This article was first published in the Lex Witness April 2018 issue.
The Indian legal industry is growing and becoming highly competitive. Now more than ever, it is imperative to have a strong brand, and setting oneself apart in this rat race. Certain key factors, like increased competition, firm mergers & acquisitions, and globalization, along with extensive need for greater client satisfaction and changes to the regulatory landscape, makes it essential to engage into branding and positioning initiative to detail on what makes your firm distinctive, relevant, and authentic.
However, the road to successful branding and positioning for law firms has several challenges, and it is important to keep some considerations in mind when aspiring successful outcomes.
In this first article of the six-part series, we address the overall need for a well thought and planned strategic branding, positioning and business development plan.
A strategically positioned law firm can resonate with clients and the industry at-large in a significant way and create its own individuality. Of course, there is always a challenge that it may not appeal to every current and prospective client. A firm should own the category it aspires to be positioned in, and ideally should be the first in a position. Differentiation is key!
Awareness – the industry has a mix of lawyers who are brand savvy, and then there are lawyers who may not have any interest or inclination for brand-building. But more often than not, the brand BD department in the firm, if there is one at all, tend to underestimate the level of understanding in this regard that the firm’s decision makers and stakeholders may have. One way to understand branding is to recognize what it is and what it isn’t. Branding is not just advertising, a theme line or a logo. These are only ways of expressing the brand, and not the brand itself. The principle of branding is surprisingly simple. Branding answers the question, “What are we known for?”
Farsightedness – it is key to grasp how essential the concept of a strong brand is in the increasingly competitive legal services market. The corporate clients of law firms are already focused on building their own brand value, and consequentially expect their law firm to be as professional and business-savvy as they are. Also, as law firms continue to look for ways to demonstrate their value, they want to be able to clearly articulate what sets them apart. In the cases of firm consolidations, a new firm that emerges from a merger/acquisition, needs a way to come together as a unit, which a solid brand strategy can provide.
Positioning – brands which are based on an idea vs. a service product, can help the firm to sustain on its own terms and yet grow as a business. “Client oriented,” “Going the extra mile,” and “Attention to detail” are not positioning statements. The idea has to big enough, and the firm has to be keen on creating a balanced approach and ingrain their philosophy not just internally but to its target market as well.
Consistency – regardless of whether the firm implements a new branding effort or refreshes an old one, it is important to stay consistent in one’s efforts. It is imperative to own the brand, and to protect it and ensure consistency, in terms of colors, logos, imagery, messaging and profiling. It is the brand that you are selling and people are buying. While the concept might be alien to some firm stakeholders, the truth is that it is at the core of everything you do.
Key to Successful Branding
Here are some ways to help gain that commitment and support from the top down:
Firm Partners should communicate brand ethos and pathos to all staff, providing a clear explanation as to how and why clients, and ultimately the firm will benefit
Select brand champions, from all practices and verticals of the firm, and charge them with identifying ways or opportunities to deliver upon the firm’s promises
It is essential to set job functions and roles, and communicate internally and to the outside world how they fit in with the strategy/brand and set clear expectations of client service levels
Ensure employees are empowered to put the strategic branding practices in place, and facilitate for the employees to develop their own ways to deliver on the firm’s brand promise
And, most importantly, hire to fit the bill. Ensure everyone you bring into the firm understands the vision, and is engaged to deliver upon it
Need for Experts
Although you may now have a clearer picture and roadmap in mind in terms of strategic branding, it is advisable to hire specialists who excel in such fields. Consultants specializing in branding and positioning advisory in the legal sector and help with insights of where the market is headed, or what competitors are doing, and what clients expect from their firms today. Firms, committed to developing a strong brand for themselves, and taking the next leap in setting themselves apart, should consider relying on such expert advisory.
Stay tuned for the next in series!
I am the Principal Consultant at the Lex Witness Strategic Counsel Desk, an invitation based initiative, which caters to various entities who seek to create and improve their brand and undertake market activation strategies in the Indian legal market space. Much beyond the space of the magazine, the Strategic Counsel Desk aspires to provide a holistic framework for the firm’s positioning and business growth, primarily focusing on the strength in the Indian legal industry.