The Bar News

Best Practice: Branding the Law Firm vs. Branding the Individual Attorney

Asked and Answered

By John W. Olmstead, MBA, Ph.D, CMC

Q. Our firm is a 42 lawyer firm in downtown Chicago. We have 22 equity partners. Five years ago we decided to allocate a significant portion of our marketing budget to branding the firm. In that regard we cannibalized the marketing budget to the extent that very little was left for individual marketing. Now we have many unhappy campers. Some of the partners are advocating scrapping the firm-level effort and going back to our past practices of "long ranger" individual marketing. What are your thoughts regarding firm branding? Should we continue our efforts in this regard?

A. In today's climate it takes both - a firm brand and individual attorney brands. Since I don't have all the details concerning your situation - it is difficult for me to generalize. However, based upon what I am seeing in the competitive landscape I believe that the firm was correct in deciding to invest in enhancing the firm's image and brand. However, personal attorney brands are important as well. I am often advised by law firm clients that they hire the lawyer - not the law firm. While this is only partially true, it bring home the importance of individual branding. Often lawyers think they can push off their business development responsibilities to "the firm" and go back to practicing law. This is simply not the case. Marketing and business development must occur at the firm, practice group and individual lawyer levels. Resources must be allocated to each.

Suggest that you review the firm branding program and what is working and what is not. Do not look for quick fixes. Modify the program if necessary. Review the budget and modify it so that resources are allocated to firm, practice groups if they exist, and individual lawyers. Insure that practice groups and lawyers submit business development plans and they are held accountable for results when their plans are funded.

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John W. Olmstead, MBA, Ph.D, CMC,( is a past chair and member of the ISBA Standing Committee on Law Office Management and Economics. For more information on law office management please direct questions to the ISBA listserver, which John and other committee members review, or view archived copies of The Bottom Line Newsletters. Contact John at

Posted on June 27, 2012 by Chris Bonjean
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