Data-driven research since 1987

Quality of Associates

Quality of associates by firm type

Partners may run law firms, but it is associates that often end up doing the bulk of the work for clients

Becky Pritchard

Thursday July 15, 2021

According to data from Legalease Research Services, which contacts 150,000 clients in the UK annually to provide assessments of law firm service, clients rate the associates at boutique and global elite law firms as the best in the UK.

As you can see from the chart below, these firms score well above our UK benchmark for the quality of associates.

This might be because these firms tend to hire fewer associates each year than bigger UK law firms, enabling them to be pickier and only hire the cream of the associate crop.

Another explanation may be the experience that these associates are receiving once they join one of these firms. The ratio of associates to partners at boutique and global elite firms is typically pretty low. It is not uncommon for there to be just one or two associates to a single partner. Whereas at a volume driven mid-sized law firm there could be ten associates to every partner.

The highly geared model can be great. It means you can farm out straight-forward work to an army of lower paid associates and boost profitability. But it does mean that associates get less face time with partners, which may mean they have less experience of how to effectively deal with clients or handle a complex or unusual matter – feeding into how well they are rated by clients.

When we look further down the list, we see that UK large, national, mid size and top-25 firms (there will be a few firms cross over a few of these categories) are all pretty much level pegging, scoring slightly below the UK average.

Offshore firms, which includes firms in Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man, score particularly badly on the quality of their associates. This may well be because these firms have the opposite problem to the global elite and boutique firms: from smaller populations, firms are not able to be as selective in hiring because the talent pool is much smaller in these jurisdictions than in the mainland UK.

Data: Legalease Research Services surveys 300,000 commercial law firm clients each year. All scores are statistically validated (Bands of Uncertainty are marked within square brackets). Scores are Relative (not Absolute) and are Benchmarked against the average score of all clients for all client service criteria. For definitions and methodology see For scores of individual law firms (drilled-down into multiple work areas, and multiple jurisdictions), contact