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Firm branding efforts foster cultures and help drive business growth

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“It’s a complex world. Be advised.”

“Tell them you mean business.”

Two very different branding strategies for two very different law firms, but each concisely captures the culture, respectively, of general practice firm Ice Miller LLP and accident and injury attorneys at Keller & Keller LLP.

Branding sets firms apart from the competition, but it also reflects, shapes and defines a firm’s culture, marketing experts say. The dividends extend beyond forging an identity.

schopmey Schopmeyer

A Georgetown University Law Center study published in February found that 70 percent of participating law firms reported that a good culture at a firm was the first- or second-most important consideration for prospective hires. The conclusion: Growing firms are those with a known, respected and cultivated culture.

“Ice Miller enjoys strong brand awareness and the well-recognized tagline, ‘It’s a complex world. Be advised.’ supports the firm’s position in the marketplace,” said Ice Miller marketing director Patricia Batesole. She said the message resonates with clients as well as the firm’s more than 300 attorneys and 300 employees nationwide.

“Ice Miller’s culture is embodied by the slogan’s brand promise of a sophisticated law firm with capabilities that span many geographic and legal arenas,” she said.

brandYou might see the “be advised” tagline on the firm’s materials or hear it in conjunction with public-affairs television sponsorships, for instance. You’re unlikely to hear it in the same media space as Keller & Keller’s “Tell them you mean business” spots.

Keller & Keller partner James R. Keller said the firm’s marketing tagline carried widely in television commercials is meant to convey zealous advocacy as well as empathy. “We think those two qualities are equally important in developing a culture,” Keller said. “You’re no good unless you show compassion.”

Keller said community involvement also is an important factor in a firm’s culture. He noted the firm’s participation in the Samantha’s House charity, which is building its fifth house for disabled children.

A marketing firm developed the “Tell them you mean business” tagline that’s also used by other firms in other markets. The ads drive prospective clients to the 10 attorneys in Keller & Keller’s Indianapolis office, but Keller said the firm’s best cases come from referrals.

Hillel L. Presser, an attorney who owns Florida-based Lawyer Marketing LLC, consults with firms around the country trying to shape their images. He said the Georgetown study, which polled firms as small as three attorneys and as large as 500, shows the importance for smaller firms of developing a brand strategy.

“It’s an absolute necessity if you want to be in business five years, 10 years, 15 years from now,” said Presser, author of “The Lawyer’s Law of Attraction: Marketing Outside the Box but Inside the Law.”

“If you don’t have some sort of marketing plan,” he said, “the big guys are going to put you out of business.”

Some firms are strictly old school when it comes to branding.

Evansville full-service firm Kahn Dees Donovan & Kahn is 105 years old, employs 32 attorneys and takes a reserved approach, said co-managing partner G. Michael Schopmeyer. “Our branding, marketing and other business development efforts are reflective of the way we practice law, preferring substance over style and seeking long-term value rather than short-term gain,” he said.

“We believe that it’s more effective to build an enduring relationship than to make a big splash that might be unsupported by true experience or know-how,” Schopmeyer said.

Larger firms such as Bingham Greenebaum Doll LLP, which has about 225 attorneys, can devote greater resources to branding. BGD marketing communications lead Katie Gilmore said the focus is on building relationships and trust, and showcasing the firm’s capabilities.

Social media such as LinkedIn and Twitter, and QR codes on branded material drive people to the firm’s website. “The goal is get them to the content,” Glimore said.

On BGD’s site, visitors will find content such as a book entitled “The Fiscal Cliff in Depth” that may be downloaded. The topical tome has been of interest to a range of clients and prospects, from estate attorneys to manufacturers, Gilmore said. “We were seeing in the competitive landscape a lot of other companies pushing out quick blasts,” she said. “We weren’t seeing anyone diving in and really showing an in-depth look at it.”

Bingham also recently launched a quarterly magazine that can be downloaded from the website, and a print version is produced and distributed to clients and leads. The magazine provides a “second look” at website content such as articles, blog posts, attorney features and events, Gilmore said. And of course, it directs them back to the website.

A common theme for BGD’s brand is “Regional presence, global influence.” Gilmore said the firm’s branding effort “goes back to telling the story of who we are and what it’s like to work with the attorneys and their areas of expertise.”

answersThat’s true, too, for Cohen & Malad LLP’s “Power to Your Voice” brand that marketing manager Jaime Lira said has been a staple for years.

Lira said it’s a tagline that evokes an emotional response and works well to identify the firm to potential personal-injury and class-action clients. “It fits our personality very much,” Lira said. The message also conveys zealous, personal advocacy, she said. “We want people to know we’re those guys.”

Cohen & Malad strives to make the “Power to Your Voice” identifier ubiquitous. “Having that consistency across all your communications is what actually strengthens your brand,” Lira said.

Presser, the Florida-based consultant, said that even sole practitioners should work to develop a brand. Simple steps such as developing effective business cards or networking with other attorneys over lunch to talk about one’s practice can help carve a niche, develop a culture and help grow business.

“Every large firm didn’t wake up one day and say, ‘I’m going to be a 300-lawyer firm,’” Presser said. “At the end of the day, a big part is about relationships. People like to do business with people they enjoy and can be friends with.”•

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  1. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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