In our new industry branding series, we’re exploring brand-led innovation in a range of different industries – from law firm branding articles to case studies of standout professional services branding.

Recently, we examined the financial services industries and discovered how cultivating strong brand identity had brought both established and disruptor companies in this sector huge benefits; including competitive edge, increased business value, optimized consumer experiences and brand integrity.

Next up, we focus on branding law firms - from some of the biggest law firms in the world to the more niche players.

Branding law firms: the merger

Due to intensified market competition, 2017 was a record-breaking year for law firm mergers and acquisitions. If you take one look at tracking services Altman Weil MergerLine™, you’ll see this trend is showing no signs of slowing down for 2018. In just the first quarter, thirty deals have been announced, including heavyweight deals resulting in new law firms of over 1000 lawyers such as Bryan Cave and Berwin Leighton Paisner, Hunton & Williams and Andrews Kurth and Foley & Lardner’s merger with Gardere Wynne Sewell.

Read how Templafy helps companies with their corporate branding and brand management

For marketeers, as soon as the ink has dried on the deal, it’s time to think about what this means for the brand, and for major mergers and acquisitions branding a law firm is no small feat. According to the Harvard Business Review, “somewhere between 70-90%” of mergers and acquisitions result in failure, with failure to align brand values at the heart of sabotaging a new allegiance.

Scary statistics aside, when done right, branding for law firms is an incredibly powerful strategy for driving merger market share and stock value. Take the highly anticipated merger of CMS Cameron McKenna, Nabarro and Olswang, which saw the new entity retain the CMS brand, rather than creating something new. This is a difficult decision as the business must weigh up the reputation and value of the legacy brand against the opportunity to re-define and bring to market something built around the new proposition.

Working with Neon Creative, much care and attention was given to the elements that should be kept and emphasized vs. those that were no longer relevant to this new, bigger, more capable global entity.

branding law firms CMS
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As far as branding law firms go, it’s a brave move to re-define a global brand following a merger, as it means letting go of legacy brands that have invested and built value of their own. What is key, as CMA managing partner Stephen Millar explains, is that all parties are completely aligned on the right direction and approach from the get-go:

It’s been very much agreed from the outset that we go to market as a CMS brand. CMS is the bigger brand, it’s an international brand. Nabarro and Olswang are great brands, particularly in their sector areas, but when you bring three firms together you very much have to go with one.

These three legal titans seized the opportunity to approach marketing for law firms with a new proposition backed by branding that unified them. A strong communication campaign based around this new law firm brand identity placed the merging parties as a force to be reckoned with. A brave and necessary approach for a combination that made the firm a top-five global practice by lawyer headcount with revenues of over £430m in the UK and more than €1.2 billion of business across the CMS grouping.

law firm communication strategy
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Branding law firms takeout:

Consider the value and relevance of the legacy brands following a merger or acquisition and be clear on where the value is in retaining brand elements. Take time to reconsider the new entity as a whole and re-define the capabilities, expertise, scale and synergies to define a new proposition. This may be quite different to the old.

Read next: Law firm technology trends: what will 2018 bring?

Branding law firms: the rebrand

A rebrand is a challenging and complex task for any law firm. The reputation of the firm is the cornerstone of the business and its profitability. Unlike consumer brands and products which can come and go, test and fail, evolve and change over time; law firms are largely built on trust and continuity.

So when it comes to a new approach to branding, law firms find themselves faced with tough questions such as how to be contemporary but retain heritage? How to be personable but maintain professionalism? How to maintain parity in prestige and experience with competitors, but stand out from the crowd?

Beek Greener, a London-based patent & trademark law firm took on this challenge, collaborating with brand consultancy, Curious. Their rebrand objective? To marry the fresh, modern contemporary aspirations of the brand with the decades (or even centuries) of heritage on which the reputation is built.

Through in-depth research, Curious got under the skin of Beek Greener - one of the oldest intellectual property firms in the world. For Curious this represents an opportunity as much as it does a challenge. They identified timeless brand statements such as ‘We look closer’, ‘Letting your ideas fly’ and ‘145 years new’. These brand truths allowed the agency creative room to play with and reinterpret Beek Greener’s history and heritage through design and illustration to create beautiful, contemporary brand elements that made Beek Greener stand out from the crowd without undermining the heritage that put them there.

Branding law firms takeout:

When a company is happy with their image, many may ask why law firms need branding? Particularly in legal services change is often resisted. However, a brand can evolve to remain relevant  and contemporary without losing the essence of what makes them unique and underpins their heritage. As Brand strategist Shannon Fitzgerald highlights: “Make sure you’re not leaving behind the things people love about your company… explain they’ll still get the parts they already love plus new, exciting benefits.” Remain authentic, while introducing new ways to communicate branding that works for your firm.

Branding law firms: a digital makeover

In this digital age branding law firms, modernizing corporate identity and positioning for the future means going beyond visual brand identity alone. In 2018, brands must embrace the online world and consider their objectives and strategies around web, mobile, digital content and online presence as a whole.

Morgan Lewis, another long standing law firm founded in Philadelphia in 1873 are a great case study for a traditional company that set its sights firmly on the 21st century. Working with Siegel+Gale to overhaul the brand into a fully digital proposition, the two companies agreed on a proposition that championed a timeless truth of Morgan Lewis’ attentiveness and agility toward its clients. This was then codified into a digitally centric brand promise of being ‘always on’.

As well as a paired-back, modern and digital-friendly visual identity - Morgan Lewis is pursuing its aspiration and status as a leading global firm through digital content publication, offering followers key insights across devices and platforms that expand the reach of the firm; establishing Morgan Lewis as global thought leaders in the space.

Branding law firms takeout:

Rebranding law firms in the digital space involves more than just visual identity. Consider the brand as an active participant in the digital ecosystem through publication of content that gives purpose and value to the brand’s digital channels. Thought leadership and digital content publication can deliver the expertise and credibility behind a firm’s brand positioning while generating reach, awareness and new business opportunities.

Branding law firms: behind the brand campaign

While new law firm logos, big branding campaigns and rebrands are exciting, newsworthy projects, no matter how impressive they are, they will lose their power and value if they aren’t implemented and maintained internally by a company’s employees.

Law firms have an endless list of documents that are created and edited from contracts to briefs, pleadings to memorandums and resolutions to trusts. All of these documents must be branded and presented under a united corporate identity. If employees are circulating old brand assets or venturing from a new law firm brand identity (e.g. using rogue Google images or new fonts) a firm’s corporate identity is not only diluted, the company looks unprofessional, risking its integrity and consumer trust.

The Templafy team recently worked with a Magic Circle Law firm to help streamline branded communications. With 44 offices in 31 countries, 5,400 employees and a reputation as one of the top firms in the world, this Magic Circle law firm needed a way to streamline the creation of on-brand and compliant documents, and realized this would require a move to the cloud.

The firm expressed a common concern within the legal industries - the level of security provided by a cloud-based solution. Templafy tailored our already GDPR-compliant software package to meet the specific security requirements of the firm and underwent consistent and rigorous testing, both internally and externally, to assure the client sensitive information was protected at all times.  

The firm’s letter template is a great example of how a cloud-based solution streamlines business processes compared to the firm’s on-premise system. Previously, several letter templates were required throughout the law firm to cater for various style and compliance conventions across different offices and jurisdictions. With Templafy’s template management application, the firm was now able to use just one dynamic template which amended formatting, brand assets and digital content to fit individual employee’s and team’s positions in the firm. Each employee is empowered with standardized, best-practice corporate content right where they need it.

The result was each document an employee sent out, whether internally or externally, was both legally and brand compliant. The brand identity was enforced on a daily basis, worldwide, by the very documents that employees were now saving time creating, editing and sending.

Branding law firms takeout:

Give your busy employees the tools they need to implement your new brand world effectively. Any resources that help people correctly implement new branding is a major asset when branding law firms. Document automation tools, such as Templafy for example, provide end-to-end solutions to ensure your new brand identity is rolled out as intended across all communications, leaving brand ambassadors assured that brand compliance is always followed.

How can Templafy help with branding law firms?

As a dynamic, automated cloud-based solution, Templafy has a long list of benefits and services for firms looking to improve the consistency of their brand experience. You can view them here but a few standout features include:

  • Centralized rebrand roll outs: Because Templafy is cloud-based, you can instantly roll out changes to locked visual elements in document templates to everyone in your newly branded firm. This means that old brand assets won’t haunt you as you transition to a new brand.
  • On-the-go solutions: Templafy also allows lawyers to create documents on all devices, both online and offline. This benefit was essential as the firm recognized that lawyers are increasingly working on-the-go.
  • Productivity boosting: With Templafy, lawyers don't waste time with formatting issues, searching for different document templates or creating documents from scratch. All updates are automatic once Templafy is implemented, so you don't have to worry about updating your software to enjoy new features.
  • Personalization: All your document templates automatically adapt to each individual lawyer and staff member, combining up-to-date firm details with employee information.
  • Multiple-users: One single user can switch between multiple user profiles to work from different offices and regions or write on behalf of colleagues (only with permission, of course).
  • Always compliant: Relevant core compliance elements like legal disclaimers and corporate branding are dynamically applied to every single document.
  • Templafy integrates with your existing infrastructure: Templafy is seamlessly integrated directly into Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and Outlook. It also integrates with the document management systems and digital asset management systems your firm is already using. Integrations include iManage, Box, Cumulus, Getty Images, DropBox, OneDrive, SharePoint, Bynder and more. Custom integrations are also possible on request.