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The legal 500.

Richard Freeland, left, London editor of the Legal 500, and David Kelly, regional editor, right, introduce the 2006 edition

This year sees the 19th edition of The Legal 500. The first-ever independent guide to law firms was published in 1988, and since then The Legal 500 has developed into the largest and most in-depth survey of the UK legal market. Here we analyse the practices of more than 800 law firms, and more than 150 sets of barristers' chambers.

The Legal 500 is a unique book. There are other surveys of law firms and chambers, but none is researched and written by such a team of experienced and award-winning writers.

All researchers also work on our sister publications Legal Business, The In-House Lawyer and Tax Business, and some also edit other Legalease titles, such as Employment Law Journal, and Trusts and Estates Law & Tax Journal. Many researchers have years of experience, a valuable quality in an increasingly complex marketplace.

Understanding the firms is only one aspect of the research process. Ultimately, it is the clients' opinions that matter. In addition to the 3,000 or so references taken up this year, we also rely on our own database of clients, numbering many thousands more in-house counsel and other purchasers of legal services. Our research continues to be endorsed by the Commerce & Industry Group, as recognised by The Law Society of England and Wales.

Over 20,000 copies of the book are distributed free every year, although it is our website (at which many clients are now increasingly turning to, with some five million visits each year. We also publish The Asia Pacific Legal 500 and The Legal 500 ( Europe, Middle East & Africa, covering over 80 different jurisdictions. In 2006 we are launching the new Legal 500 US.

Our findings are seen by a huge range of clients, not only international businesses and FTSE companies. In 2005, over 100 local newspapers and trade titles covered The Legal 500's findings, with circulation over 3.6 million, and a readership of more than ten million people.

This book is primarily a reference tool for buyers of legal services. Law firms themselves will also find much here of interest, be it an independent appraisal of their standing in the market, or an insight into the competition.

It is our task to ensure we are delivering topical commentary, so every year we adapt our sections to make sure we are accurately reflecting the market. The Legal 500 now reviews more practice areas than ever before (more than 100 in London alone), and is undoubtedly the most comprehensive guide available.

In this 2006 edition we have a new Hedge funds section, and amalgamated the disparate IP tables into one composite Intellectual property section. In finance, Bank lending has been re-assessed in the light of a changing market, and refined as a Bank lending: investment grade debt and syndicated loans table; and Domestic flotations (including AIM) has been re-titled Flotations: small and mid-cap. When reviewing the performance of a firm or department we use various criteria. We take on board a combination of size and strength in depth. Our assessment will be influenced by all the things that make the complete practice in that field. These include:- Most prestigious clients;- Individuals with the contacts at, and credibility with, the top clients- In-depth capability beyond star partners- Very strong technical ability available for the most complex work- Capacity for the biggest transactions/cases;- Market share;- Historical track record on top deals/cases;- Clear investment for the future in a particular practice area;- Progress made with acquiring new clients/market share;- Strength in associated areas ( eg can an M&A department undertake competition to an equal standard?;- Reputation for handling complex, innovative deals;- Capacity to handle all client requirements in an area ( eg international offices/connections- Commitment to IT and the use of IT to improve client services; and- Perception in the market.On behalf of the research team at Legalease, we would like to extend our thanks to all the lawyers, marketing professionals and clients who assisted with our research.
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Copyright 2006 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Sep 29, 2006
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