Hardly a week goes by lately—sometimes not even a day—without another law firm announcing a rebranding effort, complete with a new website, new logo and often a new, shortened name. Who can blame them for touting their efforts? Firms spend a lot of time and money on market research, branding experts, merchandise and launch parties for clients.
Most firms will say that the rebrand is about the client and what the client wants. And that’s no surprise. The client is king in the professional services industry. But some firms may be overlooking other stakeholders in the picture: the talent.
“Marketing and branding should be recruiting’s best friend,” said Ross Fishman, a former litigator and current owner of Fishman Marketing. “Some firms just don’t realize the full value of their rebrand and how it can help recruiting,” he said.
Fishman said that a rebrand for a midsize firm, for example, might be done for the cost of one headhunter fee and pay for itself multiple times over by attracting the type of talent the firm seeks. He said he thought recruiting and marketing aren’t always in sync during rebranding—partly thanks to firms’ laser focus on client needs and perception.
“When you are building a brand, or trying to position a brand, you have many different audiences,” said Mary K. Young, a partner at the Zeughauser Group, a legal industry consultancy. “It’s everyone who thinks about your firm in any way. Clients are only part of the picture.”
Both Fishman and Young agreed that while focus on client reaction to a rebrand is key, firms can’t ignore the message a new brand strategy sends to potential hires—or the reactions of current lawyers and employees.
“A rebrand can have more of an effect on your existing employees than on external parties,” Fishman said.
Young said that other industries that rely heavily on talent have made more of an investment in crafting their image and brand around employees and hiring considerations. She cited the Big Four consulting firms, which have made their presence felt by Big Law both financially and in the fight for talent, as strong examples of this.
Even when investments are made, measuring the impact of branding on different groups may be difficult. Image strategists say a starting point is understanding that there’s more to a brand than what clients see when they click on a firm’s web page or stroll in the lobby.
“Law firms have a ways to go in understanding what a brand is and isn’t,” Young said. “Maybe they think it is just the logo. Or the color. Or the name. But it is about what people think when they see these things.”