What’s that coming over the hill? 03 September 2015

It might not scare everyone but there’s a looming threat to law firms coming over the hill. If you don’t invest in your brand and visual identity, you may get left behind or indeed eaten alive.

It may sound dramatic, but it’s clear is that there are currently big changes underway across the global legal industry from a business, branding and marketing perspective. In recent years several of the more ambitious law firms have started to invest and develop in their brand presence, adopting for the first time a client-first strategy and taking a bold and innovative approach to both their internal and external communications. 

Eat or be eaten

With mergers rife across the sector, a strong brand positioning is critical. Imagine two equally sized law firms; one with a client-first brand that clearly communicates its value and relevance; the other with the usual mish-mash of self-centred messages. Which firm's managing partner would you bet on to take the lead in the newly merged business? It’s fair to say that firms without a distinctive brand and culture risk fading into the background and perhaps, ultimately, disappearing.

Firms that standout and amplify their brands

Gone are the days when law firms were afraid to stand out. Today the legal sector features some great examples of bold challenger brands; DWF, Nabarro, DLA Piper and Nixon Peabody to name just four. Online, new websites from firms such White & Case and Vinson & Elkins are shaping the future of law firms’ digital communications. They employ considered content strategies and use their digital presence to grow their brand footprint.

A specialist focus online

Our 2014 Living Ratings survey of AM Law firms’ websites showed a clear trend towards a brand positioning based on specialisms and and expertise. Whether based around sectors or practice areas, this outward looking, client-centric approach is designed to resonate and connect with target audiences globally.

Substantive digital content

What’s more our research shows that there’s a drive towards the creation of original content and thought leadership to support law firms’ prospecting and marketing activity. Whether this is sector focused or issue based, this insightful content is fueling social media channels, enhancing direct marketing tactics and events. With clients looking for more than just legal advice, law firms are now using substantive content to deliver a value added service online.

Technology, technology, technology

Leading firms are increasingly looking for technology to support the delivery and measurement of their brands and content. We are seeing a marked increase in the adoption of enterprise level content management systems such as Sitecore, EPiServer or Ektron. Powerful tools that allow leading law firms to be fleet of foot with their content strategy and that are integrated with their CRM systems, allowing firms to analyse every send, read, click and download.

An integrated approach

We’re also seeing a rise in law firms’ campaigns that promote their sector or practice area expertise.  These campaigns use a wide range of integrated marketing tactics used to drive debate and engage with prospective and existing clients.

Living Ratings analysis shows us that the use of social media in the legal sector has risen dramatically, with many firms understanding that a strong profile on LinkedIn or Twitter is just as important as a good website. In this brave new world campaigns must also be mobile-friendly to match the needs of on audience that’s often on-the-go. One client recently told us that views to their site rose by over 250% in just 12 months following the development of a mobile-friendly website. Clients are now interacting with law firms across a multitude of channels and touch points.

The future?

The brave and the bold – firms that think about their clients’ needs and put themselves in the shoes of their client.– will survive and thrive. Questions like “How can we help you?”, “What else can we do for you?” and “Did you also know we do this?” are more likely to get a response than statements like “We’re a big global law firm!”

It’s going to be ‘sharpen your elbows’ time over the next few years, so invest in your visual identity and use your website and digital channels to amplify your brand. It will be time and money well spent.

Duncan Shaw, Executive Creative Director

If you would like to know more about how our team could transform your brand or digital presence, please contact David King in London, Melanie Osborne in Hong Kong or Robert Calvanico in New York.

Law Firm brands