Blog/Podcast: Why Law Firm Branding Starts with the Client Experience
The importance of law firm branding has been drilled into every legal marketer and managing partner’s head, but what does successful branding really look like?
Lisa Simon, Chief Marketing and Business Development Officer at Lewis Roca Rothgerber Christie, has learned a lot about successful branding during her career. She joined the Law Firm Marketing Catalyst podcast, where she shared her branding insights, why a client experience program is critical and how firms can create meaningful retreats.
Branding begins inside the firm
Law firm branding has evolved significantly over the years. A decade ago, most people thought that branding a law firm was like branding any business-to-business company, and it often boiled down to things like logos and advertising. But today, legal marketers know that law firms aren’t really B2B; they’re people-to-people. The people within the firm are executing the firm’s brand promise and sharing it with clients every day. Although visual identity and messaging are important, branding is incumbent on one-on-one interaction.
As such, law firm branding is almost more important internally than externally. There are tons of external branding strategies firms can use, such as social media and PR campaigns, but in the end, the brand boils down to the services attorneys are delivering. To have a truly strong brand, everyone, from support staff to partners, needs to understand the brand message and ensure clients are getting that experience consistently. This is why branding can be so difficult for law firms—it takes a lot of time and energy to get everyone to fall in line. But taking this time isn’t just important— it’s essential in today’s highly competitive legal landscape.
Make the most of firm retreats
If branding begins internally, a firm retreat is a great way to build the connections that are so necessary to get branding buy-in. The maturity of a firm will dictate the type of activities that should be included at a retreat, but many firms struggle with the tension between attorneys who “like the way we’ve always done it,” and attorneys who bring in new ideas. A retreat is the perfect environment to discuss how everyone can work together and capitalize on their different perspectives.
Of course, at their core, retreats are a place to network with your colleagues and give attorneys the space to understand each other better. Working in this industry is difficult, and it’s important that legal professionals take the time to come together to share war stories and laugh about the day to day occurrences.
Logistically, a full day is the perfect length for a retreat. Any shorter and there isn’t enough time to delve into these important topics. Any longer and it becomes too indulgent and takes away from client work. Consider bringing in outside experts to lead exercises and discussions. A third party can help point out the firm’s blind spots and guide any difficult conversations that come up.
Client experience is the foundation of your firm’s brand
At Lewis Roca Rothgerber Christie, Lisa is helping implement its new “Experience Amplified” client experience program. Two years ago, the firm wanted to define its client service standards and differentiate itself from competitors, with the goal of ensuring all clients experienced the firm in a consistent way. The program is centered around six core principles, including absolute transparency with clients and seamless integration with clients’ in-house legal teams.
A client experience plan goes much deeper than the services a firm offers; it’s truly the essence of a firm’s brand. It goes back to the idea of law firms as people-to-people businesses. If your firm is trying to rebrand, don’t start with a logo or an ad campaign; start by identifying how you want clients to feel when they work with your attorneys.
Lisa’s advice for firms that want to create a client experience plan? Just jump in. There’s no right or wrong place to start as long as you just keep going. Defining your firm’s client experience (and ultimately its brand) is like eating the elephant one bite at a time, and it requires a lot of staff training and involvement. If you can get everyone on board eventually, it doesn’t matter how you do it.