Top Australian law firms, the Google way

These rankings have been updated for 2011!

Other law firm rankings go by revenue, the number of partners, or some other measure of bigness. But in this Web 2.0 world, shouldn’t we be looking at what the unwashed masses have to say? In that vein, I am proud to present the 2009 Australian Law Firm Rankings.

The basic idea is that the better the law firm, the more articles there should be on the Internet that refer to them. This is similar to the idea behind PageRank, although I can only find out the PageRank of a firm’s website to the nearest integer, which is insufficiently fine-grained.

I put each of the law firms’ full names through Google in the following format: "law firm name" AND law The name is combined with the word law because firms like Gadens have rather common names that could be used in other contexts.1 The search is restricted to Australian sites, because international firms like Baker & McKenzie would be unfairly advantaged – these rankings are meant to be for the Australian market.

Ranking Law Firm Page Count Partners2
1 Freehills (*) 20,000 214
2 Mallesons Stephen Jaques (*) 19,600 197
3 Allens Arthur Robinson (*) 19,500 197
4 Minter Ellison (*) 18,600 286
5 Deacons3 18,200 133
6 Clayton Utz (*) 17,300 223
7 Hunt & Hunt 15,200 56
8 Blake Dawson4 (*) 14,800 182
9 Corrs Chambers Westgarth 9,700 120
10 DLA Phillips Fox 8,010 164
11 Gadens 6,210 109
12 Maddocks 6,160 53
13 Baker & McKenzie 5,950 91
14 Holding Redlich 5,720 49
15 Gilbert + Tobin 4,830 54
16 Sparke Helmore 4,760 57
17 Middletons 4,260 64
18 Dibbs Abbott Stillman 3,330 68
19 McCullough Robertson 3,300 39
20 Arnold Bloch Leibler 3,260 28
21 Piper Alderman 3,080 56
22 Henry Davis York 2,510 50
23 TressCox 2,170 48
24 Davies Collison Cave 1,800 34
25 Herbert Geer 1,530 47
26 Lander & Rogers 1,400 42
27 HWL Ebsworth 1,310 99
28 Hall & Wilcox 1,290 27
29 Moray & Agnew 910 53
30 Thomson Playford Cutlers 335 37
31 Kennedy Strang 252 95

1 This is very rough and some irrelevant hits might still be returned. However, it appears to be “good enough” via inspection of some of the hits found.
2 The number of the partners is stated at 2 January 2009, and sourced from the Australian Financial Review, 12 December 2008, page 46.
3 “Deacon” is a common word and the search with this law firm’s name was particularly problematic with many irrelevant hits; the page count is therefore probably higher than what it should be.
4 Full disclosure: I currently work at Blake Dawson as a summer clerk.
* The firms with an asterisk are the Big Six law firms.

For comparison, I used the same methodology on UK firms, this time switching the domain to .uk. Clifford Chance, with 236 partners in the UK, returned 19,000 hits. Linklaters, with 227 partners, was second, with 12,800 hits. Thirdly, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer scored 12,500 hits; it has 219 partners and counsels, roughly counted from their website. Interestingly, this is the same order as reported by The Lawyer Global 100 2008, which ranks law firms by total revenue!

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  1. Dan’s avatar

    Fascinating, and very thorough! I would have hoped that G+T, which is arguably more tech-savvy than the other firms would have a larger presence on the Internet.

    Also Hunt & Hunt probably has the same problem as Deacons — the words are too generic.

    1. Enoch Lau’s avatar

      You might be right with Hunt & Hunt – because I can’t otherwise explain why it beat a top 6 firm. Next time, I’ll probably weight the results by the proportion of irrelevant hits I get.

      With G+T, I don’t think it’s more about a presence on the Internet; you’ll find that most of the results are from external sources. The more prominent the firm, the more that people write about them, their activities and their people – rather than the more prominent the firm, the more that they write themselves.

    2. Paul McKeon’s avatar

      Interesting, Enoch. Your post matches with a recent Hitwise report which had Deacons at #5 among Australia law firms on the Web. You might like to take a look at law firm’s use of Web 2.0. You’ll find ours here: Cheers, Paul @ Deacons

      1. Enoch Lau’s avatar

        Thanks, but your link doesn’t work!

      2. Tommy Chen’s avatar

        Also bear in mind that the top three Australian firms have been around for a while and so are more likely to have been referred to, for whatever reason. A search for “Linklaters” in Google books turns up references from the 19th century – not something that an up-and-coming law firm could practically engineer.

        Congratulations on matching The Lawyer’s global top 3. If you were to take a leaf out of the methodology of the THES’s world university rankings, this would be where you declare that “the method is sound”.

        1. Dave longpants’s avatar

          Interesting methodology but, as you’ve rightly pointed out, the results are more than likely skewed by common keywords. If I was a law student, I’d be rather hesitant to regard this information as a means to measure a firm’s credibility/presence in Australia. But then again, given the scarce availability of formal rankings of Australian law firms on the internet anyway, the information here might be a good starting point for newbies wanting to enter the profession.

          Other sources worthwhile referring to is, where a more (and I say this merely on the basis of presumption) accurate methodology can be found, and (but only once they feel like updating their website again).

          Full (partial) disclosure: I currently work at one of the firms mentioned above as an articled clerk (graudate).

          1. Enoch Lau’s avatar

            I’d have to agree with you that there’s a dearth of rankings out there, but really, don’t take this post too seriously.

            Personally, everyone is looking for different things in a law firm, and thus, there is no one “formal” or more reliable set of rankings than another. They are all subjective (in terms of what weights the reviewer gives to certain criteria, say). To put it bluntly, I am, in a sense, trying to prove the point that there is no one right way to do rankings.

          2. a’s avatar

            does anyone know how much blakle dawson make globally in revenue? Are they bigger than Clayton Utz?

          3. Tommy Chen’s avatar

            According to The Lawyer’s Global 100, 2008 edition, the answer is “no”. Clutz made US$361.5m in the most recent fiscal year.

          4. A’s avatar

            Thanks Tommy, I know BDW makw approx AUD$350 in australia, but they have offices in Shangai and London, so I reckon they would make about AUD$400 globally

            1. Enoch Lau’s avatar

              Blakes is usually ranked 6th out of the top 6, so I would say it’s smaller than Clutz. But bigger != better.

            2. A’s avatar

              do you have the list of 6?

              1. Enoch Lau’s avatar

                See the reference above to the big 6 law firms

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