I have had the opportunity to work with many law firms. Each law firm has a brand intentionally or not. Many law firms have not invested time and energy into building a unique brand. Instead, firms have relied on buzz words like “ethical”, “responsive” or “smart”. Lawyers and firms are expected to be ethical, responsive and smart. What does your firm do that is over and beyond what is expected? Those unexpected things are the soul of your brand.
An exceptional brand is not your logo, specialty area, mascot or even your tag line. A brand is more than your firm’s name, no matter how old or prestigious. Your brand is not what you (or your lawyers) think of your law firm. Your brand is how your law firm is perceived by your clients and prospects. Your brand, in the words of Sir Richard Branson, is “a promise and a contract with every customer with whom you are dealing. And if people feel the offering does not live up to what they expect from the brand, they will decide to stop buying.” Your brand is a combination of your client’s expectations and experience.
To establish an outstanding brand, you must go through a branding process. This process begins with external research. Ask your clients, referral sources, prospects, staff, lawyers and even competitors how they perceive your firm. Ask them to be honest and be open-minded about their responses. Once you have obtained an appropriate sampling, your next step is to review the responses and begin to analyze how you can use the positives to differentiate your firm while simultaneously accepting the negatives and working on strategies to eliminate them.
Once your external research is complete, look inward and ask your lawyers and staff the following:
- What is your firm’s purpose? Is it to make money, establish long-term client relationships, create a great work environment, offer value or something else?
- What “contract” are your attorneys making with your clients/prospects? Are all your lawyers on the same page when it comes to what they say a client can expect?
- What emotions or feelings do your clients/prospects have about your firm? When you walk into your lobby does it feel comfortable or stuffy? Do your clients feel your lawyers are efficient or lavish in their billing practices?
- What expectations should the firm set and how will you hold everyone accountable?
Your overall branding strategy/plan should revolve around the findings from your external and internal research. Firms may need to consider hiring a branding expert to help them create a plan to implement and roll out their brand. If you need a referral of a branding specialist, please do not hesitate to email me.
Once the research is done and a strategy/plan has been developed, the firm can begin to create the elements that reflect the brand. These include marketing elements such as the color palette, logo, tagline, and fonts, just to name a few. The firm may also need to create new policies and processes to ensure the brand promises and expectations are delivered consistently across the firm. Finally, the firm needs to communicate the importance of the brand to everyone who will be standing behind the brand. Each person needs to buy-in and agrees to be held accountable for fulfilling the firm’s brand.
The branding process takes time. Expect four to nine months of work to create and implement a brand. Branding is not easy, but there are tangible benefits. These include the ability to:
- Stand out from the pack
- Build a sense of purpose within your firm
- Differentiate your firm in the hiring process
- Establish stronger client relationships
- Generate new client relationships
- Reduce the need to compete on price
A strong brand will enhance every aspect of your firm, but only if your firm is committed to consistently meeting or exceeding its brand promise, contract, feeling, and expectation.