A Heritage of Results
-- Rose Law Firm
Gone are the days of the "Wall Street" letterhead stating a law firm's name, address and telephone number in velvety, black print.
Managing members have turned into chief executive officers, and senior attorneys are becoming known as marketing partners.
The simple phrase, "attorneys-at-law" has become less effective in the last 20 years, as it is now joined by mottos that are supposed to reinforce a firm's position in the marketplace. Larger corporate firms are investing millions of dollars to set themselves apart from competitors while creating status symbols out of their own names.
However, are law firm transformations really necessary when legal products are intangible and referrals remain one of the top ways of generating new business? Advertising agencies and marketing consultants argue "yes," and lawyers appear to be in agreement.
Deeper Understanding. Better Solutions.
-- Baker Botts L.L.P.
There are several reasons why law firms are changing their looks.
To begin, the old-fashioned law firm isn't as attractive to the new, younger, and more free-spirited corporate client. Company leaders look for law firms that resemble their own industries in expertise, but also in personality, culture, and sophistication.
Similarly, as senior partners hand over the reigns to younger attorneys, the new faces often take the opportunity to reinvent their firm from every possible angle. Although history and longevity are important components of credibility and stability, it is not uncommon for firms to abandon the past to focus on present day popularity and success.
Next, a few good economic years and the litigious society in which people live and work have afforded law firms to remodel and restructure aging atmospheres. Law firms in certain geographic areas sometimes struggle with regional reputations which can undercut their abilities to compete with more metropolitan-based firms.
Therefore, Web sites must be outstanding to downplay any preconceived notion about a firm's capability. Because this first invisible encounter produces a type of instant competitiveness, every firm regardless of their home office address is pressed to look "Manhattan."
Finally, many firms are peer-pressured into updating their print images if competitors simply look better in magazines and trade journals, publications that could easily be used as comparison tools.
Our Lawyers Mean Business
-- Womble Carlyle
Larry Bodine, Esq., is a marketing consultant specializing in business development strategy, personal marketing plans for lawyers, and practice technology. His company, Larry Bodine Marketing, works with boutiques as well as international firms on projects such as communication overhauls.
A common transformation he often orchestrates includes the softening of "the big, scary law firm." Lawyers are intimidating, powerful, shrewd, intelligent, and persuasive. However, the atmosphere in which they are all of these things needs to be balanced with a sense of warmth and comfort, Bodine believes.
Casual attire, softer office lighting, interesting photos and paintings, and conversational staff members help neutralize perceptions that otherwise appear harsh. With new atmospherics and office decor, law firms then turn to the appearance of their names in print, choosing lowercase fonts, quieter color palettes, and softer graphics for characterization.
Slogans are becoming less threatening and more supportive in phrasing, stressing support for and dedication to clients. Firms have tackled the great challenge of uniqueness and distinctiveness by trading in the cookie-cutter law firm shell for the look many of their clients exhibit -- the corporate giant.
"A professional management model and marketing plan is economically efficient, but more importantly, if the firm resembles the client's business, then the client senses a fit," Bodine explained. "The outcome is for lawyers to develop relationships with clients that reinforce their role as a trusted business advisor," he said. The end goal, of course, is being the chosen one.
Law firms may be talking about themselves less, but they aren't keeping a low profile. The iconic symbol designed to represent the firm is becoming as important as its proper name. However, the expense of creating a recognizable emblem causes quite a financial sting in the branding process. Is what you see who you get?
Next time: The cost of a law firm makeover
Kathryn E. (Katy) Brown, a former law firm marketing executive, is the managing member of The Write Word LLC, a professional writing agency in Charleston. Contact her at (304) 344-5355 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
A Heritage of Results