. But we’ve always found a correlation with marketing activity, so a firm that markets itself more actively can get a boost. The other factors that go into the Brand Index measure consideration levels for different work types and overall usage in the market.
LP: You’ve added an individual lawyer component to the survey recently? It’s not just about the firm.
LHS/ED: It came about because a few of our general counsel said, “you’re asking us about these firms, and we’re looking for a new firm in, say, Malaysia, and want an individual name”. So, we thought why not ask for individual lawyers that stand out and create a database to help our general counsel? They can see what their peers are saying and draw on this pool of thousands of recommendations from general counsel around the world rather than relying on people they know personally. So, we ask them which stars stood out and what was it that they liked – value, commerciality, expertise.
LP: You were saying there are quotes?
LHS/ED: Yes, you can see the verbatim quotes, and the type of company they came from. So, if you’re looking for a like for like peer recommendation from a similar sized company or within your industry sector.
LP: Is there anything new in the pipeline that legal marketers should be aware of?
LHS/ED: Yes, we’ve recently completed a survey of the star lawyers to find out what makes them tick, to find out what they think of the firms they work for. Most importantly, what do they believe firms can do to drive more star lawyer qualities? We’ve also started asking general counsel about what innovation they’re seeing in the market, and we’re going to start an innovation track service. That’s both from the alternative provider side (the alternatives to law firms as well as traditional law firms) and within their own department. And we’re offering more internal engagement surveys to law firms because we see such a strong correlation between employee engagement and a great client experience, so we are helping firms to measure that and identify the issues they might have.
LP: What’s the best way to get in touch?
LHS/ED: Give us a call. We have people in New York and London. Online at acritas.com.