How to find the competitors of the law firms?

Discussion in 'Applications Discussion' started by Jai C., May 15, 2018.

  1. Jai C.

    Jai C. Distinguished Member

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    Hi Jaysen,

    This is my first time applying to the law firms - so I am actually quite new to all this process and it has been a rather daunting process as I see for every place there are approx 70-80 applicants.

    I was currently looking at DWF as their deadline is in June so it gives me time before I apply for MC/SC firms in late July.

    I have been struggling with my research - I just do not know how to find the competitors of the law firms.

    You have suggested looking at Legal500 and Chambers Partners rankings - but a firm has offices in so many regions - Where do I even begin with finding who the competitors are - Which regions do I need to compare - Which areas of practice do I look into - HELP !!

    Is there a particular structure that you implemented to find out who the competitors were?
     
  2. Salma

    Salma Legendary Member
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    Hi! I use chambers and partners, it’s a website (free) comparing different law firms/practice areas/band rankings. It also helps you narrow down what exactly the firm is good at and who they are competing against.

    For example (I took a screenshot below). In Banking and Finance, Latham and Watkins is Band 1 for both sponsors and lenders AND no other US firm is currently ranked in BOTH bands. LW are presumably competing against the other firms mentioned within the same band. I hope this helps!
     

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  3. Jai C.

    Jai C. Distinguished Member

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    Thank you for replying. Latham Watkins is such a heavyweight - they will be having Band 1 rankings in numerous areas - and the law firms in each area where LW is ranked Band 1 will vary, thus, it will be having too many competitors?

    For example - in the screenshot you posted - Allen Overy and CC are ranked in Band 1 whereas for Sponsors LV is ranked 1 but the competitors are different namely Kirkland and Simpson T - so are you saying that the firms aforementioned are competitors of LV?

    My apologies if I understood you wrong - It is just I am having slight difficulty in getting used to looking at these firms and comparing -
     
  4. Jaysen

    Jaysen Legendary Member
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    It's tricky. Law firms often use similar language to market themselves so it's often a battle trying to work out who is competing with who.

    If this is for an application form question, it helps to remember that law firms can compete with different firms in many different ways. For example, two firms may not normally cross paths, but they may compete in a certain geography, practice area or technology. You can then zoom in on one aspect and justify why they are competitors.

    Let me run through how I'd do it for DWF. It's not meant to be an exact science and it's not always easy to work it out, but it should give you some areas to look out for.
    • Where is DWF positioned? As a starting point, I'd need some idea of where the firm positions itself. A quick Google search tells me that DWF is headquartered in Manchester with 13 locations in the UK and Ireland. It was originally a regional firm then it became a national firm and now it's on a pretty aggressive international expansion drive - but most of the work still comes from the UK. So I know to look out for firms that are big national players.
    • Check practice areas. Legal 500 tells me that DWF ranks highly for insurance work, especially personal injury (on behalf of defendants). I check the insurance practice area page for DWF and it confirms 'we're one of the largest specialist insurance teams in the UK and regarded as a national heavyweight'. Ok, so I know it's big on UK insurance work, I should look for other national firms in this sector.
    • Who else is big on UK insurance work? I check Legal 500 and Chambers and Partners and make a note of the firms ranked above and below. Firms like Kennedy's, DAC Beachcroft, Browne Jacobson and Clyde & Co pop up. DWF aren't necessarily direct competitors with all of them - some firms may be much bigger and some may be more specialist - but they are ones to flag up.
    • Any other practice areas? I check Chambers Student Guide, which mentions that DWF is also good for banking and finance outside London and a range of commercial practices in the north. Chambers and Partners ranks it highly in employment and litigation in the North West along with firms like Addleshaw Goddard, DAC Beachcroft, Hill Dickinson and a few others.
    • Who are their clients? I'd also check the legal news to see who their clients are/who do they share their legal panels with - you can then see which firms serve the same market.
    • Where do they hire from? Where are their lateral hires from? Which firms do partners exit to? If there are a lot of people coming from, or exiting to, certain firms, then they may well be competitors.
    To answer your questions, I generally only compare London unless the firm is known for being strong in a different region. You're right that for some firms it's hard to pick out practice areas, especially for the magic circle and some US firms when they get top tier rankings everywhere. In the past, I used to use The Lawyer to narrow it down, but now most of it's under a paywall. The next best is probably firm profiles on Chambers Student and Roll on Friday - usually, they'll tell you what the firm's bread and butter is.
     
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  5. Jai C.

    Jai C. Distinguished Member

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    Thank you so very much for such a detailed breakdown of this process !!
     
  6. Jaysen

    Jaysen Legendary Member
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    No problem!
     
  7. racheux

    racheux New Member

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    This was really helpful advice! How would you go about structuring a question on a firm's competitors and how the firm differentiates itself from those competitors? :)
     
  8. Jaysen

    Jaysen Legendary Member
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    I'm glad!

    It depends on how the question is phrased.

    For example, I know Reed Smith asks students to state who their competitors are and how Reed Smith differentiates itself from those competitors.

    For that question, I'd limit the answer to a couple of competitors - one paragraph per firm - and discuss a) why they are a competitor and b) how Reed Smith is different.

    To determine a competitor, I'd research Reed Smith's biggest/most important practice areas and then take a look at firms that also operate in that practice area using Legal 500/Chambers and Partners - and then research those firms.

    But you don't have to look at practice areas. For example, you could look at innovation/tech/sectors/global reach/training programme/branding etc., so long as you justify it.

    This is actually one of the hardest application questions I've seen. If your question is similar, I wouldn't worry too much about finding the 'right' competitors (provided you're not comparing two firms that are extremely different), so long as you focus on the reasons.
     
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  9. S87

    S87 Esteemed Member

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    Hi Jay,

    Would you compare DWF with Eversheds considering that both firms have grown nationally through mergers and then followed an international expansion? The problem is that Eversheds is doing better than DWF, nonetheless in the long term I think that the latter has more to offer especially as PLC.
     
  10. Matt_96

    Matt_96 Star Member

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    I'm not Jaysen, so I can't tell you what he would say but I don't think that's a good comparison. From my understanding, DWF is an insurance-backed firm and most of its instructions come from that background. You can see this in the practice areas that it specialises in: contentious insurance claims, professional negligence, personal injury etc. On the other hand, Eversheds is an international firm with a much broader practice in both disputes and corporate work.

    Also, just because a company is publicly listed does not mean that it will necessarily do well over the long term. I think there are a lot of questions about the suitability of public listing to professional service firms that have not really been adequately answered as no major players in the legal market have yet to commit to it. You could certainly mention that listing publicly has helped DWF raise capital to expand but I don't think you can viably comment on its long term success based on just that.
     
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  11. S87

    S87 Esteemed Member

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    Hi Matt, thank you for your response.

    I have already compared DWF by considering personal injury (Defendant) and I am trying to consider something else than practice areas
     

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