Branding: the phrase is everywhere. You might associate it with the logos or taglines you’ve seen for your favorite products. But how do you even get started when it comes to branding your own law firm?

There are a lot of misconceptions out there surrounding branding, especially for service-based businesses like law firms. Lawyers belong to one of the most competitive service-based marketplaces, and a firm’s branding needs to be strong in order to stand out.

What’s the goal of law firm branding? Simple. To be THE choice in your market, not “a” choice. As with most marketing activities, you don’t have to spend tens of thousands of dollars to get results. You just have to find and communicate your message so that it resonates with your ideal clients.

5 Steps of Basic, But Effective Law Firm Branding

When it comes to branding, it’s important to get clear about what it is you offer that clients value the most. By focusing on the most essential steps of branding, you can communicate more effectively with clients, become more memorable, and build consistency, trust, and authority that will help you bring in even more business.

Step 1: Own Your Strengths

One mistake we see in lawyer branding all the time is not acknowledging and owning your firm’s current reality. Whether you’re a small, medium, or large firm, it’s important to embrace what you’re best at and to be transparent about what your customers can expect from working with you.

Legal help is not one-size-fits-all, and each client will have their own needs that you may or may not be able to fill. That’s okay! Honest and clear branding will help to attract your ideal clients and reduce the time you spend on unqualified leads.

Small firms tend to be great at personalized attention. They develop close bonds with clients and will go above and beyond to meet their clients’ specific needs. Larger firms, on the other hand, have other advantages, like more resources and connections, plus years of combined experience. One isn’t necessarily better than the other—they just attract different types of customers!

Step 2: Find Your Unique Differentiation Proposition

Branding is all about standing out from your competition. What do you offer that competing firms don’t? Finding your unique differentiation proposition will help guide you in creating your brand.

First, think about your top 3 differentiators. What three things do you do better than 90% of competing firms in your niche?

Once you’ve made that list, pick the number one differentiator. That’s what you’ll use in creating the taglines for your firm. Your differentiator should be the main theme in all your branding efforts so that clients know what they can expect from you.

Step 3: Create Your Taglines

Now that you have the differentiator that makes you THE choice in your niche, you will use it to write a memorable tagline that will appeal to potential clients in your target market. This isn’t as easy as it sounds. Many firms end up choosing generic taglines that don’t communicate their unique differentiation proposition.

Studies have shown that when it comes to law firm branding, taglines that talk about hard work, “rolling up your sleeves,” and personalization are the most effective. Use that to your advantage and put the focus on the client—not on your own excellence.

Once you’ve got a compelling tagline for your prospective clients, use that differentiator once again to create a tagline for current and former clients, and another one for your team. This will help you create a cohesive brand that really resonates with clients and employees.

Step 4: Evaluate Your Name

Depending on where you are in building your firm, this step may or may not be realistic. But if you’re still in the position to modify the name of your firm, then now is the time to take a step back and evaluate.

Historically, law firms are almost always named after the partners, even if that means there are three or four (or even more!) lawyers’ names written on the sign outside the office. Unfortunately, there are some major downsides to this approach.

Think about it—what happens if a partner leaves? There goes all the branding you’ve worked so hard to build. On top of that, firms made up solely of partners’ names can get clunky and aren’t always memorable. Smith & Brown isn’t going to stick like Fowler & Winklebaum.

If you do decide to use partners’ names, try to use the most memorable name first. Simplify the name if possible and consider its long-term branding power. A name like “Top Dog Law” is more memorable and easier to brand than an endless string of last names.

Finally, consider using your firm’s name to communicate your niche or area of expertise. Whether you’re using last names or a branded firm name, simply adding a line such as “Family Law Attorneys” or “Chicago’s Go-To Family Law Attorneys” underneath your logo and sign can help you to establish your brand and showcase your area of expertise. This is something you can do even if your firm name is already well-established.

Step 5: Keep the Design Simple

In the world of lawyer branding, design isn’t the most important factor, but it is something you’ll need to consider. If you choose a simple and clean design, you probably won’t have much to worry about. Just make sure that your logo and design don’t look outdated, tacky, or cliché. Gavels and lists of partner initials just won’t cut it anymore!

When it comes to design, color is one of the most important factors. Studies have found that having your logo and main brand color contrast with your call-to-action (CTA) button color is the most effective strategy. So, if you’re trying to decide on a brand color, that’s something to keep in mind.