What’s in a name?

December 17, 2008
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After reading the comments on our last post, I wanted to expound on my previous post on law firm name changes.

Firm names evolve with the addition or departure of partners. That’s the nature of the business. It’s when we lose a firm name completely to an outside firm that it alters the way I perceive the firm. Again, I know that with these mergers, the attorneys and staff are pretty much remaining the same and it’s just a minor change.

But names can have a lot of power over people’s perceptions; think how long some parents agonize over the “perfect” name for their child, aiming for one that is tease-proof or unique. When a firm has built a reputation in the community, name recognition can be a great marketing tool. That name recognition is gone the instant an Indiana firm merges with an out-of-state firm.

It’s as if these renamed firms have to start over to recapture that recognition by the general public. Someone who has lived in Indiana a long time or knows a little about the legal community would recognize “Ice Miler” or “Locke Reynolds,” but they might not be familiar with “Frost Brown Todd” or “Taft Stettinius & Hollister.”

As I touched upon in my last post, it may just be a matter of time before these new names can be recalled by the general public, and me, as an Indiana firm. After all, I’m sure it took some in the legal community a while to get used to saying Ice Miller instead of its previous longer name. These out-of-state named firms will have to continue being active both in the legal and general communities, letting people know who they are.

As always, I appreciate your comments and encourage you to keep the dialogue going about this topic and other topics, or anything else you think is worth mentioning here in First Impressions.
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  • Name change marketing and acceptance is extremely important.
    Shortening of a name such as Ice Miller is a different topic than a complete name change. The community and Ice Miller\'s client base had likely already changed the name of the firm on their own. That is a common trend. In some cases, firm names have become so long that people can\'t be expected to remember them, much less get the order of names correct. They take the easiest path and shorten the name themselves, therefore the shortened name Ice Miller was already being widely used prior to its formal change.

    Merging with another firm is a different story, and requires a great deal of strategy and planning prior to its announcement. It is always important to put yourself in the shoes of the public, meaning clients, potential clients and referral sources, as well as those we interract with every day. Try to imagine what it will take for them to get used to this name. What do we need to do to make this name change so easy and so common that the transition is seamless?

    It typically takes a multi-step plan to be successful. I could go in to every step necessary, but it depends on the firm\'s current position in the minds of their audiences to find the correct strategy. I can tell you that it starts with making sure your internal clients, meaning staff and attorneys, are fully informed and comfortable with the meaning of the name change and the new name long before it is introduced to the public. It is also important to approach clients on a one-to-one basis to let them know what is being considered. Bring them in to the process. Build equity in your new name by sharing your news as much as possible. When it\'s time for the change, your internal and external audiences can help speak on your behalf to sell and explain the name change. Who couldn\'t use that many brand advocates on the streets when making such an important change? We all can.

    When announcing and reinforcing the name change, announce it widely and often. Don\'t stop after the first month or two as you haven\'t gone far enough to help your audiences memorize the change, much less what that change should stand for in their minds.

    It might help to remember this: Just when you think they are getting sick of hearing your message, whether that message is a name change or any other, your target audiences are barely beginning to pay attention to it. You become tired of hearing it because you\'ve been dealing with it for months, and sometimes years, and have been thinking about it internally 24 hours a day, but they have many hundreds and sometimes thousands of messages they have to filter through their minds every day. Give your message a fighting chance by making your way through the clutter in their minds.

    Spend time creating a thorough strategy for this, and every other, message you have to share. Yes, it\'s that important or you wouldn\'t be making it in the first place.

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  1. "Am I bugging you? I don't mean to bug ya." If what I wrote below is too much social philosophy for Indiana attorneys, just take ten this vacay to watch The Lego Movie with kiddies and sing along where appropriate: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=etzMjoH0rJw

  2. I've got some free speech to share here about who is at work via the cat's paw of the ACLU stamping out Christian observances.... 2 Thessalonians chap 2: "And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe. For you, brothers and sisters, became imitators of God’s churches in Judea, which are in Christ Jesus: You suffered from your own people the same things those churches suffered from the Jews who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and also drove us out. They displease God and are hostile to everyone in their effort to keep us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved. In this way they always heap up their sins to the limit. The wrath of God has come upon them at last."

  3. Did someone not tell people who have access to the Chevy Volts that it has a gas engine and will run just like a normal car? The batteries give the Volt approximately a 40 mile range, but after that the gas engine will propel the vehicle either directly through the transmission like any other car, or gas engine recharges the batteries depending on the conditions.

  4. Catholic, Lutheran, even the Baptists nuzzling the wolf! http://www.judicialwatch.org/press-room/press-releases/judicial-watch-documents-reveal-obama-hhs-paid-baptist-children-family-services-182129786-four-months-housing-illegal-alien-children/ YET where is the Progressivist outcry? Silent. I wonder why?

  5. Thank you, Honorable Ladies, and thank you, TIL, for this interesting interview. The most interesting question was the last one, which drew the least response. Could it be that NFP stamps are a threat to the very foundation of our common law American legal tradition, a throwback to the continental system that facilitated differing standards of justice? A throwback to Star Chamber’s protection of the landed gentry? If TIL ever again interviews this same panel, I would recommend inviting one known for voicing socio-legal dissent for the masses, maybe Welch, maybe Ogden, maybe our own John Smith? As demographics shift and our social cohesion precipitously drops, a consistent judicial core will become more and more important so that Justice and Equal Protection and Due Process are yet guiding stars. If those stars fall from our collective social horizon (and can they be seen even now through the haze of NFP opinions?) then what glue other than more NFP decisions and TRO’s and executive orders -- all backed by more and more lethally armed praetorians – will prop up our government institutions? And if and when we do arrive at such an end … will any then dare call that tyranny? Or will the cost of such dissent be too high to justify?

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