Sutherland. That is the new name of the firm formerly known as Sutherland Asbill & Brennan.
The firm dropped its other two names this week as part of a rebranding project that includes a new Web site, Sutherland.com, and a more contemporary look.
The firm's legal name remains Sutherland Asbill & Brennan, which it will still use for pleadings and other official documents, but for everyday usage, it's now Sutherland.
"By formally adopting Sutherland, we are embracing the name by which we've become known in the marketplace," said the firm's managing partner, Mark D. Wasserman, in a firmwide letter announcing the change.
Sutherland joins a number of other local and national firms that have shortened their names in the last few years. The New York firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom adopted Skadden as its brand name several years ago, while retaining all five surnames as its legal name -- as Sutherland has done.
Orrick, Bingham and Dechert are other well-known firms that have truncated their names. Orrick kept Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe and Bingham kept Bingham McCutchen as their respective legal names, but Dechert, which used to be Dechert Price & Rhoads, is just Dechert.
In Atlanta, Powell, Goldstein, Frazier & Murphy became Powell Goldstein in 2004 as both its brand and its legal name.
"We had talked about this several times over the last few years, and there was a consensus that the time had come," said Mark D. Herlach, a partner in the firm's Washington office who heads its marketing committee.
"We were cognizant that lots of firms have gone to a shorter name to make it easier to identify and recognize the firm," said Herlach. "We can brand ourself much more effectively this way."
Sutherland's marketing director, Jennifer Davis, who oversaw the rebranding, said most of the firm's lawyers welcomed the change -- and the updated Web site and look that came with it. But keeping Sutherland Asbill & Brennan as the firm's legal name allows the old-line Atlanta firm to retain its tradition, she said, noting that there is a group within the firm that values using the whole name.
Along with new business cards, the firm distributed a history of the firm, "The Ties that Bind," to link the new to the old, said Davis.
This is only the third name change for Sutherland in its 84-year history. Sutherland & Tuttle was founded by William A. Sutherland and Elbert P. Tuttle Sr. in 1924. The firm became Sutherland, Tuttle & Brennan in 1933, after the two promoted their associate Joseph B. Brennan to partner.
Tuttle left the firm in 1953 to become the general counsel for the Treasury Department under President Eisenhower and, a year later, a federal judge on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
When Tuttle left, B. McKendrie "Mac" Asbill Sr. replaced him on the letterhead, and the firm became Sutherland, Asbill & Brennan. The senior Asbill, who had joined the firm in 1949 along with his son, Mac "Mackey" Asbill Jr., had been Sutherland's roommate at Harvard Law School and, like Tuttle, was married to one of his sisters.
CLEAN, DIRECT AND BOLD
The firm's decision to update its Web site a couple of years ago prompted the name change, said Davis. After many conversations with Sutherland's leaders on how they wanted to project themselves, its design firm recommended shortening the name as well.
While the name change was relatively uncontroversial, it took the marketing committee's lawyers weeks to settle on a new logo. Sutherland is the first of Atlanta's big firms to adopt a sans serif typeface -- as well as one that is all capital letters.
The firm wanted to take a "more modern approach to how we identify ourselves in the legal profession," said Herlach. He said the logo is "clean, direct and makes a bold statement," signifying, he hopes, "a firm of working lawyers -- people who very much like advising clients."
Davis said the marketing committee considered at least 50 logos before settling on Geometric 415, which is spare and, well, geometric, reminiscent of midcentury modern typefaces from the 1950s and 1960s. It's a big change from the firm's previous typeface, ITC Fenice, a much more traditional rounded and seriffed look.
The committee's members thought of using a large capital "S" as an icon to anchor the new logo, but after considering numerous "S" iterations, said Davis, decided "it was too close to Superman."
Davis said the marketing staff gave her a baby card on Monday to congratulate her on "birthing the new name."
"It's been a humongous project," she said, estimating that the redesign has taken about 70 percent of her time since she became Sutherland's marketing director in March 2007.
She's had a lot of parts to orchestrate. After the new logo was established, Davis oversaw the update of the firm's marketing materials, right down to the mugs and T-shirts, its advertising, its signage -- and the new Web site, which also comes in Chinese.
The firm took a big step into the 21st century with a more intuitive domain name -- Sutherland.com instead of Sablaw.com. To do this, it had to buy the Sutherland.com name from a West Coast engineering firm, said Herlach, who declined to say how much his firm paid.
The lawyers wanted a Web site that was cleaner looking and easier to navigate, Davis said, and they wanted the firm's frequent legal alerts to be prominently displayed.
Instead of pictures of lawyers, the new Web site has dramatic surrealist images, such as a photo of a dense green hedge with an archway opening onto a beach. Each is accompanied by a pair of adjectives -- "discover and deliver" for the hedge image -- where the "and'" then morphs into the last three letters of Sutherland, which was Davis' idea.
When asked the meaning of one photo of a goldfish jumping from a bowl full of fish into another bowl with water but no fish, Davis replied, "I say he's a lateral."