7 Keys to Marketing Yourself and Your Law Firm in a Changing Legal Landscape
By John Munro and Nate Bradford
Attorneys frequently brush off the idea of building their brand, citing their reputation as the sole indicator of their image in the marketplace. The problem is that while neither reputation nor brand are physical assets, reputation is a result of years of work and is difficult to impact immediately. Brand, on the other hand, can be impacted quickly by actions such as a smart marketing campaign or a clear focus on a specialization or core practice area. Brand, when constructed correctly, can result in a significant boost to your reputation.
In the legal marketplace, every attorney holds their own personal brand and the collection of those brands often defines and outshines the brand of the overall firm. At its most basic element, a brand is a singular idea or concept you own in the mind of a prospect. This idea or concept sets the stage for what your client expects you to deliver and is the promise you are making to them.
The most widely acclaimed branding book for marketers is The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding by Al and Laura Ries. The laws are simple, yet applicable to all levels of branding. Although there are twenty-two laws in all, focusing on the seven laws highlighted below will assist every attorney in taking their brand to the next level.
1. The Law of Contraction
“A brand becomes stronger when you narrow its focus”
In the age of specialization, and particularly in the new legal landscape, buyers are looking for someone who understands and can fulfill their unique needs. Lawyers who market themselves as having a focus on litigation and IP Law are being passed over for lawyers who market themselves as having a focus on specific areas like pharmaceutical IP litigation. This doesn’t mean that you should abandon your trade secret or employment law practice. It means that you should expand your service where you have the strongest value and elaborate on the components of this value in your brand.
2. The Law of the Word
“A brand should strive to own a word in the mind of the consumer”
This is where your reputation can fuel your brand and be used to differentiate you from the competition. If you have a reputation for being technologically sophisticated, brand yourself as “innovative” or better yet “pioneering”. If you have a reputation for performing well under pressure, brand yourself as “reliable” or “unshakable”.
3. The Law of the Category
“A leading brand should promote the category, not the brand”
Once you’ve defined your unique value as a “pioneering pharmaceutical litigator” or “unshakable trade secret advocate”, you should promote the category. View yourself as the leader of the category and focus on its promotion, embracing those who follow you into the category and in turn increasing recognition for it.
4. The Law of Fellowship
“In order to build the category, a brand should welcome other brands”
Don’t just tolerate competitors in your category, welcome them. As the market for your category expands, you will benefit as the leader of the brand and will have opportunities to refine your brand. Get momentum behind your category by sharing your vision at conferences. Look for other lawyers who want to co-author original content promoting the category and view those who “steal your idea” as validation that the idea is a good one.
5. The Law of Consistency
“A brand is not built overnight. Success is measured in decades, not years”
The need for instant results is destructive to brands and causes many to shift in the wake of changing markets. It is okay to pivot and refine a brand to give it a new slant (in fact that is a core component to an attorney or firm’s long-term success) but the essential characteristics of a brand should not change. This is why the creation of your brand should be well thought out and based on your core mission or “Why”.
6. The Law of Change
“Brands can be changed, but only infrequently and only very carefully”
Because legal brands are dependent on legal needs, a change in the demand for a legal service will determine the viability of the brand and the need to change it. For lawyers, being great at Mergers & Acquisitions is one thing, but being great at specific M&A tools as they are developed is better. Be attentive to opportunities for change, especially if your brand is still young, but realize the threat that changing poses to the idea and promise your brand occupies in the mind of the consumer.
7. The Law of Singularity
“The most important aspect of a brand is its single-mindedness”
If the market doesn’t associate you with a singular concept, your brand will be weakened. Let the market know what you stand for and hold fast to that idea. Soon enough, you’ll own a place in the mind of the prospect that supports your continued success and growth.
Recalling that your reputation is the sum of every action or inaction you take on behalf of your clients, your brand serves the purpose of clarifying your unique value and communicating with the market. In the end, it is your reputation, an indicator of how well you fulfill your brand promise, that will define your success. Ensuring that you deliver on your promises through consistent, high value experiences is the only way to guarantee sustained success.
John Munro is BlackStone Discovery’s Vice President of National Markets where he helps a wide range of firms and corporations find cost-effective solutions for eDiscovery, forensic, and document review needs. With over 20 years of experience building and leading teams of eDiscovery focused ALSPs, Munro delivers value by constantly educating attorneys and corporations on innovations and challenges related to information governance, eDiscovery, document review, and computer forensics.
Nate Bradford is BlackStone Discovery’s Marketing Manager where he capitalizes on market opportunities and builds the company’s brand through content publishing, online marketing, event support, and general business development efforts. He has led marketing efforts in the sports media industry at NBC Sports and in the social entrepreneurship sector at ONergy Solar.