A Law Firm Name Can Be a Liability

By January 31, 2016 February 14th, 2016 Branding, Communication, Law, Logos, Marketing, Naming

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Recently we visited the website of a Big Law firm with a great nickname. As we typed in their clever url, we wondered, will the website live up to the promise of their fresh, unconventional moniker? Sadly, no. From the look of their tired logo, which featured the full legal firm name complete with requisite ampersand, it could have been 1955 (had the internet existed). The website verbiage proclaimed the firm to be “creative and innovative”, but the branding blared “traditional and sedate”.

What’s in a law firm name? Often, a reminder that the firm lawyers really like calligraphy, leather-bound books and copious billable hours. As groundbreaking companies build powerful brands with unique names – Amazon, Apple, Google, Uber – the business of law remains stuck with outdated naming conventions that emphasize a reluctance to embrace changing times.

Partnership is still the underlying business model of most law firms, and partly to blame for miring law firm branding in the past. As long as firm partners think of their business as a consortium of individuals rather than an entity with its own identity and marketing budget, building a great law firm brand will be a challenge. So too will convincing your clients to pay a premium for services that are only marginally different from your competitor’s offerings.

Lawyers are verbal ninjas. Words are your weapons, and you understand better than most the importance of choosing words carefully and presenting them effectively. Apply the same ruthless objectivity and fearless creativity to law firm branding and the entire firm gains a winning reputation.

While most law firms cannot completely walk away from their current names, there are several ways to reboot that can give you an edge over more staid and stuffy firms:

  • Listen to your clients and colleagues. Do they have a nickname for your firm? Use it. Federal Express was renamed FedEx by their customers.
  • Short is better: two names are better than three, one name is better than two.
  • Lose the ampersand.
  • Consider a hybrid name, a new name fashioned from old ones.
  • Magic spelling is a powerful way to pack meaning into a name that might not be available in its conventional form. A house can be a Houzz, for example.
  • The website url can and should drive your firm naming decision. No, all the good urls are not taken.
  • A tag line in conjunction with a good firm name is a winning combination if it’s unexpected and communicates a benefit no one else is talking about.

And to the Big Law firm with the great nickname but lame legal name: dare to be different. We won’t name names, but you’ve got untapped brand potential and not using it is downright criminal.