Invest in your brand – a vital asset (first published in Managing for Success)

Finding the time and resources for any sort of marketing can be a challenge for many small and medium-sized legal practices, and the issue of brand development and brand management is often a low priority. However a strong consistent brand can deliver real benefits to any firm that is trying to raise its profile in a very crowded marketplace.

Many law firms fail to recognise the benefits of professional creative services as they have managed to get by without paying for them in the past.  It is not uncommon to receive design services for free, or at very low cost, from clients.  Printers often offer design for free to secure your print business, and eager advertising sales staff at local newspapers or telephone directories offer free advertising layout to secure the sale of advertising space.  In addition, it seems that nearly everyone has a nephew who can design a cheap web site.

Consequently a situation can arise where a firm's identity has evolved with several designers (of varying experience and quality) each adding their own 'flair' as they produce your signs, stationery, brochures, corporate gifts, web site etc. 

The flexibility of word processing software and the improved quality of colour printing has also led many lawyers and secretaries to believe that they can 'design' attractive tender documents or brochures. 

The latest curse is the advent of the digital camera, which has everyone believing that they are capable of taking professional-quality photographs.  There are some truly amateur portrait photographs to be found on some law firm web sites – are times really so hard?

As a company’s marketing material evolves in this way, all the material bears a familial resemblance, but without firm brand guidelines this can  result in a number of inconsistencies, such as the use of  different fonts, type-size, inconsistency in use of upper and lower-case, colour matching, positioning, photographic style, etc.  Over time the brand identity will become increasingly diluted – and for some firms this may be acceptable. 

However, it is an established fact that clients find it hard to differentiate between law firms on the basis of expertise alone.  They take it for granted that you can provide the service that they require and look for other ways to inform their decisions - including how you present yourself.

Younger clients who are themselves brand-conscious will identify themselves with well branded advisers.  Potential employees will surf the web sites of all potential employers and compare the professionalism of what they see.  Intermediaries visiting your offices will consider if it is the sort of environment they are happy to recommend their clients to.

For the ambitious practice seeking to carve out a clear identity, brand development represents an important opportunity for differentiation.  Such was the case with Beswicks Solicitors.

Case history:  Rebrand of Beswicks Solicitors

Beswicks is based in North Staffordshire, with 14 partners in three offices.  It offers a wide range of services to companies and private individuals and also has a specialist division providing sports law and athlete management services.

Formerly known as Beswick Barker Moon, the firm had evolved following a couple of mergers and suffered a number of problems with its brand:

  • Locally people still used a variety of combinations of the old name
  • When asked if they knew Beswicks, many people would refer to the pottery brand of the same name
  • Few people had a clear understanding of the full range of services available from Beswicks
  • Their old identity comprised a complex image and was looking rather dated.  It was not always viewed alongside the name Beswicks or the word "solicitors".

Relocation to a new flagship office in Autumn 2005 provided the impetus required to undertake a brand review including a competitor analysis which revealed that 5 out of 6 of their core competitors also had a blue logo and they were all shaped as squares or rectangles.

A brief was developed for the new brand with a number of key objectives:

  • it should clearly differentiate them from their competitors
  • the overall look should present a strong clean modern image
  • the words "Beswicks Solicitors" needed to be an integral part of the design
  • is should work well in colour and black and white format and should not require a special print colour (and consequent additional costs)

Large firms may have the resources to fund and project manage an entire re-brand for a single date.  However as the office relocation was already a major undertaking it was agreed to split the project plan into three phases.

Phase 1 was the production of the suite of stationery and brochures which were required initially for a business mission to Sweden in September 2005 and would then be used to communicate the office move.  This included engaging a professional photographer for two days to take portrait and team photographs. 

Phase 2 involved the physical environment of the new offices including internal and external signage, frosting of interior glass with the logo, brochure display, advertising and PR around the office opening in November 2005.

Phase 3 was the development of the web site which went live in March 2006, supported by a three-month outdoor advertising campaign.

The Beswicks web site was an important element in their marketing mix, providing a 24hour showcase of their services, the team, latest news and their strong commitment to the local community. Beswicks wanted a content management system, to enable them to keep the site up to date themselves, and they were keen that the new site should comply with the Disability Discrimination Act.  They also required an integrated sub-site,, for the sports division which has a strong international clientèle.

The project was put out to tender in December and whilst all the shortlisted agencies had strong technical expertise, Pancentric clearly had the best feel for the Beswicks brand and how it might transfer to the internet.

'This has been an important investment for a firm of our size, and the response from clients, intermediaries and the media has been fantastic," comments Managing Partner, Simon Woodings.  "It has really helped us to stand out from the crowd and our profile has grown immensely in the local community.  We are regularly contacted by the local media now and I can directly attribute new work to the rebrand.  The reaction of the staff has been very positive indeed and it has also had an impact on our attractiveness as an employer.'

Simon Woodings, managing partner, Beswicks Legal

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