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MANAGING CHANGE: HOW LAW FIRMS ARE ANSWERING THE WAKE-UP CALL

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FRONTLINES

What REALLY Works

Conveying the Personal Touch

Lots of firms have lawyers who are technically skilled in tackling clients’ legal matters, but how many of them actually focus on the human side of their clients’ issues, too? If you’re really invested in your clients as people, that’s a message you can take to market.

WHO Aronberg, Goldgehn, Davis & Garmisa, a 30-lawyer full-service business firm in Chicago.

BACKGROUND Aronberg, Goldgehn, Davis & Garmisa is known as a friendly, laid-back law firm. It has a work-life-balance culture, where getting home for dinner with the family is a value and there’s no coming in on weekends for “face time.” Clients say they appreciate that Aronberg, Goldgehn lawyers aren’t pushed to bill, bill, bill. There’s a perception that, while technically the lawyers are highly skilled, they offer more personal service, a better overall experience, if you will. And for all that, they’re not more expensive than the competition; actually, they’re less expensive.

The firm has a typical full-service transactional and litigation practice mix, in banking, construction, real estate, taxation and the like. But it also has a high-end divorce and family law practice, as well as health-care and estate planning practice groups. As nice as it is for clients, that kind of blend makes it tougher to home in on a marketing message that works firmwide.

But a firmwide message hadn’t been much of an issue to date, since Aronberg, Goldgehn had never really done any marketing. In witness to that, it had an out-of-date logo and a version 1.0 Web site with a photo of the building and a pre-Google “Useful Links” page. The look was seriously out of touch. The partners decided that the firm needed a drastic makeover.

MARKETING GOALS The objective was to increase the firm’s name recognition as a small high-quality law firm that is very skilled in serving a range of needs for Chicago-area executives of small and midsize businesses. But what theme would convey this firm’s distinctive approach and qualities?

In one-on-one interviews, the lawyers were asked a series of questions designed to elicit a theme. In describing themselves, their work and their firm, Aronberg, Goldgehn lawyers overwhelmingly used words like “friendly, collegial, congenial, family-oriented.” Although that makes it a nice culture, “we like working with each other” isn’t an especially compelling message for drawing in new business. Not many clients say, “Boy, if I could just find some lawyers who enjoy working with each other, that’s the firm I’d hire!”

However, another word that came up with surprising frequency was “personal.” As in, these lawyers value close, personal relationships with clients. They take their clients’ problems personally. Personal is a very good word in a service business, especially in the legal profession, where clients often complain that their firm treats them “like a file.” And it is a word that applied equally well to the firm’s business practices and family law group. Seeing how the word encapsulated the firm’s message, we decided to build the firm’s marketing around it.

IMPLEMENTATION For the tag line, we settled on “We take it personally.” The litigators, in particular, felt that this reflected their approach to representations. They’re so invested in their clients’ problems, they feel like it’s their money they’re suing to recover.

Now they needed marketing materials to convey that message. Something to express the firm’s personal touch. Some strong visuals with a slight sense of humor to reflect the friendly, laid-back culture while also showcasing this as a high-quality firm. An audience weighs the balance heavily in favor of what they can see, so principally, we needed a stunning “look” to use as the platform on which to build the full range of materials, from brochures and ads to the Web site. We wanted the imagery to show that this is a nice firm, without seeming frivolous.

What ultimately resulted was a collection of images strategically juxtaposed to represent how there are different kinds of people in the world—and that Aronberg, Goldgehn knows and understands that fact. Some of the materials juxtapose dog people and cat people. Others reflect acoustic versus electric guitar and sports car versus minivan people. Some ask if it’s “to-MEY-to” or “to-MAH-to.” The simple headline for the images: “Everybody’s different. Does your lawyer understand that?” The caption text then in part reads: “We take the time to get to know you personally and to understand all the issues affecting you … We do whatever it takes, the big things and the small things, to get the job done.”

All the images also now rotate through the firm’s Web site, which is newly redesigned and has a look that’s quite (you guessed it) different from its version 1.0 predecessor. And, of course, at the launch party, squishy logo’d tomato squeeze balls were plentiful.

About the Author

Ross Fishman specializes in marketing training and creating differentiation programs for law firms worldwide.

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