Can your law firm brand survive a merger? 24 October 2017

Giving legal brands distinctiveness… and staying power.

Mergers. Consolidation. Takeovers. All of a sudden, they’re everywhere. And on everyone’s lips. You can see it in the furtive glances of partners, huddling. And hear it in rampant office rumours about this practice and that firm. Mergers can be an unsettling time for everyone. And for brands they can be fatal. To prevent your carefully curated legal brand being swept away in the coming M&A tsunami, perhaps it’s time to put your house in order (and maybe even secure your job in the process.) Here’s how… 

A sliver of silver lining

It’s not all doom and gloom, of course. Mergers can be fantastic opportunities and worrying threats all bundled together. After the inevitable political and cultural shakedown, marketeers on both sides of the merger have a chance to shape their future with new brands, content strategy, communications, websites and social media. Mergers mean serious work. And a serious chance to make a name for yourself.

It all depends on one thing: who comes out on top.

Who is the dominant firm?

Here, clarity matters. As merger mania sweeps the sector, it’s essential to have a powerful and unambiguous brand positioning in place before merger discussions kick off in earnest. This will give you the edge when it comes to discussing which set of values, which culture, and even which name should be dominant. If you lack a clearly articulated and widely understood proposition, and a clearly embedded internal brand culture, you’re at risk of being consumed. Become the junior party and you could fade away... and disappear into the legal ether, becoming a brand footnote.

Size doesn’t mean everything. The sheer scale and scope of your firm is no guarantee that your brand will survive. Sometimes, bigger partnerships are subsumed by smaller, more nimble, more digitally savvy upstarts. The issue in play here is around profile and meaning. Even the oldest, most wood-panelled of firms is at risk if it’s no longer recognisable or memorable against the pack.

Surviving mass merger

Start by putting your team, your partners and your firm on a war footing. An acquisition-ready mentality will help you and your leadership team to think bigger and take a confident view of any merger possibilities. Adopt a lucid, client-first brand position that makes your purpose clear: solving your clients’ business problems. On which subject, think benefits, not just services. Infuse your marketing strategy with a solutions or sector-based approach that makes your specialisms sing out.

You’re a people and results brand – or at least you should be. So amplify your talent, boost your partner biogs, and put them (and their thought leadership) on film. While you’re doing that, elevate your content and put some evidence behind your positioning, with powerful case studies, client stories and endorsements.

Don’t just say you get results. Show the results in practice, and let your clients explain why they made a difference. Find a meaningful place for your content, driven by a content strategy that’s in synch with your overall business strategy. If your strategy is to focus on litigation, show it. 

Build a brand and identity worth keeping

Wrap your communications up in a strong and consistent visual identity system that helps reflect and communicate your firm’s vision, values, expertise and strengths. More than a logo and a set of colourways, it should encapsulate your brand idea – a single-minded thought bigger than any campaign. These are all assets in a merger discussion.

Above all, cherish your brand – and don’t underestimate the value that your clients place on it. In the final reckoning, this is what might determine which name stays or goes. And which marketing team wins out.

How we can help

Here at Living Group, we drive business performance with strategic thinking, brand creation and cut-through messaging - creating effective communications that get tangible results.

To find out how we can transform the clarity and effectiveness of your legal brand in a time of mass merger talk to us. Contact Greg Hobden in London, Aliena Lai in Hong Kong, or Kate Shaw in New York.