Chicago Program Recap: “Getting It Right: A Roadmap to Creating a Standout Law Firm Brand”

On July 28, the Chicago LMA Steering Committee hosted “Getting It Right: A Roadmap to Creating a Standout Law Firm Brand” featuring Lisa Olney, Chief Marketing Officer, Bernstein Litowitz Berger & Grossmann LLP and Howard Breindel, Co-CEO, DeSantis Breindel. The hour-long webinar was full of actionable tips that legal marketing professionals can use to identify the unique qualities of their firms and translate them into a compelling brand.

Lisa Olney
Howard Breindel

Missed this webinar? Read the key takeaways below and access the slides here.

Indicators that it might be time to initiate a rebranding effort

·         Your materials appear dated.

·         Your firm’s website doesn’t reflect who you are today.

·         Your firm sounds like every other firm.

·         Your firm is not attracting the correct clients or recruits.

·         Your firm is not speaking with one voice as it has grown or merged.

·         Over time, your firm has evolved, but the brand doesn’t show that.

Creating a plan and assembling a team

·         Before focusing on how you will do your branding, think about selling the idea to your internal audience. Listen to your leadership’s concerns to help make a case and anticipate objections you might receive. Create a project outline concentrating on the project’s specific tactics and deliverables to help make it come alive for your partnership.

·         It’s crucial to capture a broad and deep perspective so everyone feels heard. Start by doing an all-employee survey, then conduct one-on-one conversations with a sample of partners and clients from a cross-section of practice groups and geographies.

·         Build a steering committee of leaders who represent the company and will take the rebranding journey with you. They are there to give opinions and help to build a consensus.

·         The steering committee’s perspective should inform a limited number of decision-makers – this will speed up the decision-making process.

Researching your brand

·         Gathering information from the inside and outside the firm is critical in finding your “brand gap.” Knowing if there’s a difference between who you think you are, who your firm thinks you are, and what the market thinks you are is key to addressing and bridging gaps.

·         Things you might learn from the research: Why are people picking you? What are their drivers of choice? What attributes are setting you apart? Where can you claim white space? What do you stand for? What do you want to stand for? What are the values of your firm? What is the personality of your firm? How are your competitors talking about themselves?

·         Conduct internal interviews with senior leaders and stakeholders. Get a sense of how they view the brand, how they speak to their clients, what differentiators resonate with clients, and how they place your firm among competitors.

·         Facilitate workshops or focus groups with people with different experience levels, backgrounds, geographies, and practice groups. Giving equal weight to all perspectives will bring you closer to discovering the firm’s essence.

·         Don’t underestimate the value of client feedback. Add questions to your current client feedback interviews to generate information you can use to move forward.

·         Consider engaging with an outside organization to conduct anonymous external quantitative research.

Finding your brand differentiators

·         Differentiation is one of the most significant challenges legal marketers face. Having difficulty identifying a firm’s unique attributes in the “sea of sameness” is the leading reason firms undertake rebranding projects.

·         When you do a brand refresh, it should feel authentic to your internal stakeholders and your firm. Lean into the positives and be realistic about who the firm is.

·         Once you have your research, it’s critical to separate it into three categories: 1) issues about the brand you discover, 2) neutral factors of the brand and 3) required elements of the brand. Elements that don’t fit into the three categories form the foundation of a differentiating brand idea.

·         Often firms build their brands on the required elements—integrity, culture, client focus, expertise, global reach, innovation, and diversity (“table stakes” values). This is not a place to build a brand.

·         Understand the role you play for clients and recruits. Are you the caregiver, the everyman, the hero, the ruler, the explorer, the outlaw, the creator, the sage, or the magician? Your firm may fall into one or more of these categories. It’s helpful to consider what is true about your firm and what may not be true about your competitors.

Communicating your differentiators and narrating your story

·         Define your brand in pillars. What do you do, how do you do it, and why do you do it? Then think about it in terms of differentiation. What’s unique about what you do? Do you work differently from other firms?

·         Determine your brand personality. To speak in a differentiating way, define personality traits as you would a human being.

·         Think of your brand personality as a lens to filter your language through to develop different ways of expressing your firm’s qualities. This exercise will establish your brand voice, a unique way in which you present to and communicate to the world.

·         Combining your brand pillars and personality will lead you to a story that leads to a core idea and often a tagline.

·         To tell your story, consider your diverse audiences – employees, community, partners, clients, recruits, prospects, etc. The stories you tell should resonate with your audiences’ needs while honoring the brand’s positioning.

·         A helpful tool to keep in your marketing toolkit is a Message Map – A blueprint that includes all your firm’s pillars with messaging points for each. This tool safeguards consistency and ensures that everyone on your team speaks from the same core elements. You can pull from this document in various scenarios – When you’re writing firm acceptance letters, delivering messages during interviews, creating advertisements, generating press releases, producing RFPs, sending internal communications, etc.

·         Much like the “sea of sameness “in words, it also occurs in a brand’s visual elements—in stock photography, imagery, iconography, and typography. The insights collected through your research will inform your strategy to create a differentiated visual identity.

·         Create a set of brand guidelines that will provide consistency throughout your touchpoints.

Choosing the right partner

·         Be clear about what’s driving the rebranding need and what you’re trying to accomplish with your project. Then, be able to translate this to an agency. The more information agencies have, the better the chance they can provide you with a tailored response.

·         Watch for the same things clients look for when we give them Requests for Proposal (RFP) responses. Is the response tailored? Have they listened to your goals and reflected that back to you? How equipped are they to guide you?

·         You should have personal chemistry with them.

·         Be clear on who you’re working with. Meet with the team that will be doing the work. 

·         Look for agencies with law firm experience, but not limited to law firms. It’s helpful to have someone who understands working with a partnership structure, but it’s also important that the agency you’re hiring can give you the benefits of their experience with other industries to bring fresh ideas to the table.

Living and using your brand

·         Reflect on how your brand will live in the real world.

·         Consider what materials you’ll need to produce and decide what the agency should design – such as PowerPoint presentations, brochures and advertising templates.

·         The internal audience is your most important since it is the one talking to clients. If you can generate internal enthusiasm, it will play out effectively externally.

·         To build excitement, consider presenting a multimedia presentation at a partner meeting and/or giving small gifts to employees (One firm gave away socks asking everyone to “walk the walk” with their brand).

·         Provide ongoing training to the marketing department to ensure they’re educated on brand guidelines and familiar with the tools available—brand guides, message maps, templates, etc.

·         To help partners become comfortable using new branding language, one firm conducted a training exercise where partners would share their favorite case study and then retold the story through the lens of the new brand.

·         Take into account new hires by including brand education as part of the onboarding process.

·         Make it easy to locate resources. For example, post all relevant branding information and tools on an internal portal or embed the PowerPoint template in PowerPoint. The more complicated it is to find information, the less likely it is to be used.

·         Make sure the marketing team is along for the ride throughout the rebranding process so they are prepared to bring all your hard work to life and keep your brand top of mind.

A huge thank you to Sara Anstoetter, Marketing & Communications Manager, BartlitBeck LLP for this recap.