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The Ultimate Guide to Branding for Law Firms

Your brand is at the heart of everything you do. It's what you do and how you do it, but, most importantly, it's why you do it. Your brand touches on everything. It's the colour of your site; it's how you communicate, and it's how your clients think of you.

Estimated reading time: 15 minutes

Your brand is a reflection of your firm's culture and ethos, and it forms the first impression potential clients will have. So, let's make sure it's perfect. What is a ‘brand’? Brand is a word that gets thrown about a lot, but what does it actually mean? According to Wikipedia (I know, I know…) “

“A brand is the identity of a specific product, service, or business. A brand can take many forms, including a name, sign, symbol, colour combination or slogan. The word brand has continued to evolve to encompass identity -- it affects the personality of a product, company or service.”

One thing that we should add, and which is probably most important, is that your brand is a reflection of your position in the market. Law firms, like other service businesses, benefit from branding that demonstrates and creates; a purpose, a set of values and principles, and a way of doing things that set them apart from their competitors. These should, ideally, be related to an idea or a principle that resonates within the target client’s mind. Do they want speed, efficiency, quality of service, a certain price point, lots of personal contact, no personal contact or just simply results?

Our guide covers:

Many firms start out simply as a collection of individuals in the same office practising law. Some are built on a brand idea from the outset, but most decide to go through a branding exercise somewhere down the line. Regardless of which stage in the journey you are at, this guide will help you define:

  • your brand,
  • your value proposition,
  • your tone of voice, and;
  • your target market.

Ever since Google and the Internet disrupted the legal services market, things have become increasingly competitive. Coupled with that, there are forces at play within society, the law itself, and the legal industry that have worked to make the market seem more competitive. Our experience is that the route to success has been paved for modern, forward-thinking and ambitious law firms to harness the power of branding and online communication to discern and target profitable, desirable business.

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Your brand is more than your logo. It’s your firm’s culture. It’s what you say and how you say it. It’s your firm’s history, and it’s your firm’s future. It’s how you work and who you work with.

Why should lawyers be concerned with branding? Well, nowadays, for most businesses, their website is their shopfront. An online presence which reflects your firm’s ideals, goals and objectives through web design, layout, look, feel, images, content, and key messages will help you win more business more often.

If you want your firm to be the one that someone selects when searching online you must tick a number of boxes. You must have the right kind of legal website content in the right structure, presented effectively to search. You must speak to your audience, about their fears, uncertainties and doubts - and their hopes and expectations.

How do I come up with a brand for my law firm?

It takes two things. Time, and thought. The good news is that literally every single firm we’ve ever worked with on branding has found something about their firm that makes them stand out. Every single one, bar none.

In many firms, the culture, goals, values, ideals and everything that encompass brand and market position exist in the minds of a few senior partners and are never shared across the firm. In many firms, these things are honoured more in the breach than in observance! The key then is taking the time to get them out, to brainstorm, to ask self-reflective questions and to share the results.

The more time and consideration devoted to each part of the exercise, the better the results and the more accurate the eventual outcome. With accurate results, you can define your target market and draw up SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-Bound) goals. Without them, it’s a case of casting the net far and wide and seeing what you catch. Often, this is little more than undesirable, unprofitable “busywork” that doesn’t help your firm grow.

Creating a brand for your law firm

The first step for us is to conduct a ‘vision meeting’ for our clients. During this, we help our clients to divine their brand. We say ‘divine’ rather than ‘create’ as most law firms already have an identity, a USP, culture, or an ethos that exists in some unspoken way. What we do is bring that out, brainstorm around it and then codify it into a mission statement, a colour palette, a logo marque and a communication strategy.

There are four main elements which underpin your brand:

  • Why you do what you do – what is the company’s purpose or mission?
  • How you do what you do – what separates you from your competitors?
  • What you do – the services you offer.
  • How you communicate

The best organisations start with the “Why” – the purpose or mission. So, we start there too…

Start with 'Why'

Why You Do What You Do?

Why should you consider this? Your “why” is your mission. Pursuing a mission leads to fulfilling, stimulating work and gives your work meaning. Meaningful, fulfilling, stimulating work is work that drives and inspires you and that you’re passionate about. And that is exciting work.

Starting with ‘why’ lets you convey and stimulate this excitement in your client base. People don’t buy WHAT you do; they buy WHY you do it. It means you can be clear about finding the right kind of clients too. If your ‘why’ is to provide a premium, boutique service, then that informs your target demographic. If your why is to provide access to justice for the disadvantaged, then clearly that informs your brand too.

This doesn’t just go for clients, but staff too. Having a clear why informs the culture which informs the hiring process and makes sure you find people who are behind your mission and on the same journey as you.

Finding your ‘why’ will help you draw up a mission statement. This will inform everything from design to content, to your communications to your culture to your recruitment.

What is a mission statement?

A good mission statement is a fundamental communication tool and building block for modern businesses. It’s more than a strapline, or a tagline or a slogan.

A mission statement helps your staff and clients understand who you are, what you stand for, and what differentiates you from the competition.

You are probably clear about the values, aims and raison d’etre of your law firm, but not everyone in the practice, or your clients and business partners – your “stakeholders”- may be as clear.

A mission statement will fill this gap and acts as an overview or summary of your law practice’s purpose. It should:

  • Engage clients, employees and Partners/Directors.
  • Define the scope of the firm’s activities.
  • Help differentiate the practice from others.
  • Define the practice’s aims and aspirations.
  • State the core values.

It should also:

  • Put your client’s needs first

Here are some examples:

Moore Legal Technology: Our mission is to help reshape modern, ambitious, forward thinking law firms to thrive, grow and to reshape the legal services market.

Audi – We delight customers worldwide

McDonalds – McDonald’s vision is to be our customers’ favourite place and way to eat.

BMW – The BMW Group is the world’s leading provider of premium products and premium services for individual mobility.

Coca-Cola – To refresh the world in mind, body and spirit

Ikea – To create a better everyday life for people

Starbucks – To inspire and nurture the human spirit – one cup, and one neighbourhood at a time

Mission Statement Worksheet

To get started with your mission statement, we suggest working through the following ad-lib exercise.

We are ___________ and

Describe your skillset e.g. Accredited Specialist Family Lawyers

Our ___________

Describe what sets you apart e.g. problem solving skills, skill in litigation,

help(s) ___________

Type of client e.g. small businesses, executive level employees, victims of medical negligence

who are ___________

Situation or pain point the client is currently in.

who want to _________________

Clients goals, as they understand them.

by ______ ________

Verb (i.e. reducing, saving, avoiding) and customer pain point

and _____ ________.

(option) verb (e.g., increasing, enabling) and a customer gain

unlike/without ________.

(optional) unwelcome or undesirable outcome frequently experienced by clients.

Doing this produces a fairly clunky but thorough mission statement. From this, it’s easier to come up with something shorter, catchier and more memorable.

Defining your target client

Without defining your target client and the potential size of the market, it’s difficult to formulate a marketing plan for your law firm. There may be many people who need or want your assistance, but it’s not likely you want to help them all. Many businesses, especially near the start of their journey, cast their net far too widely. This results in them generating work in volume, but often it’s low-quality, low margin work and isn’t of the type they want. Too many law firms market themselves from the starting point of the service they provide and not to the type of client they want. Another common error many businesses make is marketing themselves according to what they can do and not to attract what they want to do.

This approach is actually quite limiting. It leads to content, design, information and communication that’s designed to appeal to everyone. This works for larger firms who have brand recognition and economies of scale to allow them to do lower-margin work (or who can absorb huge advertising spends), but it won’t work for a smaller firm. The reason for that is that you are putting yourself if direct competition with the big mass-market firms.

We encourage our clients to follow up their mission statement by defining their target client. Every potential audience has different hopes, needs, fears and questions, and addressing these has a big part to play in convincing them that you are the right firm for them.

Consider the following from the perspective of your ideal client (or clients, as the case may be):

  • What are the issues your ideal client is facing that means they need legal advice?
  • What is their typical profession/occupation?
  • What is their age?
  • What is their Gender?
  • Where do they live?
  • What is their relationship status?
  • What stage of life are they at?
  • What is their income level?
  • Will they be a repeat or ongoing client or use your service for one specific issue?
  • Will they refer to others?

Gathering this allows you to draft information aimed specifically at their needs and to devise a coherent marketing plan. It can seem worrying to potentially turn away profitable business, but targeting one specific type of client doesn’t mean you won’t attract others with similar attributes.

What will happen is that you will start to increase the number of enquiries from the type of individuals you wish to work with – individuals who share the ethos and values of your business, and who understand and are aligned with your value proposition.

Conducting this exercise should also offer some insight into makes you and your practice different, and how you can convey this in a way that resonates with your target market.

Defining your Unique Selling Point

When we work through this exercise with law firms, we always find something unique in that firm's culture that makes them stand out. Always!

To define your USP or ‘value proposition’, ask the following questions. Again, there may be more than one set of answers for different practice areas. Bear in mind that the more understanding you have of your key values, the easier it is to convey expertise and experience.

  • What is the specific service or practice you are focusing on?
  • What do you do in that area that helps your clients?
  • What made you get into this area of law?
  • What are your goals in this area?
  • What are the areas of interest or key developments in this area that excite you?
  • How has your practice or your life experience informed what you do? Do you have unique insight or understanding in this area?
  • How do you measure success in a case/matter?
  • Why are you different to your competitors in this area?
  • What do you do that adds value to your clients?

Focus on your Niche

Once you’ve determined your USP and your target market, the next step is to drill down into your niche. This makes it much easier to market your services, particularly online where people search for your services in much more specific ways.

Again, it pays to start from the perspective of what you want to do, rather than what you can do. Often, there will be overlap between what you can offer and the specific needs of your clients. In each major practice area (family law, personal injury, private client and so on) there are myriad niche areas of specialism. In family law, for instance, there is a difference between divorce and child residence and contact. Similarly, there’s a difference between how you market workplace accidents and clinical negligence.

It’s also much easier to come up with key messages, branding and straplines that relate to a particular niche. It’s also much easier to come up with a marketing strategy, a content strategy and to measure results when you have identified (and know the potential size of) a target market.

That said, your website is still going to be your virtual shopfront, and almost all clients will view it at some stage in their journey or their relationship with you. Again, it pays to ensure the design matches the expectations and level of sophistication your target market expects. At this stage, it helps to view the online presence of firms you admire. This will give a wider insight into how your niche markets itself and what your audience expects.

The main cues to look for are:

  • Colour palette
  • Navigation
  • Imagery
  • Calls to action
  • Types of content provided

The objective here is not to copy or mimic what others have done, but to align your offering to the expectations of your target market.

How you communicate

Another key element of your brand is how you communicate. The best organisations communicate in the same manner at all levels and across all channels. Once again, holding up Apple as the market leader, the experience of dealing with their staff is different than dealing with staff in a high-street phone retailer, for example.

The objective is to match your firm’s core values with a tone, manner and vocabulary that resonates with your target market. Once this exercise has been completed, it should inform all your communications at all levels of your business – not just your website content.

To get the best results online, your content should be unique (and not just because Google penalises sites which publish duplicated content). It should represent you and to give your potential clients an insight into your company culture. When a potential client reads your content, it tells them three things: what you do, how you do it and what you will be like to deal with.

To make this aspect of your brand work, we help our clients establish a tone of voice. As we say, your tone of voice isn’t just about how your website reads. It should suffuse all communication channels; emails, brochures, telephone scripts and presentations to name just a few.

All communications you produce should have the same tone of voice. When your tone is consistent, your audience hears the same person speaking whenever and however they deal with you, from the managing partner to the secretary. This demonstrates that you’re reliable, consistent and that every part of their experience of working with you will be equally good.

We use the below exercise to help our clients nail their tone of voice.

This influences:

  • Degree of formality
  • Use of slang, colloquialisms and dialects
  • Emphasis on the reader, e.g. addressing the reader as ‘you’.
  • Personal vs. impersonal speech, e.g. use of the first person
  • Attitude towards humour, e.g. word play, idioms
  • Use of tag questions
  • Use of contractions and abbreviations
  • Use of legal jargon

You can download the table below in our "vision meeting questionnaire".

Tone of Voice Spectrum

Place an ‘X’ in the appropriate boxes in each row. Below each adjective is a sample sentence.

Formal

Established in 1878, we remain a family firm with a proud heritage of excellent service and unstinting attention to detail.

Conversational

We’ve been around a long time, but we still care about going the extra mile and getting all those little things just right.

Aspirational, Inspirational

The workplace is changing. How we work is transforming. We’re here and ready to help businesses step into this new world.

Cautious, Calm

If you want to safeguard your business against changes in the workplace, you really need to consider instructing retained employment law advice.

Detached, Aloof

Our firm’s solicitors are here to handle every aspect of clients’ day-to-day legal needs with efficiency and effectiveness

Warm, Friendly

Legal matters putting you under pressure? Well, stop worrying. Our lawyers are here to give you all the help you need.

Conscientious

When you’re looking for the reassurance that your interests will always be protected, our expert legal advice is the only option.

Spontaneous

Communicative, responsive and proactive. That’s what clients said they wanted in a lawyer, So, that’s how we built our firm.

Serious

Our partners are both expert and experienced, offering you the ideal balance of expertise, insight, and problem-solving ability.

Humorous, Light-hearted

We can help you run your business, make plans, and fix problems.

Laid Back

We combine a friendly approach with proven legal strategies to deliver beyond our client’s expectations.

Energetic

We love the law, and we love our clients which is why we’ve worked hard to create a firm that delivers expert advice and superb customer service.

Classic, Traditional

If our solicitors can be of any further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us at the e-mail address or telephone number below.

Modern, progressive.

Still unsure about something? Give me a call and I’ll happily lend a hand.

Technical, Legal

An application for divorce is made in the English court by an originating process called a petition. The person applying for divorce is called the petitioner; the other spouse is called the respondent.

Accessible. Lay Friendly

We know that separating is never easy. We’ll take care of the legalities and provide a caring, sympathetic ear.

Authoritative, Direct

Our award-winning partners & solicitors have built their reputation on excellence. We deliver exceptional legal advice under the most demanding and variable conditions.

Humble, Deferential

We are the law firm that takes client care seriously. We will take the stress out of dealing with your legal matters.

Inward-looking, focused on what you deliver

We are a leading firm with a strong reputation in employment and commercial law, serving a wide range of corporate and private clients.

Outward looking – focused on what client needs

When you work with us, you can trust our proven experience to safeguard your interests.

Developing your law firm's brand

This article is provided as the starting point to enable you to develop your brand. To really make it stand out and to get it working online, get in touch with us. Call Chris on 01413548862 today.

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