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Your brand goes beyond the name by which your law firm or the products and services you offer are recognized. In this post, learn more about how the different elements of your brand, both tangible and intangible, can create a close bond between your law firm, your brand, and your clients.
When we talk about brands, people often think of a well-established company serving a large market with their goods or services, such as a cell phone provider or soft drink. Smaller or local businesses, including specialized professionals like law firms, often do not feel that they need to create a strong brand presence. There is nothing further from the truth.
A brand and its related assets help define businesses of all sizes and in all fields. The brand positions the business in the minds of the people and differentiates the company from other similar businesses.
Sounds obvious, right? The name of your law firm is the first brand asset that people come into contact with. Whether you follow the traditional format of named partners, name your law office after yourself, or opt for a more abstract name, the name is a key brand asset that is often overlooked. Special care must be taken in two important aspects of your name: the visual aspect and the audio aspect.
Within the visual aspect, the first point to consider is the correct way to write your firm’s name. There are likely variations in the way people intuitively spell or write the name of your firm. For example, many names are not always spelled the same way. Think of Jeniffer, Jennifer or Jenifer. There may also be differences in how people order the words in your name. Think about whether your firm is Michael & Green or Green & Michael?
Furthermore, if you choose an abstract name with a modified spelling to attract attention, the likelihood increases that you will encounter challenges in how your name is written. For example, many technology companies, such as BHLDN, MDRN, and Scribd, have chosen names where they remove one or more vowels. Often this is to make the name more easily trademarked or to obtain a domain name. If you opt to go this route and choose a non-standard spelling for your firm, then you need to be clear about how the name of your firm brand will be spoken and spelled.
Similarly, you may need to consider and define the acronyms and/or short names that may be used for your firm’s brand. It is easy to follow the traditional naming model of listing surnames when there are only two partners. However, as the number of named partners increases, the law firm’s name can become very long. This gets complicated for your brand.
In such a situation, you might consider using an acronym that can make it easier to create a more concrete and more memorable name – LAD&P, BBDM, YY&R, and so. Alternatively, you may consider branding your firm with only the names of a couple of partners. For instance, if your firm formally has five named partners – Jones, Smith, Williams, Wells, & Brown – you might brand your firm as Jones Smith or simply Jones, as many larger law firms have done: Cooley, Fenwick, and Skadden to name a few. Whatever methodology you choose for shortening your firm name, you must be clear and consistent with it.
For the audio aspect, two factors must be considered: pronunciation and rhythm. In the same way that there may be variations in how people spell and write your law firm name, there may also be discrepancies in how different individuals pronounce it. Although you cannot control how a client or others outside of the firm pronounce your name, all those within the law firm should be clear about the correct pronunciation of the brand. This will ensure a unified and consistent brand image for your clients and the public.
Considering the rhythm of your name, the difference between a bland name and a memorable one is often the arrangement of the words in your name. This is especially important for firms that use surnames to brand their firm. If possible, arrange the names so that your name flows easily and is memorable.
As a final consideration, you must always keep in mind the ethical rules, or rules of professional conduct, for attorneys in your jurisdiction. The model American Bar Association rules and most state rules have ethics provisions that will influence how you are permitted to name your firm. You almost certainly cannot give your firm a false, deceptive, or misleading name, nor could you guarantee results in your name or other brand assets. For example, it would generally be impermissible to imply you are part of a larger firm when you are a solo practitioner and you probably cannot name your firm “Guaranteed Success Law” or “The Best Law Firm Ever”. Check the rules for your jurisdiction before finalizing and publicizing your firm name.
The logo of your law firm is the visual translation of your brand. It should be an attractive design that captures the attention of current and potential clients.
The ultimate goal of the logo is to give a graphic identity to your practice that makes it readily identifiable and, in the future, can be recognized more readily on its own than even the firm name itself. For example, think of the Nike swoosh. Everyone knows what that logo means, even when it is not accompanied by the name of the company.
You want your logo to have its own unique identity tied to only your brand. It could be an elegant arrangement of your firm name. You might include a graphic that connects to legal practice, such as a gavel or the scales of justice. Alternatively, you may prefer to incorporate more abstract design elements. Each of these approaches has benefits and drawbacks.
For example, legal graphics, like gavels, are easily recognized icons that communicate your brand to clients. However, these classic legal icons are often used by law firms. Therefore, the use of a similar image will not help create your own unique brand identity.
Using your actual firm name in your logo can be advantageous because it will help you stand out from other firms. However, you must take care to ensure that the logo still has a streamlined, stylized appearance that is visually appealing. Brand New is a website that examines logos and other visual elements of companies and brands.
There are many online resources to help you generate eye-catching and inexpensive logos. However, the best option will always be to consult with a graphic design professional who can help you build a memorable, powerful, and unique law firm logo.
3. Additional Visual Identity Elements
Your logo is an integral part of creating an effective visual identity. However, other elements are also part of this field and should always be considered when creating or refreshing the look and feel of your brand.
A key piece of this is your brand colors and fonts. Although there are no strict rules for selecting these two elements, we offer the following recommendations for choosing the best options.
– Select fonts that are legible and easy to read. Many fonts look very elegant or modern at first glance but are difficult to read on websites or in ads and other written materials.
– Think about your audience. A fun, modern typeface or handwritten style may be ideal for a soda company or vacation destination, but not for your law firm.
– While it may seem obvious, make sure to choose a font family that includes all of the characters you will need for your law firm. This goes beyond merely letters and numbers. For example, an ampersand or umlaut might be crucial to your firm name and you do not want to inadvertently select a font type that doesn’t include these elements.
– All typeface families have various styles – bold, italic, light, or extra bold. Be sure to define what each of these styles will be used for. Will you have bold titles? Italicized subtitles? There are various uses for each of these styles. You should define the styles for your slogan, general marketing, digital content, email signatures, titles, subtitles, etc.
– Don’t limit yourself to just one typeface family. You can use several different typefaces according to your needs. For example, you may have one typeface for your titles, but another for content and longer text. However, we recommend that you use a maximum of three and make sure all selected fonts coexist appealingly.
– There are countless font types. Review a font catalog, such as myfonts.com or dafont.com, to help you get started. Take the time to review the available options and find ones that you are comfortable with and that genuinely fit your firm.
– There are no strict rules for choosing your brand’s colors. You can create your visual identity based on your favorite colors, colleagues’ favorites, family members, or even your alma mater.
– It is important to select colors that combine well. You want to generate good contrast and an attractive visual appearance so that they are easy to read online or in print. For example, pairing yellow writing over white backgrounds is a bad idea.
– In general, consider using colors that are associated with certain characteristics. Dark colors are often perceived as elegant and professional while bright colors may be perceived as modern or funny.
– Limit your color palette to a maximum of 3 main colors, with complementary colors of black, white, and various shades of your primary colors. You don’t want your visual materials to look like a rainbow because you chose a color palette with too many options. It is okay to choose only two colors, even if that creates a monochromatic visual identity. Fewer colors will create a quick identification for your law firm. Think of Coca-Cola…what color comes to mind?
– Once you have selected your main colors, decide which ones to use for your logo and which ones will be used to accentuate and add contrast to other materials. You don’t have to use all of your colors on all your content.
– Color is more complex than simply choosing a color. It is not enough to say you chose blue. Instead, you have to define the exact color. Which blue? We recommend using the PANTONE color catalog to define your colors.
For more information on visual elements for a brand identity, from the name to the logo and fonts and colors, get the book Designing Brand Identity (fifth edition) by Alina Wheeler [can be purchased at Amazon or Barnes & Noble ].
4. Brand Purpose, Mission, and Vision
In the branding world, your company vision was historically the key message that determined how your business moves and interacts within the market. Later the brand mission, and more recently the brand purpose, became widely used in modern marketing. Depending on the author or marketing resource you consult, these three terms may have slightly different meanings or hierarchies. In other sources, these terms may be used somewhat interchangeably. Do not let these discrepancies confuse you.
The truth is that these three words – Purpose, Mission, and Vision – are the compass that marks the path of your firm. They dictate your firm’s behavior, your objectives, and your reason for existing. These assets are an essential part of creating your brand strategy.
The Brand Purpose is the WHY. This “why” is the reason your firm exists. You need to consider the ultimate reason for your existence. What is it that gives your law firm meaning beyond simply profits? This purpose may be the idealistic vision of what you hope to achieve. For example, perhaps you want to help people better understand the law, solve legal problems to improve your community, or otherwise offer a benefit to society.
The Brand Mission is the HOW. It is how your law firm will achieve your purpose. The mission can highlight the strategies, tactics, and initiatives that will be put into action, such as communications, innovation, product development, etc. Your mission should consider everything that will help you achieve the ultimate goal of the brand, your law firm.
The Brand Vision is WHAT/WHERE. Vision is where you want to go as a law firm or what you want your firm to become. Sticking closely to your values, mission, strategy, and purpose should take you where you hope to end up. For example, if your goal is to become the leading law firm in helping immigrants achieve a better future, following this path closely should take you there.
It is important to note that these three elements can be communicated to the general public or remain as an internal message for your firm. But, regardless of how you choose to communicate these three elements, it is essential to follow this plan in all firm activities and initiatives.
You should check out UC Berkeley Business Professor David Aaker discussing branding, including his Brand Vision model.
5. Brand Slogan or Tagline
Once you have defined the purpose, mission, and vision of your law firm, the next element to consider is your law firm brand slogan or tagline. Again, depending on the author or resource you use, the terms slogan and tagline may be used interchangeably or as differing complementary elements.
Ideally, your slogan is a short phrase that encapsulates your purpose, mission, and vision and represents what your brand stands for. This is the phrase that tells your clients and the world what defines your firm: your beliefs, way of working, and ultimate promise.
Another key purpose of your tagline is to differentiate your firm from your competitors. In one sentence, you can tell people what sets you apart from other firms. What makes you stand out from the crowd? Is it your service? Your dedication and commitment to your practice? Or perhaps your knowledge and experience? You decide what message you want to send.
Ideally, this message should be unique. Therefore, it is advisable to move away from basic benefits, such as winning cases or defending the cause of your clients. If you need some inspiration, you can check out our recent post, Big Law Marketing: 20 Slogans From Top Law Firms.
As a reminder, make sure whatever message you choose to convey is fully in compliance with the ethical rules for attorneys in your jurisdiction. When in doubt, consult with someone who is knowledgeable about the requirements for your state before you move forward with your selected slogan or tagline.
Consistency is an intangible element of brand identity that must always be present. A slogan is not mandatory. Maybe you decide not to spend time on developing your mission or vision. However, regardless of what other choices you make along the way, consistency is key to generating brand awareness.
It is useless to have a clear name, a memorable slogan, or an attractive visual identity if there is no consistency in the use of the elements in your law firm’s materials. A law firm that constantly changes some of its key elements will struggle to generate that brand connection with its clients and the public.
The most important reason for consistency is building trust with your clients. Maintaining your values and brand elements and ensuring these are reflected in all points of contact gives safety to clients. This safety comes from knowing that they are dealing with seasoned professionals, that a high level of service and attention is always maintained, and that their needs and concerns will be considered. This safety transforms into trust and trust into loyalty.
You must always ensure that your brand elements are used consistently in all of your communication channels and points of contact. For example, the slogan on your website must also be the same slogan that is on your social media and in your advertisements.
Bonus: Your Brand Book
Once you have defined the brand elements for your firm, you should compile them all in a Brand Book. This manual is useful for communicating the key elements and guidelines for your law firm brand to everyone within your firm.
Your Brand Book should be divided into chapters with each chapter dedicated to an element. It should explain the whys of your brand assets and, above all, should explain how to use (and how not to use) your brand assets. For example, the chapter on your logo should state the measurements for your logo, the position of the elements, the use of colors, the use of black and white materials, and other related information.
The main objective of this Brand Book is to ensure that you create consistency. With this manual, all subjective interpretation is taken out of the equation because each element must comply with the established guidelines in the manual.
It is likely that your law firm already has one, several, or all of the brand assets discussed in this article. You can use this guide to incorporate missing elements or check whether the assets you have met your objectives, are clear, and are used consistently.
Why should you care? The branding process – whether you are starting from scratch, rebranding, or simply refreshing – is a slow process that requires lots of time and dedication. But the process is worth it and results in a stronger connection with your clients and greater recognition in the legal community and general public.