A few weeks ago, I was riding in a cab on the way to the airport. Right off the highway was a large sign for Le Massage Plac (the light for the “e” had died). I insisted that the cab driver make a pit stop. I needed to get le massage from Le Massage Plac[e], even if the dingy surroundings would give me le staph infection and require me to go le emergency room.

Yesterday I was walking through downtown Chicago and I was nearly run over by a food truck captioned The Meatyballs Mobile. I ran after the Meatyballs for several blocks. I just had to have a “Shweddy Balls” sub sandwich.

These experiences taught me firsthand the power of branding. What does this have to do with small law firms?

Tom Matte, legal marketer and blogger, believes that creating a strong brand for one’s law firm may be the key to the firm’s success. In the same way that customers will pay a lot for goods from a designer brand, “firms that are branded well, and whose brands are associated with quality, will be noticed more and gain more business.”

So how do you go about creating a strong brand for your law firm? Develop a brand that simultaneously distinguishes you from the competition and exemplifies your strengths. Sound tough? Stephen Fairley, legal marketer and blogger, suggests that you start by asking yourself the following eight questions:

1. Who are you? (Think in terms of roles, values, personal qualities and who you are in relation to others.)
2. What are your natural gifts and strengths?
3. What have you experienced in your life and career?
4. What specialized training have you received?
5. In what areas are you already well connected?
6. In what areas do you feel uniquely qualified to serve your clients?
7. Where are you perceived as an expert?
8. How do you bring out the best in others?

I admit that I am a bit unsure about how to translate that firm self-awareness into a powerful brand, so I looked for advice from professionals in the legal branding space.

Bard Marketing suggests that you avoid the following clichés in articulating your brand:

1. “We are hard working and aggressive.”
2. “We don’t get paid until you do.”
3. “We can help.”
4. “We will fight for your case.”
5. “Big firm experience with small firm attention.”

Check out number five, small-firm friends; perhaps your brand should say something about small-firm attention.

As with IT issues, you should outsource the actual branding to the experts. Indeed, you do not want me featuring your shoddy homemade brand and exposing you to the ridicule of the Above the Law commenters.

Branding is an important component of legal marketing for large and small firms alike. But, unlike Biglaw, many small firms do not have a committed marketing department and often do not have a name that is well-known in the same way as the Am Law 100 firms. So, if you are thinking about how to grow your small firm, put your focus into building your brand.

As my friend who has been a public relations executive for ten years says, “your brand is your reputation. In other words, it is everything.”

So, go out there and brand yourself. If in doubt, ask yourself: “Does this brand evoke the same reaction as Le Massage Place?” Keep working until the answer is “yes.” And, if you have any tips on small-firm branding, email me and we can talk shop over a Meatyballs sub.


When not writing about small law firms for Above the Law, Valerie Katz (not her real name) works at a small firm in Chicago. You can reach her by email at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @ValerieLKatz.


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