Your law firm’s brand is much more than a logo on a business card. It’s what sets your firm apart from others, from the quality of your services to your unique approach to building and growing relationships with clients. Branding defines and reflects your personality. And it’s the jumping-off point for your marketing efforts.
Most of us only see brands as a final product. We miss all the behind-the-scenes work that goes into making a brand not only recognizable, but worthy of a positive reputation.
Even if you’re brand-new at branding, the fact that you’re taking these steps is a big deal. A 2020 ABA report found that no one is responsible for marketing at 13% of law firms, including 32% of solos. Thinking proactively about your firm’s brand puts you way ahead of the pack.
So, how do you go build your law firm’s brand from the ground up (or, re-brand it), especially when you have client cases to manage?
Step 1: Research Brands You Like
One of the best ways to start building your law firm’s brand is by looking at how other law firms brand themselves, whether they’re local or national. Do you like the name of the firm? The images they use? The colors? The copywriting on their ads? The type of ads? Their story? Do they exude confidence? Expertise? Trustworthiness? What about their branding or marketing makes you feel that way?
While consumer branding is radically different from that of law firms, thanks to their big budgets and niche audiences, it’s also a great place to snag ideas for your firm. Companies like Coca-Cola, Apple and Nike are known for strong brands that are consistent, bold and creative. Think about your own favorite brands: Why do you like them? How do they make you feel? And how can you replicate that feeling at your own firm?
Of course, by identifying what you like about other brands, you may notice aspects of other law firms’ branding that you don’t like. That’s helpful information too. List out the traits and tactics you like and dislike to start shaping your brand. This is very important if you’re hiring a team to help with your brand development, too (more on that later).
Step 2: Define Your Firm’s Brand & Personality
Once you have an idea of how you’d like to structure your own law firm’s brand (don’t worry if you don’t have all the answers yet), it’s time to define your firm’s brand, as well as your personality. This helps create credibility while honing in on your goals and desired business direction. This step also ensures your marketing reflects your firm consistently and appropriately across all your interactions with customers and leads.
Start by brainstorming some adjectives that describe your firm — come up with at least 10. Then, think about what separates you from your competitors. Is it your customer service? Is it the experience and qualities of the people on your team? Or do you pride yourself on your success stories?
This exercise should also include your internal branding — the traits you reflect to your employees. When you look inward, what type of people do you see working with you, and why do they want to work there? This could be thought of as your “company culture,” and it plays an important role in your brand. Ultimately, part of how you work internally translates into how you promote yourself externally.
Step 3: Create Your Mission Statement and Vision
Now that you’ve defined your brand and personality, it’s time to do the same for your audience. After all, it’s really important that law firms define their ideal client, and not just work with every person that comes through the door. (That practice could end up hurting your firm’s brand in the long run).
When you’re finished, add all your pieces together to build your mission statement and vision. Just as you observe other brands to get a taste of what you like and don’t like, you can also look at their mission statements to see what resonates..
And, for your vision statement, go back to step two to how you’ve defined your firm’s goals and overall direction. What does your future look like, and what does it look like for the people you work with? No one expects a law firm’s brand to be perfect; more often than not, consumers appreciate brands that demonstrate growth. (This can be tricky in legal, as clients will want to know your success rate, but it’s OK to discuss what you’re looking to improve on or add to your business model!).
Step 4: Hire Outside Help (If Needed)
Building a brand doesn’t happen in a day — or a month — and that’s especially true if your firm doesn’t have an internal marketing team to help. Don’t hesitate to hire outside help. Nearly one-fifth (19%) of firms with 10-49 attorneys, 21% of lawyers from firms of 2-9 lawyers and 5% of solos hire external marketing consultants. Their outside perspective will offer insight about your brand’s potential that’s hard to recognize from the inside.
Next week: Learn how to develop your brand’s voice.