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. Just an aside, but regardless of the outcome, I 'm proud of Judge William Hughes. He was the original magistrate on the Home place issue. He ruled for Home Place, and was primaried by Brainard for it. Their tool Poindexter failed to unseat Hughes, who won support for his honesty and courage throughout the county, and he was reelected Judge of Hamilton County's Superior Court. You can still stand for something and survive. Thanks, Judge Hughes!

  2. CCHP's real accomplishment is the 2015 law signed by Gov Pence that basically outlaws any annexation that is forced where a 65% majority of landowners in the affected area disagree. Regardless of whether HP wins or loses, the citizens of Indiana will not have another fiasco like this. The law Gov Pence signed is a direct result of this malgovernance.

  3. I gave tempparry guardship to a friend of my granddaughter in 2012. I went to prison. I had custody. My daughter went to prison to. We are out. My daughter gave me custody but can get her back. She was not order to give me custody . but now we want granddaughter back from friend. She's 14 now. What rights do we have

  4. This sure is not what most who value good governance consider the Rule of Law to entail: "In a letter dated March 2, which Brizzi forwarded to IBJ, the commission dismissed the grievance “on grounds that there is not reasonable cause to believe that you are guilty of misconduct.”" Yet two month later reasonable cause does exist? (Or is the commission forging ahead, the need for reasonable belief be damned? -- A seeming violation of the Rules of Profession Ethics on the part of the commission) Could the rule of law theory cause one to believe that an explanation is in order? Could it be that Hoosier attorneys live under Imperial Law (which is also a t-word that rhymes with infamy) in which the Platonic guardians can do no wrong and never owe the plebeian class any explanation for their powerful actions. (Might makes it right?) Could this be a case of politics directing the commission, as celebrated IU Mauer Professor (the late) Patrick Baude warned was happening 20 years ago in his controversial (whisteblowing) ethics lecture on a quite similar topic: http://www.repository.law.indiana.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1498&context=ilj

  5. I have a case presently pending cert review before the SCOTUS that reveals just how Indiana regulates the bar. I have been denied licensure for life for holding the wrong views and questioning the grand inquisitors as to their duties as to state and federal constitutional due process. True story: https://www.scribd.com/doc/299040839/2016Petitionforcert-to-SCOTUS Shorter, Amici brief serving to frame issue as misuse of govt licensure: https://www.scribd.com/doc/312841269/Thomas-More-Society-Amicus-Brown-v-Ind-Bd-of-Law-Examiners

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