Marketing The Firm Vs. The Professional

When looking at the building directory of a major downtown office building, one sees two very distinct styles of legal marketing on display. The first marketing style belongs to those law corporations that list every one of their lawyers right on the building’s directory. The second belongs to those large national firms that list only the firm’s name.

This is a good representation of two very distinct styles of professional services marketing. While some law firms highlight their individual professionals to sell their brand, other law firms rely on a corporate brand to promote their services. You can find a similar divergence in the marketing practices of accounting firms, real estate agencies, and consulting firms.

Two Distinct Legal Marketing Styles

Traditionally, professional services have been marketed at the level of the professional. A client would be more likely to talk about “my lawyer” rather than “my law firm.” This tendency is consistent with the fact that many professional services firms are named after current or deceased partners. A slightly absurd example of the marketing of individuals in professional services can be witnessed in the lengthy name of the American entertainment law firm Ziffren, Brittenham, Branca, Fischer, Gilbert-Lurie, Stiffelman, Cook, Johnson, Lande & Wolf, which lists 10 out of the 23 lawyers at the firm.

In stark contrast is the growing trend of firms deciding to market a single corporate brand rather than their constituent lawyers. By necessity, large firms are increasingly drawn to this strategy. Some firms even take this style of brand dominance further by choosing not to list individual lawyers practicing at the firm in any of the firm’s marketing materials.

Advantages of Firm-based Marketing

A firm-centered marketing approach is the dominant trend in today’s climate, and law firm naming conventions are adjusting to this style of marketing. Some benefits to a firm-based approach include:

  • The firm does not have to undergo any significant re-branding if a lawyer leaves the firm.
  • Client goodwill is associated with the firm and not individual lawyers.
  • These firms are able to market their services more consistently.
  • The firm’s brand is infinitely flexible rather than tied to hereditary naming conventions.

Disadvantages of Firm-based Marketing

Some drawbacks include:

  • It is harder for young lawyers to develop a professional reputation.
  • Individual lawyers lack visibility and may not attract referral business.
  • Clients often like to see and read about the professionals that they will be working with prior to retaining them.
  • If a lawyer does have a stellar professional reputation, the firm does not necessarily benefit from the association.

In Summary

It is important to carefully weigh the advantages of each approach prior to branding your firm. At Skunkworks, we have clients who have been successful using the firm-based approach as well as clients who have found success utilizing the professional-focused approach. What’s best for your firm? Well, that depends.

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