“The Hessian could be a restaurant, a start-up, a clothing brand or more.”
—Designer Ben Pieratt
Pieratt has created what I’m calling a “brand in a box.”
It’s a complete brand identity, as Tim Nudd writes for AdWeek, a business Pieratt named the Hessian. For a cool $18,000, you get pretty much everything you need (at least as far as branding is concerned), all before you’ve even got a product or service to sell.
It sounds quite foolhardy. It’s a lot like putting the cart before the horse.
But this Hessian brand-in-a-box business got me thinking. Why couldn’t you, an aspiring law student turned lawyer-entrepreneur, start a law firm before you’ve even graduated from law school?
As titles go, this one gives away far too much. After all, would any of you even bend over to pick up a penny? It’s not worth the effort. And yet so many of you struggle to get by. Some are starving, reading Lawyerist in the hope that you will learn something useful so you can eat dinner again tomorrow. But they won’t bend over for a penny. That’s beneath them.
It’s exasperating reading your thoughts as reflected in the comments. I sat down with a judge two days ago, an older gentleman who survived a very successful practice. Our discussion eventually reached the new lawyers in his courtroom. He asked me how they afford all the toys they carry. I told him I didn’t know. We ran through the monthly cost of the various necessities du jour, and each of us winced in unison.
It has been said, “I don’t care what they say about me as long as they spell my name right.” (P.T. Barnum) And, “There is only one thing worse than being talked about and that is NOT being talked about.” (Oscar Wilde) And finally, “There’s no such thing as bad publicity except your own obituary.” (Brendan Behan)
“Branding” is a choice buzzword in the marketing world. Karin, who is an actual marketing expert (rather than a lawyer who plays one on the internet) has done a bunch of posts about branding, which is a useful concept for lawyers, as well as any other business. In a nutshell, branding is how you are perceived, especially by potential clients, referral sources, opposing counsel, etc.
Your brand involves more than just creating a logo and it is commonly defined as your customer’s experience. A brand is what your customers think of you and a reflection of everything you do: the way you send emails, your website, your Tweets, how you describe your business, and the logo on your business cards. It’s a complex mixture of feelings and personalities that make your customers love your work.
I think it’s safe to assume that most practicing attorneys never took a trademark law course in law school. It’s not a topic on the bar exam. It’s not a topic that comes up in family law, criminal law, real estate (usually), or estate planning. Most lawyers never have to deal with any trademark law issues, so I can’t blame people for not understanding the basics.
Effective law firm branding is critically important to generating new business for your practice both offline and online. While a strong, narrowly focused law firm branding strategy can distinguish your practice from the increasing legal noise, an unfocused, catch-all approach can lead to invisibility.
Referencing 365 Marketing Meditations: Daily Lessons from Marketing & Communications Professionals by Larry Smith and Richard Levick with Levick Strategic Communications, Legal Marketing Blogger, Tom Kane offers some insight to law firms developing their professional law firm brand:
Good branding is more important than ever, and while a logo does not equal a brand it is usually the place most companies begin. Your company’s logo is a powerful symbol that offers significant information about your style, approach, and overall philosophies. Logos are meant be powerful symbols to help raise your company’s visibility, credibility, and, most importantly, its memorability.
I am, like many people who have chosen to enter into the legal profession, by nature an arrogant person. I have lived for years with an over-inflated sense of my own abilities and intelligence. While law school did a marvelous job of tempering my ego, nothing truly terrified me until I started my own practice straight out of law school.
There are countless reasons for starting a law firm right out of law school, and while most of my friends and family may not believe it, hubris was not my main reason; though it has helped me to meet the challenges in the first year in business. Simply put, I started my law firm because of two factors: 1) an ability to find clients, and 2) an inability to get responses to the hundreds of resumes and applications I sent out. I have always known I would have my own firm one day… I just assumed that day would come after about 5 to 10 years learning the practice of law in a nice medium sized firm. Instead, I am now learning all the practical skills needed as a lawyer and as a small business owner. Starting a law firm has been both terrifying and rewarding.
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Is your law firm uniquely identified and differentiated from the competition online?
The financial crisis that swept the nation last year shook the legal community deeply. Across the country, numerous law firms implemented pay reductions, reduced billable hours, froze new hires, and cut back on philanthropy in order to stay afloat.
The wake of these setbacks only instills the need for law firms to pay closer attention to their brand management. Strong branding translates directly into revenue and profitability for law firms as it increases market share and allows for premium pricing.
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Lawyerist is written by a bunch of different people. Some are practicing lawyers, some are former practicing lawyers who are now doing other things related to law practice, and one or two aren't lawyers at all. Because lawyers don't know everything.