Can you afford to ignore your brand in 2009? What part of your budget is devoted to polishing, nurturing and feeding your law firm’s brand? Whether you are 1 lawyer or 100 lawyers -law firms with diverse practices often have a hard time defining their brand – or so it seems. Are lawyers so independent minded that the aggregation of which doesn’t easily turn out a concise description of who they are to whom?

Nonetheless, every law firm has a brand, whether they use to describe themselves or not. What can you do?

If you listen to what your clients are saying about you – as diverse as they may be –you’ll find a common thread. And if you listen to what the firm’s lawyers say about themselves you’ll probably find another thread. Further, if you listen to what employees say about the firm, you’ll have yet another perspective. Somewhere among those who are invested in your firm, a brand will surface. Do you like it? Do you need to fix it?

If you are not working on the care and feeding of your brand in 2009 you might be missing an opportunity and at the very most, bleeding the life blood from your legacy.

Anne Saunders, brand and advertising executive at Bank of America, recently told a reporter covering 98th annual meeting of the Association of National Advertisers that, “it would be a mistake to say you don’t need to continue to tend your brand, even in a challenging market like this.”

Others at the meeting last week told the NY Times:

“It’s incredibly important to be risk-takers in the economic climate we’re in.” “People have a tendency to pull back.” -Michael Mendenhall, senior vice president and chief marketing officer at Hewlett-Packard.

“Let’s all go for growth. Let’s see this as an opportunity.” Increasing sales and profits has “never been more important.” “There has never been a more crystal-clear realization of why you need a strong brand.” -Rebecca Saeger, executive vice president and chief marketing officer at the Charles Schwab Corporation.

“Don’t go to the ledge. Don’t let the urgent overwhelm the important.” -Joseph V. Tripodi, chief marketing and commercial officer at the Coca-Cola Company

The “challenging environment” gave her brand “a unique opportunity” because of its “legacy of trust and confidence.” -Claire Bennett, senior vice president for marketing at American Express.

James R. Stengel, global marketing officer at Procter & Gamble, was asked whether consumers seeking to save money might be tempted to switch to private-label products (insert non-AMLaw firms) from brand names (insert AM Law firms). That would mean paying less attention to ads for brands — no matter how much marketers spent.

That is unlikely, Mr. Stengel replied, if marketers understand that “in these times, people are looking for the right value.”

That is where it really hits home, IMHO. Clients are looking for the right value. They always have been really, but things take time. And now you have a super opportunity to demonstrate and brand your value. If you have it……

Does this hit home for your firm? Let me hear from you. Why did we have to wait for challenging times to find and deliver new value to clients? Are you branding value in 2009? How far do you have to stretch to build this into your brand? Is experienced, efficient, and effective enough?

The Association of Corporate Counsel has initiated a community – the ACC Value Challenge which seeks to reconnect value to costs for legal services; an idea that has been stewing in marketers’ minds for several years now. Glad to have the lawyers on board.

If your brand tells a story about value, you should be all set, if not, maybe its time to dust off the brand and revisit it for 2009? In addition to business development coaching (the trend du jour) are you setting aside money in your budget for your brand? Or is do you think that is passe?