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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. From back in the day before secularism got a stranglehold on Hoosier jurists comes this great excerpt via Indiana federal court judge Allan Sharp, dedicated to those many Indiana government attorneys (with whom I have dealt) who count the law as a mere tool, an optional tool that is not to be used when political correctness compels a more acceptable result than merely following the path that the law directs: ALLEN SHARP, District Judge. I. In a scene following a visit by Henry VIII to the home of Sir Thomas More, playwriter Robert Bolt puts the following words into the mouths of his characters: Margaret: Father, that man's bad. MORE: There is no law against that. ROPER: There is! God's law! MORE: Then God can arrest him. ROPER: Sophistication upon sophistication! MORE: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal. ROPER: Then you set man's law above God's! MORE: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of law, oh, there I'm a forester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God... ALICE: (Exasperated, pointing after Rich) While you talk, he's gone! MORE: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law! ROPER: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law! MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? ROPER: I'd cut down every law in England to do that! MORE: (Roused and excited) Oh? (Advances on Roper) And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you where would you hide, Roper, the laws being flat? (He leaves *1257 him) This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast man's laws, not God's and if you cut them down and you're just the man to do it d'you really think you would stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake. ROPER: I have long suspected this; this is the golden calf; the law's your god. MORE: (Wearily) Oh, Roper, you're a fool, God's my god... (Rather bitterly) But I find him rather too (Very bitterly) subtle... I don't know where he is nor what he wants. ROPER: My God wants service, to the end and unremitting; nothing else! MORE: (Dryly) Are you sure that's God! He sounds like Moloch. But indeed it may be God And whoever hunts for me, Roper, God or Devil, will find me hiding in the thickets of the law! And I'll hide my daughter with me! Not hoist her up the mainmast of your seagoing principles! They put about too nimbly! (Exit More. They all look after him). Pgs. 65-67, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS A Play in Two Acts, Robert Bolt, Random House, New York, 1960. Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen. of Indiana, Indianapolis, for defendants. Childs v. Duckworth, 509 F. Supp. 1254, 1256 (N.D. Ind. 1981) aff'd, 705 F.2d 915 (7th Cir. 1983)

  2. "Meanwhile small- and mid-size firms are getting squeezed and likely will not survive unless they become a boutique firm." I've been a business attorney in small, and now mid-size firm for over 30 years, and for over 30 years legal consultants have been preaching this exact same mantra of impending doom for small and mid-sized firms -- verbatim. This claim apparently helps them gin up merger opportunities from smaller firms who become convinced that they need to become larger overnight. The claim that large corporations are interested in cost-saving and efficiency has likewise been preached for decades, and is likewise bunk. If large corporations had any real interest in saving money they wouldn't use large law firms whose rates are substantially higher than those of high-quality mid-sized firms.

  3. The family is the foundation of all human government. That is the Grand Design. Modern governments throw off this Design and make bureaucratic war against the family, as does Hollywood and cultural elitists such as third wave feminists. Since WWII we have been on a ship of fools that way, with both the elite and government and their social engineering hacks relentlessly attacking the very foundation of social order. And their success? See it in the streets of Fergusson, on the food stamp doles (mostly broken families)and in the above article. Reject the Grand Design for true social function, enter the Glorious State to manage social dysfunction. Our Brave New World will be a prison camp, and we will welcome it as the only way to manage given the anarchy without it.

  4. When I hear 'Juvenile Lawyer' I think of an attorney helping a high school aged kid through the court system for a poor decision; like smashing mailboxes. Thank you for opening up my eyes to the bigger picture of the need for juvenile attorneys. It made me sad, but also fascinated, when it was explained, in the sixth paragraph, that parents making poor decisions (such as drug abuse) can cause situations where children need legal representation and aid from a lawyer.

  5. Some in the Hoosier legal elite consider this prayer recommended by the AG seditious, not to mention the Saint who pledged loyalty to God over King and went to the axe for so doing: "Thomas More, counselor of law and statesman of integrity, merry martyr and most human of saints: Pray that, for the glory of God and in the pursuit of His justice, I may be trustworthy with confidences, keen in study, accurate in analysis, correct in conclusion, able in argument, loyal to clients, honest with all, courteous to adversaries, ever attentive to conscience. Sit with me at my desk and listen with me to my clients' tales. Read with me in my library and stand always beside me so that today I shall not, to win a point, lose my soul. Pray that my family may find in me what yours found in you: friendship and courage, cheerfulness and charity, diligence in duties, counsel in adversity, patience in pain—their good servant, and God's first. Amen."

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