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They call it branding. It’s the law firm marketing director’s quest to make the firm’s name a household word to all the in-houses. It’s shooting to become the Coke or Ford of the new law business. And, in the process of designing a sleek new image for the legal marketplace, many prominent name partners of prestigious corporate law firms are being branded into obscurity. Like Mr. Roebuck in the merchandising world, or Eastman in the photo film business, Messrs. Reavis and Pogue have all but disappeared from the Jones Day law firm. And the same marketing trend has dealt cruel obscurity to Mr. Bockius (of Morgan Lewis), Mr. Crutcher (Gibson Dunn), Mr. Platt (Mayer Brown) and Messrs. Fairweather and Geraldson (Seyfarth Shaw). The list of vanished name partners is endless: Richter and Hampton (Shepherd Mullin); Strauss, Hauer and Feld (Akin Gump); Reed (Hughes Hubbard); Rosen and Katz (Wachtell Lipton). The sleek, streamlined names of some firms have resulted in three name partners being victimized: Messrs. Harris, Shriver and Jacobson (Fried Frank); Fierman, Hays and Handler (Kaye Scholer); Rifkind, Wharton and Garrison (Paul Weiss); and Slate, Meagher and Flom (Skadden Arps). And, at the latter, Mr. Arps has only a tenuous grasp on name-partner status as the firm is increasingly referred to as “Skadden.” The single-name law firm is a relatively new phenomenon. For years, certain firms have been commonly referred to by one partner’s (usually a former, deceased partner’s) name. For example, the names of Swaine and Moore have all but vanished when folks refer to Cravath. And, one rarely hears the names Wickersham and Taft with regard to the Cadwalader firm. The single-name movement is unlikely to become universal in the law business. While single-name identification works for some firms, it will be problematical for others. The White law firm simply won’t work for White & Case. Jones Day is unlikely to become Jones. And neither the Davis firm (Davis Polk), nor the Paul firm (Paul Weiss) has much of a future in the lexicon of law firm names. TREND FOLLOWERS What’s happening in law firms is really nothing new. The name game has been a tradition in American industry for decades. Over the years, familiar corporate identities have been changed to meet trendy corporate branding objectives. Industrial giant International Harvester morphed into Navistar International. Telecommunication stalwart Western Electric turned into AT&T Technologies. Sperry and Burroughs merged and became Unisys Corporation. Some companies changed names, then switched back. Sara Lee converted to Consolidated Foods, then went back to Sara Lee for cheesecake reasons. United Airlines transformed into Allegis and then reverted to United, the “friendly skies.” Recently, the name game has extended into the ranks of professional service companies. In a year-end national media blitz, Andersen Consulting unveiled its new corporate name, “Accenture” — proudly proclaiming “A new name and a new commitment.” To date, no major law firm has followed suit with trendy brand names like Amerilaw or True Justice. But as the major accounting firms jockey with law firms for market share in the professional services sector of our economy, the pressure on law firms to play the name game will increase. Meanwhile, the trend toward streamlining law firm names is sure to continue. Fewer and fewer partner names on the door, the letterhead or the Web site. Less visual clutter, more name recognition. Law firm receptionists undoubtedly welcome the truncation of six-name tongue-twisters. And, the process of naming new firms will likely be changed forever. EGO OF A DIFFERENT KIND Emerging partnerships will emphasize the marketing panache and appeal of two name partners over the ego-driven mania of six or seven partners on the door. The powerful gurus of marketing will dictate the selection of name partners on the basis of message and name recognition over annual billing clout and rainmaking stature. As a result, partnership rosters will be scoured by marketing experts for names that convey the desired message. New stars of the law firm branding era will emerge. Just picture it: Joe Wyse and John Lawyer would be name partners at the new firm Wyse Lawyer; Jim Best and Peter Law would be on the letterhead of the boutique law firm Best Law. And Abe Schur and Jack Justice would headline the Web site of the firm Schur Justice. The process of naming law partnerships has long been unscientific, emotional and haphazard. The recent injection of marketing considerations into the process adds a dimension of rationality and strategic thinking. But, as a result, many of the founding partners of major corporate law firms have been doomed to eternal obscurity. So here’s a toast and sincere salute to the vanished name partners of America’s law business. Next time around, if you want your name to stay on the door (shingle), better get to court and change your name to E.Z. Victor, Price E. Knott or I.M. Best II. Gerald D. Skoning is a lawyer at Chicago’s Seyfarth Shaw who fondly remembers the presence of Fairweather and Geraldson on the door.

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