Building a powerful law firm brand can amplify legal marketing efforts
Why is your law firm any different from all the others I have to choose from?
That is the question on the minds of the person who needs law firm representation on a specific matter – most often the one they are searching for online. The answer should be hardwired into a law firm through its brand.
Branding is the total package of visuals, messaging, values, and experiences that leaves a lasting and cohesive impression on audiences. It should communicate the law firm’s values and what it stands for. The brand should indicate how the firm treats and respects clients. It should communicate a sense of the unique aspect of the law firm. When a brand achieves this, that perplexed online searcher will find solace in the brand’s resounding answer.
While many brands may focus on some form of “fighting for you” as their tag line, there’s more to law firm banding than a snappy slogan. It’s about showcasing the firm’s strengths, values, and personality. Consistently. Everywhere.
The AMA (American Marketing Association) defines branding this way: “A brand is a name, term, design, symbol or any other feature that identifies one seller’s goods or service as distinct from those of other sellers.” The key concept here is distinction.
Law firm brand differentiation & brand identity
Whether the firm is Biglaw, Littlelaw, or JustTheRightSizelaw, branding is essentially differentiating that law firm from all the others. Not an easy trick with more than 421,000 law firms in the United States.
The iPhone’s brand identity is being the coolest smartphone. Rolex may or may not be the most prestigious watch, as the field of prestigious watches changes. So does the field of law practice branding. Constraints of style and decorum that once dominated legal branding are fading away. Lawyers might smash things with a sledgehammer on YouTube to demonstrate that their brand will destroy the opposing counsel’s arguments.
The name of the game? To communicate that a law firm is better or different than others, and branding can help by making potential clients feel that. Even if a company seems to own a brand differentiator, there’s always a way to differentiate by the way the brand is communicated.
Rolls Royce: the most luxurious car on the planet.
BMWi7: the most luxurious electric car that saves the planet.
Of course, law firms are often very similar. So finding a singular distinction is not possible all the time, or necessary. “First law firm in the state to win a $10 million class action judgment,” isn’t a bad one. Neither is, “A staff of lawyers as diverse as our city.”
Differentiation and identity can also be forged from the way a brand handles it in language and style. “We make your case our cause,” is a simple, heartfelt statement – and already being used by several firms, for good reason. We often counsel law firms to go for a brand distinction of broad simplicity that’s durable.
Planning & developing law firm branding
Brands don’t spring to life on their own. Developing a brand takes effort determining first, what the law firm is, then second, what it wants to project. Brand development is often the first step in a law firm’s marketing plan.
Who are you? Every law firm has its own culture, and the firm’s personality stems from that unique culture. Being honest about that is an excellent basis for organic branding.
Law firm mission statement & values
Mission statements can help elucidate a law practice’s brand, while also reinforcing it internally. A brand is nothing if it isn’t known and embraced by all in the firm. Similarly, vision statements can also help reinforce a brand.
If community involvement is part of a firm’s objective (an admirable one potential and current clients appreciate), that should be part of its mission statement. But a mission statement may not have capacity for all of a firm’s admirable objectives. They need to be promoted in other ways such as on the firm’s website and in its social media.
Vanguard’s site visit hones a practice’s brand name
A cleareyed view isn’t always easy, or possible, from an internal perspective. A central tenant of Vanguard’s LawMarketLink program is helping a new law practice client hone its brand name. We find that most firms have put some effort into this area already but need an outside perspective to refine and instill a consistent approach.
We make an initial site visit with every new client to get to the know the practice so we can work that into the firm’s branding. Our CEO and marketing staffers have an eye peeled for what makes a firm tick. We put together a competitive analysis of threats and opportunities in that market, then work with the client to derive at a branding strategy to help that firm stand apart.
Branding assets & digital marketing
Tangible aspects of a brand include logo, color scheme, and type fonts. These are used uniformly across business cards, letterhead, office décor, printed materials, and any advertising and signage. Vanguard’s marketing and design teams can help with that.
A firm must also focus branding efforts in its digital marketing efforts. The firm’s website represents the firm to a large portion of potential clients. The site must convey the branding image. Doing so in look and visual aspects is the easy part.
The harder part is in how the information and content on the website is presented. This requires a team approach of our marketers, designers, and writers.
Each page on a service area, blog, or lawyer bio should reinforce the brand in language, style, and message. This includes brand reinforcement in topics covered, headlines, and even in sentences. Vanguard writers are skilled at dropping brand breadcrumbs throughout a website, social media posts, and online review responses (an often overlooked opportunity to reinforce branding).
Living the law firm band promise
The heart of successful branding is keeping the brand promise. It’s much like one’s personal promise: If I tell you I’m going to do something, you can count on me doing it.
A law firm’s brand promise is that it will provide a certain kind of experience a client can expect every time he or she is in contact with the firm. A firm’s services, policies, offices, and individuals must continually deliver on the firm’s personality and mission.
Delivering on the promise is how any firm builds clients’ trust. That is the reward of living a brand and living up to its promise.
Protecting a brand
Of course, the work on branding doesn’t end once it’s been established. A legal brand needs protection to maintain its integrity, reputation, and distinctiveness in the marketplace. Without proper safeguards, unauthorized use, misuse, or infringement can dilute its value and confuse audiences.
To maintain its integrity, a law firm should develop clear guidelines on the brand and style. This ensures consistency in visual elements, messaging, tone of voice, and overall user experiences. Then, communicate these guidelines to the firm’s team and vendors and monitor their implementation. This brand protecting safeguards the reputation a firm has diligently cultivated.
Bank on Vanguard’s brand differentiators
- A growth guarantee of 15%-30% in year one.
- A 29-year track record in meeting the guarantee for doctors.
- A CEO who’s a law school graduate.
- A turnkey, fully integrated program that includes social media, online reputation management, public/media relations and more.