Top 10 Rules to Marketing a Law Firm Merger or an Existing “Branch” office (Part II).

by Ross Fishman

Last week we detailed five marketing and reputation challenges faced by smaller or newer “satellite” offices of prominent law firms. (BTW, accounting and all other professional-services firms confront these same issues.)

We discussed the very real struggles newly merged firms face in rebranding an historic local firm under the new big-firm name. Even major national firms often have extremely limited local awareness or name recognition in new markets. The net effect of this is reduced client-development success, weak lateral hiring, and stagnant growth.

We continue with points 6-10 below:

6.  Demand more from your marketing.

Start with a chip on your shoulder and you’re more likely to succeed.  That “We’re pleased to announce that [firm] opened a [city] office” wedding announcement-styled card you mailed to the entire local bar got tossed out without registering on a single busy lawyer’s brain. A bland, one-off mailing never convinced anyone of anything. Law firms do interesting, important work. Ensure that your marketing conveys that, and in such a visually powerful way that viewers can’t help but notice and remember it.

Your marketing must grab your viewers by the lapels and shake them.  It must jump off the page and tell a compelling story. While sorting through the day’s mail, we first separate “junk” from “must read.” Every single mailer will be perceived as junk mail unless the recipient finds it so unique, powerful, or fascinating that they can’t help but read it. Compare some of the 100 examples at to your existing marketing. Is yours equally eye catching? If not, then re-read point #2 above from last week’s post.

7. Imagine marketing is a leaky bathtub.

Name recognition is accomplished once enough activities have been undertaken to overflow the tub. Most firms trickle the water in slowly year after year, hoping a little bit at a time will gradually fill it. Time fades memories, so this strategy generates little actual gains. Spending the same total marketing dollars more effectively, with a bold strategy and effective execution could have filled it with a fire hose―and helped accomplish their recruiting goals quickly.

8.  So why don’t most firms pursue an effective strategy?

There are many reasons. Skepticism regarding marketing, lack of leadership, weak commitment, internal me-first politics, tight budgets, or an indifferent wait-and-see attitude. Most often it’s caused by the mistaken belief that “the market knows us.” It can be difficult for the leaders of large firms to imagine the suffocating professional anonymity experienced by new or small offices.

Firms come to town with a grandiose goal of swiftly building a dynamic office in a vibrant legal market. They buy a well-known, 25- or 50-year-old Chicago-based firm (whoever’s left, basically), promising cross-selling opportunities with impressive clients, a regional or national platform to sell to their existing clients, and significant marketing support.

The typical rebranding plan looks like this:

(1) host a 2.5-hour after-work launch party for clients and contacts,
(2) run the firm’s standard print ads for three months, and
(3) create a temporary Chicago-only logo laid out as “BIG FIRM Small Firm,” after which “Small Firm” disappears forever.

BIG FIRM Small Firm Merger sample logo

This plan is destined to fail. It’s structurally inadequate.

This means that the smaller Chicago firm trades the name recognition they’d earned over decades for a big-firm brand that’s largely meaningless in Chicago. The investment in building brand awareness in the new market is almost always insufficient. Consider that after changing the local firm’s name you need to build an entirely new brand in an entirely new market from scratch. And that’s a big challenge. Not insurmountable, but bigger than you might have thought.

9.  Weak rebranding = Weak lateral hiring.CF Carlton Ad Atlanta BEACH Ball Peach boy ad

This slap-dash rebranding plan results in poor lateral recruiting because few top lawyers want to interview with, or move to, a firm they’ve never heard of. Money and synergy are important, but so is ego—laterals want their friends to say “Wow!” not “Who?” when opening their move announcement.

As a marketing and branding consultant, I’ve seen that pattern repeated in dozens of cities nationwide. Five years later the frustrated, struggling lawyers call me directly, bypassing The Home Office, begging for help rebuilding the name recognition that they’d had five years earlier, before the exciting merger. Or they simply lateral over to a better-known firm.

10.  An ineffectual launch squanders your best opportunity.

A merger is so costly—why let the merged firm flounder?  Why not spend a few more bucks up front and front-load its success under the new monicker? Wouldn’t it be better to cause the new local market to exclaim “Hey! What’s going on over there at [Smith & Jones] firm? I want to learn more about them!”CF Carlton Ad Atlanta Suntan sunglass woman quarter

Some years ago, we worked with Carlton Fields, a well-marketed full-service firm, when they opened an office in Atlanta, their first office outside of Florida. They had aggressive growth goals and knew that their success or failure would be directly correlated with their local reputation and the interest they could generate.

With a hard-hitting shock-and-awe marketing strategy, we targeted the vibrant Atlanta legal community, educating them about Carlton Fields’ new move into town, and sharing the story of the firm’s quality skills and award-winning culture.

The net result? More headhunter calls got returned.

Better resumes arrived over the transom. Marketing-oriented lawyers called directly. The acceptance rate increased. The net result? They quickly met their recruiting goals and filled their office space.


Written by:

Ross Fishman

Fishman Marketing, Inc. on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Custom Email Digest
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.


JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at:

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.