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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. I like the concept. Seems like a good idea and really inexpensive to manage.

  2. I don't agree that this is an extreme case. There are more of these people than you realize - people that are vindictive and/or with psychological issues have clogged the system with baseless suits that are costly to the defendant and to taxpayers. Restricting repeat offenders from further abusing the system is not akin to restricting their freedon, but to protecting their victims, and the court system, from allowing them unfettered access. From the Supreme Court opinion "he has burdened the opposing party and the courts of this state at every level with massive, confusing, disorganized, defective, repetitive, and often meritless filings."

  3. So, if you cry wolf one too many times courts may "restrict" your ability to pursue legal action? Also, why is document production equated with wealth? Anyone can "produce probably tens of thousands of pages of filings" if they have a public library card. I understand this is an extreme case, but our Supreme Court really got this one wrong.

  4. He called our nation a nation of cowards because we didn't want to talk about race. That was a cheap shot coming from the top cop. The man who decides who gets the federal government indicts. Wow. Not a gentleman if that is the measure. More importantly, this insult delivered as we all understand, to white people-- without him or anybody needing to explain that is precisely what he meant-- but this is an insult to timid white persons who fear the government and don't want to say anything about race for fear of being accused a racist. With all the legal heat that can come down on somebody if they say something which can be construed by a prosecutor like Mr Holder as racist, is it any wonder white people-- that's who he meant obviously-- is there any surprise that white people don't want to talk about race? And as lawyers we have even less freedom lest our remarks be considered violations of the rules. Mr Holder also demonstrated his bias by publically visiting with the family of the young man who was killed by a police offering in the line of duty, which was a very strong indicator of bias agains the offer who is under investigation, and was a failure to lead properly by letting his investigators do their job without him predetermining the proper outcome. He also has potentially biased the jury pool. All in all this worsens race relations by feeding into the perception shared by whites as well as blacks that justice will not be impartial. I will say this much, I do not blame Obama for all of HOlder's missteps. Obama has done a lot of things to stay above the fray and try and be a leader for all Americans. Maybe he should have reigned Holder in some but Obama's got his hands full with other problelms. Oh did I mention HOlder is a bank crony who will probably get a job in a silkstocking law firm working for millions of bucks a year defending bankers whom he didn't have the integrity or courage to hold to account for their acts of fraud on the United States, other financial institutions, and the people. His tenure will be regarded by history as a failure of leadership at one of the most important jobs in our nation. Finally and most importantly besides him insulting the public and letting off the big financial cheats, he has been at the forefront of over-prosecuting the secrecy laws to punish whistleblowers and chill free speech. What has Holder done to vindicate the rights of privacy of the American public against the illegal snooping of the NSA? He could have charged NSA personnel with violations of law for their warrantless wiretapping which has been done millions of times and instead he did not persecute a single soul. That is a defalcation of historical proportions and it signals to the public that the government DOJ under him was not willing to do a damn thing to protect the public against the rapid growth of the illegal surveillance state. Who else could have done this? Nobody. And for that omission Obama deserves the blame too. Here were are sliding into a police state and Eric Holder made it go all the faster.

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