As a lawyer, you might be wondering why you should even be thinking about "branding." You aren't Old Navy or Apple or Chik-fil-A. No one is ever going to buy a t-shirt with your face on it, get a tattoo of your logo, or sing your praise in a hip-hop anthem.
But even if you are "just" a solo or small law practice, your branding is important. In an increasingly diffuse and online world, branding is something we react to each day in order to gauge who to trust with what elements of our lives.
Diego Aguirre, creative director at Modern Firm, has thought a great deal about branding. "People have been subconsciously trained to know what a good brand looks and feels like,” he points out. “We each already have this dormant perception of how a good branding experience is supposed to play out."
And we use this to determine how much we should trust a new situation. Any hitch in that experience—a misstep or mismatch between the expectations your firm has created—sows seeds of doubt.
"The lawyer might have the best intentions, the most suitable legal experience, the most appropriate skill set for your needs. But as soon as you land on that mediocre website, as soon as you see that logo that looks like like it was made in Microsoft Word, as soon as you call or step into the office and have a subpar experience, that immediately sends off signals that make you question whether this is the lawyer for you."
Benefits of Brand Consistency
According to Modern Firm founder Brendan Chard, your brand serves two key functions: it shapes how potential clients understand your firm or practice, while guiding how your practice understands itself.
"A good brand gives clients a clear idea of who you are and what to expect," Brendan says. That’s the fundamental function of a brand: market differentiation—which is extremely important, especially in crowded markets. "But a good consistent brand goes one further, demonstrating care, confidence, and a level of attention to detail that most people really want in their legal representation."
That said, branding is about much more than simply differentiating your firm in the eyes of potential clients while building trust.
"The impact branding has on the firm itself is probably more important," Brendan points out. "It's grounding to have a vision, mission, and purpose to direct and guide the growth and success of your firm. It can help you stay focused on the work and clients that best suit your strengths and services. This, in turn, also helps with recruiting. It's easier to bring in new team members if they have a clear sense of what they're joining. And it's easier to make sure everyone is 'rowing in the same direction' if they have a clear vision of where this is all headed. Finally, it also helps any vendors or freelancers you might hire.” When creative or marketing teams have clear and consistent branding to work from, they can align all of your efforts and really super-charge that investment.
Building Brand Consistency
By definition, your brand is "the sum of all design and messaging elements that serve to distinguish your goods or services from those of others in your field."
But be careful! This definition puts the brand itself first, focusing on specific elements, such as: the name, the design, the graphics, and so on. According to The Modern Firm's Diego Aguirre, that's where many firms stumble. "People starting a business often say to themselves 'This is what my brand or my branding is!' But in reality, it's a lot less about what you think and a lot more about what other people see and hear. You might choose a look and feel and messaging, thinking it conveys 'I am A, B, C.' But if everybody else on the outside is perceiving 'these folks are X, Y, Z,' then your branding is X, Y, Z, not A, B, C. It doesn't matter how much you tell yourself otherwise."
Because of this, Diego firmly believes that good law firm branding does not start with the brand. Instead, lawyers should begin with a goal:
"Ask yourself what it is you want to represent. What should the client's experience of working with you be like, from first to last? Your brand is the proper execution of this promise."
Clarity around that goal helps lawyers feel—and be—ready. Erin Ricchiazzi, The Modern Firm's Director of Online Marketing, adds that she's also seen branding help many lawyers feel more confident about their practice. "This is especially the case with small or solo practices that are going out on their own for the first time having previously been part of an established brand of another, often larger, law firm. Having their own brand identity really helps them feel confident as they begin carving their own unique path."
The Four Key Elements of Brand Consistency
Your brand is built on four key elements that, taken together, carry a potential client through that first experience of encountering your firm and bring them into a working relationship with you. These are:
- Visual. This is the majority of what most people imagine when you say "branding": your logo, typography, color palette, imagery use, visual style, and more.
- Messaging. This includes both slogans and taglines, as well as your tone more broadly through written copy on your website and in your marketing materials.
- Navigational. This encompasses website navigation—how easy is it for clients to find the information they need on your site or to contact you in a way that works for them?— and marketing channels used to promote your brand.
- Human Interaction. Every point of contact with your staff and you—How pleasant is the greeting on the phone? How quickly does a potential client hear back once they've sent an email or filled out a contact form?—Legal matters are often intensely sensitive and personal, making it all the more important that the real-world experience match what they imagined based on your branding.
Focusing on the Human Factor
"The human factor is, I think, probably one of the most overlooked elements of branding," Diego explains. "The website could look phenomenal, right? All of the pieces that led there—seeing an ad, reading an online review, clicking through the site to learn about the people who work at the firm—can fit together, sending a strong consistent message. But then if I call and get a rude greeting from the person on the phone, that's contradicting the branding." That clash shatters the image you've created and replaces it with a single overwhelmingly sour experience.
Erin Ricchiazzi, The Modern Firm's Director of Online Marketing, agrees. "The biggest missing piece is the human element." There are an increasing number of powerful digital tools—some AI-powered—that can produce results, create unique visual elements, generate pieces of marketing copy, or put together a website. "But the human element of creating your brand, sitting down and really thinking about how all the pieces come together, how you want to portray yourself and how you're going to live up to that promise is extremely important, or else none of it rings true. We're not at a place where that can be automated right now."
This is the reason that The Modern Firm is so committed to an in-depth, hands-on approach to brand development.
Good Branding Is Never Accidental
Erin reminds lawyers, "there's never just one touch point anymore. People don't just see an ad and make a call. It isn't just that they're comparing several different firms, but that they're looking at your firm on several different platforms. They're looking at your website. They're probably looking at a review site. They could be looking at your social media profiles. And it's really important that all the pieces, together, give a consistent sense of you. There's a sense of professionalism and authenticity when there's consistent branding like that across the board, in imagery, logos, taglines, and messaging."
Good, consistent branding is never an accident.
"Good branding," Diego points out, “that good experience, it rarely if ever happens accidentally or naturally. It's something that truly has to be deliberately worked out and planned out and thought out. And most attorneys—especially solo attorneys, who don't have the benefit of a team—simply do not have the time to even think all of that through, let alone execute on it. Really, you need an outside brain, an outside party, somebody's outside perspective to help craft all of this and make it happen. It's not gonna happen accidentally."
Discovering Your Brand With Modern Firm
We have helped hundreds of clients discover and amplify their firm with effective branding. Our process includes exploring what makes you and your practice unique, creating a custom logo for your firm and developing visual branding and brand messaging for your website and printed law firm materials.
Are you ready to create a redefined brand that truly reflects your firm? Contact us today!