With over 1.3 million active lawyers in the United States and over 47,000 law firms, the legal industry is large, thriving and very competitive. A key part to standing out in your law practice’s market is through building its brand.
In this article, we’re going to look at the fundamentals you should consider whether you’re branding a new law firm or rebranding an existing one.
Before getting carried away with symbols, fonts and colors, you need to perform some needed due diligence about what your brand will signify and what message it will carry.
First of all, how do you wish to position your brand and law firm in the market?
What Areas of Law Does Your Firm Practice?
While many bar societies and associations do not allow lawyers and firms to use words like ‘expert’, many firms do in fact specialise in certain areas of law. By focusing their practices on certain types of law, they’re able to become better practitioners and specialize on particular services for their clients.
Due to this, they’re able to deliver a higher level of quality results and streamline internal processes and activities that a full-service law firm may have trouble with. With this in mind, your practice should be able to identify its core competencies and what it desire to attract in terms of clientele and provide for the market in the coming years or decades.
After you’ve decided whether your firm is going to focus on select areas of practice or be a full-service firm, this will constitute a major contributing factor to your brand’s differentiation in your market.
Your firm may decide to remain full-service. While this means that you can’t position your brand and firm’s image from a legal area or specialty perspective, you may still have other differentiators. For instance, some firms represent only people or only businesses. Some have specific demographics they serve. Determining what sets your practice apart from others in the market will help as you continue in your branding process to uncover how you can position your firm uniquely.
The next part of determining your firm’s branding is the messaging that you want your brand to evoke through words and imaging. If you haven’t figured out your firm’s key differentiators and how you want to position it in the market, then it’s far too early to be looking at messaging or anything else.
Your messaging should support your firm’s positioning and marketing objectives. If your firm represents big business, then it’s name may simply speak for itself through reputation and credibility. However, if your firm practices an area of law that is consumer-facing (i.e. you deal with individuals), then you’ll want to consider developing core messages for your brand.
Your Firm’s “Brand Voice”
Imagine your firm as a person. What characteristics and personality traits would it have? If it were to speak – whether to you, to your staff or prospective clients – what would it say and how would it sound? Take out a legal pad and start jotting these characteristics and attributes down.
Would it be aggressive or compassionate?
Does it fight for justice or fairness?
Does it talk about strong work ethic and going the distance?
This is your law firm’s brand voice. Understanding what you want your firm to sound like will help in constructing its core messaging – which in turn will make it easier to market. The key takeaway here is that your law practice, in terms of its brand, is expressed both in verbally and visually; in words and images; colors and sounds.
Your Firm’s Brand – in Verbal & Written Form
When you run advertising and marketing campaigns, you may run radio ads where people can only hear the ad. When people talk about your brand and refer new business to your firm, it can be done verbally as well.
Conversely, when your firm is displayed in Google search results, whether organically or through search ads, you’re only dealing with a text medium. Rarely are there any images or visuals. So when people search for your brand, ensure that your brand voice and messaging is consistent.
Your Firm’s Brand – in Visual Form
There are many forms of advertising in visual mediums. Regardless if you run TV commercials, YouTube ads, image and banner ads online, or even use email marketing or newsletters, your firm’s brand and logo will be present in all these ads and campaigns. Everything from flyers to your business card and email signature will probably contain your logo. Make sure that every impression of this brand produces the core message and carries your brand’s voice.
Looking at the Brand Voice as the Whole Package
Hopefully it’s clear to you by now that regardless if people search for your brand, hear about it or see it – they get the same idea and feeling about your firm – irrespective of what medium they find you or interact with your brand through. By starting with how your law firm will be positioned in the market, uniquely differentiated and it’s personality and brand voice, it can produce a consistency of messaging and brand imaging in any medium it’s promoted through.
Who Does your Brand Speak To?
In order to determine the brand voice and core messaging, you’ll want to determine your firm’s target audience. This connects from your law firm’s market positioning and service offerings.
You can determine who your brand speaks to through creating marketing or client persona’s. These are derivations from your firm’s ideal client, which you should attempt to define. How old are they, are they business owners or regular people. You should also define things like their family situation and marital status. Websites like lawyerist can help you define your client personas. Once defined, you can confidently pinpoint who your brand and it’s core messages are speaking to.
Designing Your Logo
Once you have a clear idea of your firm’s brand positioning, market differentiators and brand voice, you can begin the process of compiling this into your brand’s logo.
Choosing Colours, Fonts and Images
When choosing attributes like the logo, colours and fonts take all your brand’s information including client personas, voice and positioning into account. The fonts and colors will describe your firm’s voice and personality and should be selected to speak to the key client personas you have created.
Many law firms use colours such as blue, beige and burgundy in their logos, websites and other marketing material. In theory at Zahavian, we believe this is because of their neutrality. These colors are relatively calm and unoffensive. Law firms are so afraid of turning potential clients off that they forget to focus on using colours and typography that will attract and engage their target clients.
To gather ideas about your law firm’s brand and logo colors, you can check out colors from other big name brands here. With your brand voice, positioning and differentiation established, you should look into what colours are most aligned with your client persona’s psychology.
A Note on Typography
Choosing your typography will depend on all the above in addition to the exact color scheme you land on. However, serif fonts can be more influential and evoke a sense of trust, regalness and credibility with your expertise. Larger, more striking sans-serif fonts on the other hand, can be useful for making more a of a bold statement about your firm and its brand.
Subheadings and Slogans
Slogans or subheadings are entirely optional, however can be useful for explicitly describing your message or brand positioning with every impression of your logo.
At Zahavian, we’ve seen logos for personal injury lawyers that take after the popular television series “Better Call Saul”, where the firm in question actually trademarked the spin-off. Other slogans portray the firm more generically in terms of area of practice, but speak to character with something like “We Go the Distance”.
In other cases, you may want to make your name clear to your geographic market, such as something like “Serving Californian Families”. While this isn’t necessarily a memorable slogan, it does make it clear that the firm deals with families in California, a very strong indicator that the firm specializes in family law.
Branding Beyond Your Logo
Make sure that both the softer elements (messages, voice and positioning) and the explicit elements (colors, typography and logo) are used thoroughly and consistently throughout all your marketing material and campaigns. This means everything from the website, business cards and even team photos and images all incorporate sufficient components of your brand.
How Often Should You Rebrand?
When performed correctly and thoroughly, rebrandings should occur very infrequently. Possibly once or twice at all throughout the lifetime of a firm. So long that your firm maintains its positioning, differentiators and messaging (and the brand supports those), it needs not consider rebranding all that often.
However, rebranding is not the same as updating or refreshing the brand. To the contrary, brands and logos are refreshed regularly. If you look at large companies, take most auto manufacturers, there they do not rebrand, rather they update or refresh their brands to stay relevant with the changing times.
Deliverables: What to Expect from your Brand and Logo Designer
When engaging a brand or design agency to create your law firm’s brand and logo, a good firm will discuss most if not all of the criteria above. After which, you should expect to receive a number of documents and deliverables from them, so that you have everything you need to create and brand all your marketing materials now and in the future.
Depending on the final form your logo and brand take, you’ll likely receive a few different versions of your logo. These variations are likely to include several color and shape variations.
This is to offer flexibility in the different materials and mediums you use to market and promote your firm. In some instances your logo will look better with one colour combination than the other. In other circumstances, your logo may not fit in a landscape orientation or may not be very impressionable. Therefore, a stacked or vertical version of the logo will be more suited to the layout of say, a business card or flyer.
In other situations, like your social media accounts or website’s favicon, you’ll need to rely on using your logo’s emblem. Due to size constraints on different platforms and forms of media, you’ll have to plan for flexibility in your branding and employ different variations of your logo to fit the medium or marketing asset.
Brand Guide, Assets & Guidelines
Another critical deliverable you should expect from your brand design agency is your branding guide and specifications. This way, when you run any form of advertisement, you can send your brand guidelines and assets along to your advertising partner to use.
This will ensure that they use the exact colors, fonts and other requirements specified in the document. Having this information well-documented will reduce the number of occurrences where your logo or brand is “recreated” by advertising partners and marketers alike.
Use these to Safeguard your Brand
This may not seem like such a big deal, however, on multiple occasions we’ve seen clients’ and others’ logos being redrawn dozens of times. It becomes somewhat like a game of telephone, where several minor details are neglected. The font is replaced or colors approximated. During the next marketing campaign, the law firm send the most recent (and wrong) version of the logo, by which other elements are changed and it deviates further from the original brand and logo.
Ensure that Guidelines are Followed
A great example of a comprehensive resource and set of branding guidelines are that of Facebook. They offer detailed instructions and documentation on examples of acceptable uses and practices of their brand and copyrighted material. They also show unacceptable methods of using their logo and assets.
If your brand design firm doesn’t provide you with a set of brand guidelines, request them to make one for you. It doesn’t have to be as extensive as Facebook’s, but it should serve as a good framework for deciding how strict of a set of guidelines your firm decides to implement for its branding.
When running new campaigns, we recommend that your marketing partners read and follow your guidelines before designing any ads or marketing materials. After you receive the first draft of the ads, make sure to review it internally, comparing it with your copy of the guidelines to ensure that rules were followed. Your law practice’s brand is valuable and we suggest that you treat it as such, giving it the respect it deserves in order to preserve your firm’s image.
By the end of reading this article, you will find that much of the work is yet to be done to brand your law firm. However, you should have a solid understanding of how to go about designing your firm’s brand based on its positioning, differentiation in the market and core messaging. Once that is complete, you can start researching potential colors and fonts that support and carry your firm’s message in its brand and logo. Finally, once the branding is complete, you’ll know what materials you should receive from your practice’s brand designer to properly implement and preserve your brand in all campaigns and marketing materials.