Planning to expand your legal offerings? The importance of protecting your law firm’s brand.
Last Updated: February 8, 2024
In the wake of the 2008 recession, many solo attorneys and small law firms rushed to hop on the bankruptcy representation bandwagon. From a business and financial perspective, it made sense. Purse strings were tightening in most other practice areas and bankruptcy looked like the smart place to invest.
While data related to whether the post-recession rush to offer bankruptcy services paid off is sparse, given how many attorneys took part in the stampede, it seems fair to assume that quite a few law firms lost out. Not only did many of these firms waste money, time, and effort—they also put their overall brands at risk. There’s no telling how many potential clients were turned off by the appearance of say, a criminal defense attorney who tried to take advantage of the financial downturn and become a bankruptcy lawyer overnight.
Expanding your brand is possible, and in some cases advisable, but you need to be thoughtful, consistent and focused when doing so. The complimentary playbook “What Clients Are Saying About You Behind Your Back,” delves into this issue in greater detail. The following are some high-level concepts discussed in the playbook to help solo and small law firms that are thinking about adding a new facet to their practice and brand.
Capitalize on what makes your law firm unique
Looking again at the example of the rush to attract post-recession bankruptcy clients, a common problem was a failure to move beyond the very basic brand position of “I can handle bankruptcy work.” This alone isn’t a very compelling message, especially when trying to appeal to stressed out clients who need a skilled and trustworthy advocate and not just a run-of-the-mill attorney with base-level qualifications.
If you make the decision to expand your brand to include a new area of law, you should have a clear and compelling message that speaks to why you’re the right attorney to hire, and that message needs to be part of a comprehensive marketing plan. For example, if family law matters are no longer sustaining your practice and you want to take on DUI cases, you could highlight that you understand the stresses and challenges of dire situations and are a good ally to your clients. “I know what you’re going through and I can help,” is a much more persuasive pitch, and one that is more likely to gain traction with a potential client than just saying, “I’m now open for DUI business.”
Get your legal experience highlighted in client testimonials and reviews
Few marketing techniques are as powerful as client testimonials. If you are moving into a new practice area, ask former clients for reviews and make sure to prominently display client reviews on your website and share via social media.
The power of third-party endorsements cannot be overstated. Potential clients are much more likely to be swayed by the opinion of someone who has firsthand experience working with you. While relinquishing control and relying on the endorsements of former clients can be intimidating, remember that reviews are just one part of your branding equation. You may not be able to totally control your firm’s reputation, but you can manage it.
It’s about your law firm’s repetition, not redundancy
Academics who study the way people communicate often note that redundancy isn’t as effective as repetition. In this context, redundancy relates to saying the same thing over the same channel to the same audience multiple times, whereas repetition means repeating similar messages over different channels to related, yet different, audiences.
More informally, people tune out messages that they don’t perceive as relevant or useful. The same general principle applies to your law firm’s branding and marketing. Today, law firm marketing is a multi-channel game. One ad in your state’s bar journal relaying that you now handle a certain type of matter isn’t going to cut it. However, when promoted in conjunction with supporting topical blog posts, social media messages, and an updated directory listing, you have a much better chance of winning over prospective clients.
Navigating legal marketing in the digital era
The digital transformation has fundamentally altered how law firms approach marketing and brand expansion. A comprehensive digital marketing strategy, encompassing SEO, content marketing, and social media engagement, is imperative for reaching today’s tech-savvy clients. Tailoring your content to address the specific needs and concerns of your target audience, while showcasing your expertise in new practice areas, can significantly enhance your brand’s visibility and appeal.
Staying informed and adaptable to legal shifts
The legal industry continues to evolve, with regulatory changes, technological advancements, and shifting client expectations shaping the landscape. Staying informed about these changes and being adaptable in your marketing approach is crucial. Regularly review and adjust your marketing strategies to align with current trends and best practices. This may involve embracing new technologies, such as AI and data analytics, to refine your marketing efforts and better serve your clients.
To reiterate, your key branding messages need to permeate your marketing plan, and your marketing plan needs to be comprehensive. The fact that you’re branching out into a new legal area should unfold over time and in layers.
Expanding your law firm’s practice areas offers a valuable opportunity to grow your client base and enhance your brand’s strength. However, this endeavor requires a thoughtful, strategic approach, focusing on differentiation, client engagement, and effective use of digital marketing channels. By embracing these principles, your law firm can successfully navigate the complexities of brand expansion in today’s competitive legal market, ensuring long-term growth and success.
You can find more information on attorney branding.