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Law Firm Branding: Practical Tips and Ethical Traps

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Here are four things to know about branding your firm.

The concept of branding has expanded from the business world into the legal space. Every law firm has unique characteristics that identify it publicly and distinguish it from other firms (i.e., a brand).

When engaging in branding activities, lawyers must know, understand and comply with:

  • The Rules of Professional Conduct regarding messaging, marketing and advertising
  • Relevant ethics opinions
  • Lawyer disciplinary cases alleging improper branding activities
  • Ethics requirements for disclaimers and disclosures on lawyer communications
  • Ethics for social media usage
  • Laws and regulations like the Americans with Disabilities Act

Too many lawyers rush into branding without full awareness of the ethical and malpractice risks. Trouble often follows.

A law firm brand is more than just a snappy logo, catchy tagline or fancy website. It is the public’s perception of who you are and what you do. It is also a promise you make to your clients about the type of service they can expect from you. Can you describe your brand in a few words? Do you know the Three C’s of Law Firm Branding? Are you aware of the ethical and malpractice risks if you do it the wrong way? Register now for our free, one-hour CLE webinar Law Firm Branding: “Practical Tips and Ethical Traps” on March 29 at 12 noon CST. Learn how to brand your practice the right way. Whether you’re starting from scratch or just need a brand refresh, this webinar will provide a blueprint to showcase your firm’s strengths, tell its unique story, and stand out from the pack. Yet another benefit of the Alta Pro Lawyers Risk Purchasing Group! Stay tuned for more details.

Four Things to Know About Branding Your Firm

1) The Difference Between Branding, Marketing and Advertising

Marketing is a broad-based process of identifying clients’ needs and determining how your firm can best meet those needs through words, actions, symbols and messaging. Advertising is a specific component of marketing that promotes your firm’s products or services through paid channels. [See Marketing vs. Advertising (ama.org)]

2) Three C’s of Law Firm Branding: Clarity, Consistency and Compliance

Be clear about who you are and how you can meet your clients’ needs. Be consistent in communicating that message across all your marketing channels. Be compliant with the Rules of Professional Conduct and other relevant laws and regulations.

3) Naming your Firm: Do’s and Don’ts

See ABA Model Rule 7.1, 7.5 and the equivalent rules and ethics opinions in your state or jurisdiction.

ABA Model Rule 7.5: “(a) A lawyer shall not use a firm name, letterhead or other professional designation that violates Rule 7.1. A trade name may be used by a lawyer in private practice if it does not imply a connection with a government agency or with a public or charitable legal services organization and is not otherwise in violation of Rule 7.1….”

4) The Importance of Brand Reputation

Brand reputation is how your firm is perceived by your clients, competitors and employees, as well as by the public at large. [See What Every Lawyer Needs To Know About Personal Branding (forbes.com)]

“A good reputation gives a lawyer or law firm a competitive edge, and is directly related, among other things, to the possibility of receiving ‘fairer’ fees, attracting qualified talent and building client loyalty. Perception is what makes or breaks our business.” [See News – The lawyer’s reputation – The Impact Lawyers]

Now more than ever, solo and small law firms need a distinctive and unique brand. Otherwise, they risk being swept away by the stormy seas of stiff competition, economic uncertainty and market disruption. Alta Pro is here to help. We created the 2023 Law Firm Branding Checklist to guide lawyers in solo and small firms through the step-by-step process of building a winning brand. The checklist and accompanying blogposts cover everything from choosing the right brand to marketing your brand effectively. Discover other ways Alta Pro Lawyers Risk Purchasing Group (RPG) can keep your practice safe and successful.

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