Foundations of Law Firm Branding

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For law firms to act more like “real” businesses and compete in the future, they’ll need to get on board with effective branding. But “branding” — effective or otherwise — is often the hardest marketing term to define. Most lawyers think only of their logo or website when they think “branding.” And while those elements are certainly parts of a brand, effective law firm branding involves much more.

David Ogilvy, the so-called Father of Advertising, defined a brand as “the intangible sum of a product’s attributes.” And that sum can grow to massive proportions. For example, Apple — the most valuable brand in the world according to Interbrand — enjoys an intangible brand value of a whopping $178 billion. Your law firm probably isn’t the next Apple. But that intangible sum of your firm’s attributes is important, and its constituent parts include both what the firm promotes as its brand and how people perceive it.

Brand Attributes You Control

You control several levers that communicate your brand. Your law firm website, for example, can be an excellent marketing tool to promote your firm and share its story. Your website should capture and share all those tangible and intangible attributes that make up your brand. Some obvious virtues include your:
  • Values
  • Personality
  • Brand promise
  • Positioning statement
  • Tagline
Visual elements also contribute to your firm’s brand, including:
  • Logo
  • Color scheme
  • Imagery
To create a cohesive brand, you should consistently align your messages and visuals. Some companies go to astonishing lengths — and spend astonishing sums — to reach that alignment. And while I’m not suggesting that your law firm must go to those same lengths, I am suggesting that you could incorporate some best practices. Here are some exceptional examples of “style guides” from Canva that might get your juices flowing.

How Others Perceive Your Brand

Another huge aspect of your firm’s brand comes from how others perceive your business and the services you provide. When you measure that brand perception, look to historical and current perceptions your clients have shared in testimonials, feedback, online reviews, and elsewhere. Engage with your audience online by responding to comments. Send out surveys (anonymous or otherwise) to gauge client satisfaction. The more feedback you can gain, the better. If you learn that people do not experience your brand the way you hoped, you will need a sound strategy and plan to help move their perception in the right direction.

How To Create A Strong Law Firm Brand

Ultimately, you cannot control how others perceive you. But you can take meaningful steps to influence others’ perceptions by following these three steps:
  1. Define your brand. Get clear on your firm’s values. Done right, that will define your brand because it will clarify the promise you make to your clients about the experience they will have with you. Build a personality for your law firm. Determine where your firm fits within the marketplace and how you set yourself apart. Maybe use a tool to do this, and maybe start with the Small Firm Scorecard to get a baseline understanding of where you are today.
  2. Create a brand strategy. Determine how you will embrace and promote your brand, both within and outside of your firm. Create a messaging strategy and decide on relevant platforms to share your message and connect with your target audience. Incorporate your brand strategy into your overarching business strategy. Regularly schedule a time to review, analyze, and adjust your brand strategy as needed. Perhaps use a professional if you are willing and able.
  3. Live your brand. Clearly promote your brand in all your firm’s communications and marketing collateral, not just your fancy new website. Ensure you and your whole team embrace your brand through actions you take and words you use daily. Your clients will see this in action and they will share their experiences and perception with others. Your brand — and your business — will grow.