So, you’ve hired an external consultant to help you with your law firm brand. If they are any good, they’ll have worked with you not just to build a great visual brand that involves your brand identity (logo, colours, and fonts), website and marketing collateral but they’ll have taken a more holistic approach, ensuring that the visual brand supports a verbal brand that included the key messaging of the firm. These days prospects find their lawyers online, or if by word of mouth, verified online. If all they see and read meet their needs and expectations then often you have a new client, or at least a first meeting. But what happens when they begin to interact with you and your firm out in the “non-digital” world?
Here are three tips to ensure that this real world interaction goes well for you and your brand.
Look around your firm lobby, conference rooms, or anywhere a visitor to your offices will be potentially shown (even the washrooms!) Note the details, the lighting, the furniture, the art, and office signage. Is your brand represented? The first impression of a new or potential client receives when they walk off the elevator will reflect on your firm. A disconnect between how your brand is conveyed on your website and what they feel when they visit your office will undermine the integrity of your brand. For instance, I often meet with law firms who claim innovation as a core value, but their firm office hasn’t changed since the 1980’s (and they have the wallpaper to prove it!)
I spoke with Colin Scarlett, Executive Vice President and Head of Canadian Law Firm Practice Group at Colliers International, to get his views as a specialist in providing commercial real estate to law firms.
“Opinions about your firm’s brand are formed the moment a client or recruit walks in your door. There is often a misalignment between the environment firms want to have and what they actually have. What does your space say about your service offering, culture, how open and collaborative you are, your history and in some cases your pricing strategy?”
Go beyond advertising and logos and extend your firm’s brand design into the workplace. Making thoughtful use of your brand colours can help you to reinforce your corporate philosophy. A firm that displays consistent messaging will seem strong, and well-established, whereas a firm that lacks office branding will seem at best generic and at worst fly-by-night. That isn’t to say that an innovative law firm needs to resemble Apple’s new HQ. Subtle signs go a long way to reinforcing the brand messaging.
“Use your office space to make a statement about your brand— 87% of clients visited their legal counsel’s office space within the past year and all felt that it reflected on their counsel’s brand and identity.” —Colliers International, General Counsel Survey
This sounds so obvious and yet you’d be amazed at how often law firms stumble in this regard. I visit different firms almost every week either to initiate a rebrand, formulate a business strategy, or deliver a training session. Some receptionists will take your coat and offer coffee, while others holler down the hallway that someone has arrived. Worse still, there could be no-one there at all and your client has to wait, wondering what they should do next. It seems such a small thing, and yet this is often the first interaction a client may have of your firm “in real life”. Do everything in your control to ensure that this exchange reflects well on your firm as you won’t have the opportunity for a second first impression.
While you’re working on shaping your office to better suit prospective clients, your physical manifestation of your brand must also resonate with your lawyers and staff. Creating a beautiful office space isn’t just a great way to impress clients. It’s also a proven way to attract fresh talent, and keep your current team happy. Research shows the workplace environment accounts for as much as 25 percent of job satisfaction and can affect performance by as much as 5 percent for individuals and 11 percent for teams.
As Colin Scarlett notes: “If your brand is that you’re an inclusive and progressive firm, then why do you split your lawyer’s lounge and staff lounge?” Here, the very layout of the office is working against the firm’s goal of becoming a unified operation.
What can be done? The first step is to understand what your core values are, and then take concrete steps to integrate them into your daily operations. If you value collaboration, consider having spaces for co-working. Looking to connect with international clients? Be sure that you have a high-quality video conferencing set-up. Take your brand far enough and it can shape not just your firm’s outward appearance, but how you strategically navigate the legal market.
Every lobby tells a story; every hallway has something to say about the character of a business. Carry your branding through to your firm’s office, and not only will you make an impression on clients, you’ll energize your team.
A version of this article was previously posted on SLAW, Canada’s Online Legal Magazine.
Lynn is a legal marketing and professional services consultant focused on growing revenue and brand awareness for her clients. She holds a dual concentration MBA in Finance & Communications and is as comfortable discussing profitability as she is client satisfaction.
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