How rankings for the largest law firms are made

Methodology of rankings explained.

Rankings are created by objective and measurable criteria: turnover, profit, number of attorneys and number of clerks, as well as points for deals for which the law firm received a reward more than €20,000 (reward €20,000-50,000 equals 1 point), reward more than €50,000 equals 1.5 points).

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The exact sum of the reward is, however, not available, since it is sensitive information that the law firms protect as trade secrets.

Transnational rankings also analyse the deal value, but in Slovak circumstances, this criterion might not come across as objective.

“In the past, we have repeatedly noticed that Slovak law firms reported among their deals large cross-border or international transactions of high value, while in fact they only participated to a small extent on them, such as providing due diligence of a Slovak-based company or implementation,” said publisher of The Slovak Spectator Ján Pallo, who is in charge of the methodology of the ranking.

Deal value is particularly noted only in the litigation agenda. Lawyers were, however, able to report deal value in their public references (with no impact on their ranking), which served as the basis for articles about last year's and this year’s deals.

Where the limits are

Each of the so-far used methodologies has its limits. In the past, the year-on-year comparison of revenues resulted in big deviations, since law firms follow a specific economic cycle. This is mainly impacted by the phasing of invoicing or the system of rewards after successful closure of court litigation or another project, the so-called success fee.

In such cases, the law firm may post an average turnover for several years. Then, in a year when the success fee is paid, a smaller law firm may see its revenues skyrocket. This may seem suspicious at first sight, but nothing suspicious is going on. This is the reason why the overall ranking is based on the average turnover of law firms in the past three years and not just the past year. A success fee is also included in the profit of the law firm, which is why we are also looking at the three-year average value.

The profit as such also brings another anomaly, typical for attorneys. It is the way partners in law firms are paid. They either receive dividends, which can be found in publicly accessible documents and data, or they have the status of a business partner and receive a regular reward, which subsequently increases the costs of the whole firm and thus lowers its year-end profit. This, however, is not disclosed with publicly accessible data. That is why the weight of this criterion is the lowest among all the observed parameters.

Rankings generally simplify the reality to make it possible to interpret their results for the wider public and bring a simplified yet accurate picture of the reality. There is still no unambiguous indicators that would be exact in assessing the differences in how demanding the individual deals are, but we will continue looking for an agreement on the market about this. Each year we revise and improve the methodology based on the feedback we receive from law firms that provide their results to us in an effort to show the most exact picture possible.

Factors for main categories

The ranking in the main three categories (Largest Law Firm, Largest International Law Firm and Largest Local Law Firm) was created based on six factors (the number of lawyers and number of deals for 2020; average revenues and profits for years 2018-2020). These six factors have been assigned the following weight:

  • number of attorneys (30% weight)
  • number of law graduates practising longer than 3 years (16% weight)
  • number of law graduates practising less than 3 years (8% weight)
  • sales revenue (23% weight)
  • net profit (7% weight)
  • points for deals for which the law firm received a reward more than €20,000 (reward €20,000-50,000 equals 1 point), reward more than €50,000 equals 1.5 points) (16% weight)

Factors for partial categories

The ranking in partial categories (M&A, Banking & Finance, Real estate & development, Litigation, Labour law, Restructuring & Insolvency, Regulation, Competition law and Commercial law) was created based on five factors derived from 2020 data, to which we gave different weights:

  • points for deals from a relevant category for which the law firm received a reward more than €20,000 (reward €20,000-50,000 equals 1 point, reward more than €50,000 equals 1.5 points) (70% weight)
  • sales revenues (10% weight)
  • number of attorneys (10% weight)
  • number of associates practising more than 3 years (6% weight)
  • number of associates practising less than 3 years (4% weight).

The ranking in the partial category Litigation & Arbitration was influenced by these factors derived from 2020 data:

  • number of points for active deals with regard to their deal value (DV) (85% weight): DV €1-5 mil. (1 point), DV €5-10 mil. (2 points), DV €10-50 mil. (3 points), DV €50-100 mil. (4 points), DV more than €100 mil. (5 points), DV more than €1 mil. /NA with 2020 reward €20,000-50,000 (1 point), DV more than €1 mil. / NA with 2020 reward more than €50,000 (1.5 points)
  • sales revenues (5% weight)
  • number of attorneys (5% weight)
  • number of associates practising more than 3 years (3% weight)
  • number of associates practising less than 3 years (2% weight).

The ranking in the partial category Intellectual property was created based on five factors derived from 2020 data, to which we gave different weights:

  • points for deals from IP category for which the law firm received a reward more than €20,000 points (reward €7,000-20,000 equals 0.7 point, reward €20,000-50,000 equals 1 point, reward more than €50,000 equals 1.5 points) (70% weight)
  • sales revenues (10% weight)
  • number of attorneys (10% weight)
  • number of associates practising more than 3 years (6% weight)
  • number of associates practising less than 3 years (4% weight).

Some deals were cross-sectional (e.g. the sale of a property via a share deal can be put in the partial category M&A or Real Estate) and it was up to the law firm to decide on the final partial category. Each deal could be mentioned only once in only one category.

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