Law Firm Branding

During a recent Law Firm Branding presentation Taylor TenBrook and I did for the wonderful folks at Lunch Hour Legal Marketing, the discussion that intrigued me the most wasn’t the one on brand promise, or congruency, or the psychology of logos, tag lines, colors and fonts, or even brand audits – all essential brand elements. It was the one on law firm branding vs. individual attorney branding.

All about Don Draper, not Sterling Cooper

In Mad Men, clients wanted Don Draper, not because of the company he worked for. Sometimes they wanted him in spite of it. The advertising agency rebranded several times and it didn’t matter because they had Don. Mr. Draper was the brand. Clients wanted him. Other agencies wanted him. So it is with lawyers and law firms.

A few weeks ago a friend asked if I could recommend a family lawyer that he needed in short order. I put out a request to a handful of lawyers I know and respect around the country. I knew them from social media, meeting at conferences, their writing, and other interactions. Each had strong, trustworthy “brands.” Not one of them recommended a firm. They recommended a lawyer. And when I researched their recommendations before forwarding to my friend, I looked into the lawyer, not the firm.

I was also recently asked to recommend some agencies in the legal space. Four immediately came to mind. Not the agency, but an individual at the agency, each of whom I’ve met and regard highly. In fact, I couldn’t remember the names of three of the four agencies. And when I recommended them, I extolled the virtues of the individual, not the agency.

Your excellent work is your brand but you need to get the word out

There is no branding without good work, desired results, and satisfied clients. But word of mouth will take you only so far. You also need to write, speak, engage, and build relationships. And the tools are at your fingertips: blogging and social media.

But don’t blog and engage on social media to build your brand. Write and engage on subjects you’re passionate about and branding will follow. In Why Do You Blog? 23 Lawyers Weigh In, none of the lawyers responded with “because I want to build my brand.” But that’s the result since many of the respondents are known and highly regarded for what they blog about.

They write out of enjoyment and love of the subject matter, to stay abreast of developments and give something back to the legal community, to teach as well as to learn. They blog because it makes them better lawyers. They blog because they’re compelled to do it. They blog because they can’t not blog.

The individual attorney brand will follow.

Law firms, unshackle your attorneys

Over the past several years, many venerable law firms have shuttered. Firms whose brand corporations revered and whose services they coveted. A handful of respected mega firms remain, but for the other 95 percent of law firms, the managing partners and members of the executive committee must remove the shackles and allow–check that–encourage their members to blog and engage on social media and other forums. Allow them to build their individual brand.

Heck, if the chairman of 800-attorney firm Seyfarth Shaw can tweet so can you. See: Seyfarth Chair Lays Out Why He Joined Twitter.

I took to social media, therefore, in an effort to engage in candid conversations. I hope others who lead law firms will join the discussion. Do I think Twitter feeds from one – or even many – of us will materially change our industry? Of course not. I do believe that we need to speak frankly and listen intently and the more voices the better. After all, open dialogue can only be good for our clients.

How did I find out about Mr. Stephen Poor? From Kevin O’Keefe whose passion for law firm blogging is legend and who I engage on Twitter. But I found out about it not from his Twitter feed or his blog, but a Facebook post. Consistent messaging across channels.

Use the channels available to you to engage around your passions, to share, and to listen, and branding will follow.

Getting on board with blogging and social

Check out Social Media Lessons for Law Firms From Law Firms for what firms are saying about how to work with lawyers at the firm who don’t get social media, how to get them on board after they get it, and how to get the decision makers to engage on social media.

Some of the benefits of social media and blogging that individual lawyers and law firms share include:

  • Gained meaningful connections
  • Led to speaking engagements
  • Led to press interviews
  • Led to feature articles
  • Got clients directly

All elements that go into attorney branding, and by extension, the firm’s brand.

Conclusion

Sure it’s important to adhere to design concepts and the psychology around fonts and colors and logos and tag lines for brand awareness and congruency for the firm. But you, the individual attorney, should consider “branding” as an incidental payoff for writing and engaging on subjects you’re passionate about. Something you were going to do anyway. Something you can’t not do. Just like the lawyers who blog.