Jayne Navarre once gain asked a poignant question over on the Legal Marketing Association‘s Listserv. Since it is a closed network, I thought I’d bring the question here, along with my comments, to extend the discussion to a broader group of people. In short, when it comes to a law firm’s rebranding campaign, is it the journey or the destination? Jayne uses the recent dethroning of Skadden by Baker McKenzie in the 2010 AmLaw 100 to set the stage for the discussion:

Baker McKenzie beat Skadden in gross revenues reported by the AmLaw100 results released in April. The American Lawyer reported that this was the first time since 1994. That’s a big deal, I guess. Although profits per partner were down, under the 1 mil mark–probably a bigger deal–they’re still pretty happy to be on top according to A change at the top, The American Lawyer, April 19,2010, Ben Hallman. But, none of this is as interesting to me as the brief comment by Baker Chairman, John Conroy, attributing their branding re-evaluation to some of their success. “Still, surpassing Skadden to lead The Am Law 200 is a notable accomplishment. Conroy credits his firm’s success to a “rigorous branding analysis” that led to an office-by-office and practice-by-practice review. (emphasis added)

When a law firm undertakes a rebranding campaign, the “results” are thought to be the new website, a new logo, some nifty new ads. But is that really the result?? Should the results focused on actually be what is learned — and internalized — by the firm, its leadership and the attorneys during the process?? I would argue that the results of a rebranding campaign are really the cultural shifts that can take place during the process? As the marketing directors in our firms, I believe that our key role in the rebranding process is to facilitate the uncovering and discovery of the firm’s true nature — which is the firm’s brand — and aid in the cultural shifts that are necessary to move the firm forward. That’s the painful part. The visuals — logo, website, stock photography, color palate, fonts, advertising, PowerPoint and newsletter templates, brochures, etc. — are simply that … the visual expression of the firm’s true brand. As a marketing director getting ready to “rebrand” the firm, I am less concerned about the visual results as I am focused on the internal cultural discoveries and discussions that the process can help bring about:

  • How can I help shift my firm from being law firm focused, to becoming more client focused?
  • How can I use the process of rebranding/strategic planning to bridge the gaps between offices, practice groups and disciplines of law?
  • What lessons can I teach to the lawyers to enhance the experience for their clients?

Any attorney who has ever worked with me knows my first command is: make certain that the client sees him/herself and their problems (along with your solutions) in your marketing materials (practice descriptions, attorney bios, client alerts, PowerPoint presentations, etc). Simply stated: Q. Will a new logo, website, letterhead, advertising campaign lead to new business and increased profitability? A. No. Q. Can the process that brought the firm to redesign thier logo, website, letterhead and advertising campaign lead to new business?? A. ABSOLUTELY!