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US firms: what you pay for

US law firms in London have long been thought of as being more hard charging than their UK counterparts

Becky Pritchard

Monday June 21, 2021

US law firms in London have long been thought of as being more hard charging than their UK counterparts. Lawyers often say that they pay top dollar, but collect their pound of flesh in the hours they expect their lawyers to work.

While this may be a cliche, data collected from over 150,000 clients shows that clients certainly perceive some truth in it.

According to data from Legalease Research Services, which contacts clients annually to provide assessments of law firm service, US law firms in London score exceptionally well with clients for the availability and engagement of their partners.

The bar is high. As we have discussed in a previous post, clients are generally very happy with the levels of partner availability they receive at most law firms – with client satisfaction scores well above average in this area. But US law firms are stand out performers when it comes to this metric.

As the chart below shows, major US law firms score well above major UK firms for the availability and engagement of their partners.

When we break the data out further, we can see that Cravath Swaine & Moore, Simpson Thacher & Barlett and Kirkland & Ellis, all score particularly well for the availability and engagement of their partners.

We have discussed before that there can be costs in having partners available at all times of the day and night, so we should not rush to unequivocally congratulate these firms for scoring well on this metric.

But what is interesting about the data is what it shows us about the different ways that US and UK law firms work.

US law firms have been operating in London for decades and now employ thousands of UK lawyers, many of which will have been trained in UK firms.

It is one reason that many firms hate to be labelled as a ‘US’ or ‘UK’ firm these days. They say that such tags are simplistic and do not reflect how their business operates. To some extent that is true. Mergers and relentless expansion have meant that most of the big firms now have a global reach, with big offices in major jurisdictions across the world.

But like any large organisation, law firms are still products of the culture that they were established in. The data shows that cultural differences between the way that US and UK law firms operate remain. It may be a cliche, but there is some truth in the hard charging and hard working reputation of US law firms in London.


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 www.legaleasedata.com/faqs/. For scores of individual law firms (drilled-down into multiple work areas, and multiple jurisdictions), contact enquiries@legaleasedata.com