Rebranding Your Law Firm: How a 150-Year-Old Firm Gave Itself a Makeover

by JD Supra Perspectives
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Two of our attorneys spoke at an industry conference in 2014. We encourage speaking and teaching opportunities, and this was a chance for us to showcase our legal abilities and expand the visibility of our firm. However, when the moderator introduced our attorneys, one attorney was introduced as being from “BABC,” while the other was introduced as being from “Bradley Arant.” The audience, unless they were intimately familiar with our firm, did not understand that the two presenting attorneys were with the same firm. It became clear at that moment that a change had to be made.

"...one attorney was introduced as being from 'BABC,' while the other was introduced as being from 'Bradley Arant.'"

The decision to rebrand our firm with the single-word moniker “Bradley” was a process that affected every facet of the organization, from the exterior signs of our nine offices to our letterhead and pens. (In fact, when we started the rebranding process, we had only eight offices. The undertaking actually made the opening of our ninth office – our Houston space – much easier.) But the 18-month process was worth the effort, since we – like many law firms today – are facing a marketplace that is continually evolving. For nearly 150 years, we considered ourselves a leading firm, and for that tradition to continue, we knew we had to continue to adapt to today’s environment while still sustaining our culture and core values.

This balancing act of moving the firm forward while still embracing aspects of the past is no easy task. That is why we want to share our experience, hoping that our story can help other firms or businesses that are considering making a similar change. While we were more than delighted with the final result, we encountered highs and lows, exhaustion and exhilaration, difficulties, and finally success. Here’s our story.

Why the Name Change

Changing the name of our firm was a decision that was not made hastily. When we looked at this problem objectively, the decision to rebrand was an easy one because our name suffered confusion in the marketplace. Indeed, if we could not agree on the name of our firm internally, how could we possibly expect our clients and others in the marketplace to know what to call us?

The root of our confusion is one many larger firms face. In 2008, Bradley Arant Rose & White merged with Boult Cummings Conners & Berry. Because neither law firm wanted to risk losing the brand equity each had built over time, the merged law firm was known as Bradley Arant Boult Cummings. While the merger was overwhelmingly successful, one negative was that there was no consistency in what we called ourselves. This led to multiple iterations of our name, including the entire firm name, which was a mouthful, to “BABC,” “Bradley Arant,” and “Boult Cummings.” 

...if we could not agree on the name of our firm internally, how could we possibly expect our clients and others in the marketplace to know what to call us?

We also believed rebranding could provide a greater sense of cohesion across the firm. Since the merger in 2008, the firm had grown to more than 500 attorneys, had opened offices in new cities, and was a super-regional firm with a national reputation. To promote the continuing advancement of the firm, we wanted to project a consistent message; be viewed as a single entity; and promote our strong culture of providing high-quality legal service with integrity, passion, focus, and responsiveness. By creating a consistent name and brand in “Bradley,” we believe we have created a memorable moniker that revitalizes our firm’s image while retaining an element of familiarity.

Finally, we also wanted to make sure that our brand represented a firm that was aware of the times and modern in its aesthetic. We quickly determined that the era of multiple last names was stodgy, outdated and conveyed the wrong message. We liked the idea of existing as a single-word brand and, after some debate, made the decision to rebrand simply as “Bradley.”

How to Get Buy-In

Attorneys, especially more experienced ones, seem to be adverse to any change. And this was not just any change. It was our name, our identity, our brand. We needed buy-in from everyone. Adding to the challenge was the fact that truncating the Bradley name meant removing elements of our history that some of our attorneys had personal attachments to, particularly legacy attorneys who had been with us since our firm’s name was Bradley Arant Rose & White, as well as the legacy attorneys who joined as part of the merger with Boult Cummings Conners & Berry.

The process we undertook was very deliberate. In August 2015, we provided a detailed presentation to the board that not only provided the reasons why the rebrand was necessary, but also provided a detailed strategic plan for how to accomplish it. While this presentation created excitement, it was also met with concern about how the firm as a whole would view the change.

...we provided a detailed presentation that not only provided the reasons why the rebrand was necessary, but also provided a detailed strategic plan for how to accomplish it.

Fortunately, the firm’s biannual Firm Retreat was scheduled for October 2015. This retreat offers the rare opportunity for the entire firm to come together in one location to discuss its successes, challenges, and strategic planning. The board gave us a one-hour time slot to present the rebranding strategy to the firm. Our presentation included visuals that reflected the new “Bradley” logo, the new “Bradley” domain (www.bradley.com), and a prototype of our new website. This allowed the firm to visualize the new brand. We answered questions and listened to both praises and recommendations. The rebranding efforts were largely applauded, and we achieved critical buy-in.

From October 2015 until the unveiling of the new brand in April 2016, we updated the firm with monthly progress reports. In March 2016, we visited numerous offices to ensure everyone knew what to expect when the new brand was published. We wanted to make sure that everyone had the opportunity to understand how the new brand would affect them, their office, and the firm as a whole. These presentations were met with guarded optimism.

Informing the Masses

With a shift in branding as significant as ours, there was concern that we might lose some of the brand equity we had built over the years. To try and minimize this, we developed a simple message: “New Look. Same Promise.” We felt this message accurately conveyed to our clients that despite a visual transformation, we were the same experienced professionals they had grown to rely on and trust.

Simultaneous with the new brand launch, we sent multiple communications to our clients that alerted them of the change. Our clients also immediately observed the change in practice, since the firm’s stationery suite, email signatures, domain name, and other external communications contained the new brand. While informing our clients of the change was our top priority, we also focused on apprising the public, which included potential clients, our communities, and even competitors.

...we sent multiple communications to our clients that alerted them of the change.

Most visible was the change in our building signage, which shifted to the new brand over the course of an April weekend. This new signage included the addition of “Bradley” to the Birmingham skyline by affixing the new logo atop our office building there. We also alerted the public of the change via our numerous social media channels, including Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

Maximizing Technology

Our final achievement was perhaps the most difficult. Our new website – www.bradley.com – launched in June 2016. This was the final piece to the rebranding puzzle, and it required extensive planning and coordination.

To have a successful website, we felt we must first have the appropriate domain. While we were ahead of the curve in registering www.bradley.law, we felt that having www.bradley.com was a short-term necessity. We were successful in acquiring www.bradley.com even though it was originally registered with a foreign corporation.

Once we secured the domain, we concentrated on website design, content, and layout. These were timely tasks that required long hours by both us and our website designer, One North. We also had to focus on consistency across all of our electronic platforms, including our blogs and social media channels. While this smaller group was able to complete these tasks, it took the concerted effort of the firm to complete the website. Each attorney was responsible for new content on their bio page, including updating their experience and sitting for new pictures. Practice group leaders and other leaders of the firm were also called on to update practice pages, industry pages, and other firm pages.

...our [500] attorneys did an exceptional job of pulling together to make our new website a reality. 

While it may seem almost impossible to get 500 attorneys who are focused on their legal practices to take the time to complete these tasks, our attorneys did an exceptional job of pulling together to make our new website a reality.

History Meets the Future

We started the exploration of our new brand in late 2014. Our goal was to provide a consistent and strengthened brand that would position our law firm for continued success in the future. Just a few months since the debut of our new brand, we are already realizing that our firm-wide efforts are paying off. We are now referred to consistently as “Bradley,” both internally and externally, and will have a timeless and recognizable brand that clients will continue to identify with one of the preeminent firms in the nation. “New Look. Same Promise.” Indeed.

*

[Beau Grenier (bgrenier@bradley.com) is Bradley’s Chairman of the Board and Managing Partner and Brian O'Dell (bodell@bradley.com) is partner and Chair of Bradley’s Business Development and Marketing Committee.]

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