How Brand Development Increases the Value of Your Corporate Legal Department

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...your department's unique brand distinctions are already there – they just need to be discovered and communicated

‘Branding’ and ‘Marketing’ are terms that traditionally refer to the ongoing actions implemented by an organization to enhance the sales of the organization’s products and services to increase revenue. These terms are typically not connected to legal departments. It seems to be time to change this.

Having satisfied clients within the company impacts how the legal department is viewed. It can influence hiring decisions and impact bonuses and salaries. Creating a clear and codified brand allows clients to understand how to best interface with the legal team and what to expect from its services.

All of this points to why there has been an uptick in the number of legal departments incorporating true branding.

Branding, or understanding and “publishing” the unique value and essence of a company’s in-house legal team, has become increasingly important in raising the perceived value the in-house team contributes to the company.

Accordingly, savvy legal departments are incorporating strategies that deliver a clear message about how they deliver their services. Many times, this messaging taps into the brand essence of their companies. Needless to say, that brand may be used to enhance the recruiting process when hiring new lawyers.

Some forward thinking legal departments gather internal feedback from their clients during the brand development process. This helps ascertain what is working well in how they provide their services and what areas might be improved upon, based on client preferences. We will elaborate on this in future articles but you can read about the basic process here.

What is the difference between branding and brand development?

Branding is a tactic. Brand development is a discovery process that unearths brand distinction. The definition of a brand is “A claim of distinction.”

Branding tactics include the consistent use of color, graphics, and positioning lines used in communication of a brand’s distinction. However, the color, graphics and tag line are not the distinction itself. A brand’s distinction is what the brand stands for, or better yet, what provides more value to the client—the end user.

Branding is the process that unearths a legal department’s unique distinctions. If you know three solid, bulletproof unique selling points (USPs) of your in-house legal department’s offerings, the department might communicate that differentiation through a clever and catchy positioning statement or perhaps even a tag line.

If you can’t really define at least three USPs, your department should go through some sort of discovery process that will uncover them.

These distinctions are already there – they just need to be discovered. Start by listing as many facts as you can about your team and then distill those facts down to three to five USPs.

We call this process ‘Turning the Telescope’. We turn the telescope on the department and conduct an inward search of what is unique about it, such as its culture, people, offerings, history, you name it.

Once you’ve completed your discovery, find ways to make it absolutely unique. That creative and clear positioning line or brand essence statement communicates the department’s brand. This is the beginning of the branding process, as it is the legal department’s brand promise.

...critical attributes of your brand statement should be codified and shared within the company

The concept of branding expands from tag lines or clever slogans to encompass brand-focused integrated strategic concepts that mirror and match the business goals of the company.

Successful brands have a well-crafted brand essence statement or a paragraph that captures what the brand stands for. The critical attributes of this statement should be codified and shared within the company.

The impacts of branding on the (positive) perception of the legal department

Your department’s unique distinction helps your clients understand who you are, what you stand for, and what’s important in how you deliver your legal services to your users.

Increase the value of your legal department by creating a clear and distinctive brand message.

Branding is a serious proclamation of the department’s values that it delivers to its clients.

In articulating a brand promise, your department may want to have a distinctive mark or logo as well as a positioning statement, so that every appearance of it further communicates the brand promise.

The intent of a clear, branded message for the department is that everyone in the company will develop a consistent understanding of how the legal department functions and how it best serves its clients. Consistently delivering on that brand promise can impact bonuses, budgets, salaries and the ability to get buy-in to make new hires. The users of these services recall the brand concept and link it mentally to the critical attributes that define its value proposition.

...everyone in the company will develop a consistent understanding of how the legal department functions

The essence of your brand should be incorporated into training, internal communications, email campaigns, and all communications to the users of the department. Increase the value of your legal department by creating a clear and distinctive brand message.

The bottom line is that brand development and branding can significantly increase the legal team’s positive perception. We strongly recommend legal departments consider an internally focused brand development process. The benefits and positive changes can significantly improve the position and perception of the legal department.

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Merry Neitlich is Managing Partner at EM Consulting and Edo Bar-Gil is Head of Legal Ops Solutions at Lawflex.

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