For a long time, the three most important letters to lawyers on the internet were SEO.  But now that everybody on the internet is an SEO expert New York criminal defense lawyer, and page 1 of Google hasn’t gotten any longer, the cool word has changed to branding. 

Establishing yourself as a skilled, hard-working lawyer based on what you do is, well, really hard. It takes not only effort, but time. Nobody can be bothered with the first or can wait for the second. The car payment is due, the kids are hungry and we need money now. So rather than make the long, hard, uphill climb to success, why not just create a brand that will make clients want you more than any other lawyer around?

Yes, yes, you say?  Marketing guru  Seth Godin explains how:

Apple’s naming approach is inconsistent, it begs for lawsuits (offensive and defensive) and it shouldn’t be the model for your organization. iPhone is a phone, iPad is a pad, iPod is a … (and owning a letter of the alphabet is i-mpossible).

Procter and Gamble, on the other hand, has been doing it beautifully for a hundred years. Crisco, Tide, Pringles, Bounty, Duracell–these are fanciful names that turn the generic product (and the story we believe about it) into something distinct.

No, you dope. You don’t want to rename your practice The Crisco Law Firm. You completely misunderstood Godin.  Plus, it carries some unfortunate implications for lock-up that may not entice new clients to come to you.

So many lawyers are striving to find a way to distinguish themselves from all the other lawyers who have carefully crafted their online personas to bring in the clients, and frankly, it’s damn hard. We’re all pretty much the same on paper. Sure, some have been around longer than others, but an old fool is worse than a young fool, so that doesn’t tell the full story.  Some of us have higher Avvo ratings, but that just means you haven’t figured out how to put inconsequential nonsense into your profile to fool the algorithm. 

In some jurisdictions, lawyers aren’t allowed to practice under a trade name.  Those old men just don’t get it. They are branding idiots, determined to make life miserable for anyone with a flair for the cool and enticing.  They wouldn’t know cutting edge if it bit them in the butt. 

But even such archaic rules can be played. After all, hasn’t Morrison Foerster become MoFo? 

Worse still, if you’ve got the terrible misfortune of having an Anglo name like Smith, following in the footsteps of your father and grandfather, the naming options will kill you. Smith, Smith, Jones & Smith?  You’ve got to be kidding. Google is going to slaughter you. Page 37 at best, and nobody will ever know you exist on the web.

At this point, you probably wonder how someone like me, avant-garde and all, plans to rebrand himself to take advantage of this vital and cutting edge marketing concept.  While I’ve considered some of my options, like Curmudgeon Law, Scott “If you have to ask, you can’t afford me” Greenfield and The Law Office of the Guy Who Writes Simple Justice, they’ve gotten a lukewarm reception.  Apparently, my knowledge of the concept of branding is far better than my execution.  I am so ashamed.

But just because I suck at branding doesn’t mean you will. Go for it. Remake yourself into something far, far cooler than you are. One fanciful name will do the trick, and the next thing you know, you’ll be rolling in dough.  Brand, baby, brand!

If it works for laundry detergent, you know it will work for you.


27 comments on “iLawyer

  1. Wyrd

    Oh I don’t know, maybe “Curmudgeon
    Law, Scott” or the,”If you have to ask…” tagline could work for you. I think simply using your three initials everywhere is good too though.

    Maybe most of the time the important part is just to choose *some* specific name or label and use it everywhere. Although the John Smiths might have to do a bit more.

    As for means of distinguishing one lawyer from the next, what about geographic location? Doesn’t that stil play a role in most lawyer selection?

    Also, anyone that takes marketing advice from me is only slightly crazier than anyone that takes marketing advice from Seth Godin. Trusting a guru to be straight and honest with you is like going to see a stage magician and actually believing when he says “watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat.”

    Furry cows moo and decompress.

  2. SHG

    Stop blaming me for the horrible captcha. I complain about it all the time, but they won’t change it. Blame the spammers and bots instead.

    Wait:  Spammers & Bots? Not terrible.

  3. David Sugerman

    When I was a kid, “Branded” was a mark that someone struggled to escape. So if we are inverting it all, you coud go with “Branded Lawyer.” You will need a drum line.

  4. SHG

    Who doesn’t love Malcolm Gladwell or Oatmeal? Still, links in comment are against the rules. Even funny ones. Sorry.

  5. SHG

    Years ago, my partner had some gag cards printed up, “Low Bail, No Jail.” Everybody at the bar loved them.

  6. Bruce Coulson

    “Smith and Jones” might get some clients who are fans of old TV westerns. And I like ‘Curmudgeon Law’ as well. “We won’t be happy; but you will!”

  7. SHG

    I love that show, “Alias Smith & Jones.” So I googled to see if I could find a video of it (for the younger set, you know). Instead, this is what I found:

    Smith & Jones
    Smith & Jones are experts in healthcare marketing. We help hospitals and physician practices create meaningful differentiation from competitors; align

    This is becoming a serious problem for me, as reality is funnier than anything I can come up with.

  8. Dr. Sigmund Droid

    OK, I only break out these epic ideas for my virtual friends and, SHG, somehow, someway, I now virtually consider you a friend, so here you go . . .

    This could well be the pinnacle of legal branding, IDK, though I’m fairly certain. I will take and pass the bar exam, be admitted as a member of the bar and then, get this – change my legal name to The Truth™. Next you change your legal name to Scott H. Greenfield-Justice.

    We partner up to create the greatest legal brand in history – The Law Offices of Truth & Justice™!!

    Think of the commercials!! Think of the clients!! Think of the money!! Really, who seeking legal services could resist the brand of Truth & Justice™?? . . .

    We would be badass MoFo’s, fo’ sure . . .

  9. SHG

    There used to be a beer called Old Miss Frothingslosh, the stale pale ale with the foam on the bottom. That could work too.

  10. Dr. Sigmund Droid

    But that’s not all . . . Here’s the flesh on the bones of the business model, you know, to optimally monetize the value of our brand. What we might lack in quality, we’ll make up for in volume and marginal profits . . .

    Outsource everything to India!! We pay our selected Indian legal services company/partner $3 an hour for services; they, in turn, pay their “attorneys” $1 an hour. We, on the other hand, charge our clients $20 per hour, leaving us with profits of $17 per hour. If we can bill, conservatively, 1,000,000 hours per day, we will be rollin’ in bank – our only major duty being to deposit the bags o’ cash fast enough. That and managing our social media presence . . .

    If we make enough money, our next challenge will to be solving world hunger . . . We CAN do it, but only if we B.E.L.I.E.V.E!! And I am a believer . . .

  11. Dr. Sigmund Droid

    OK then, let’s try a few other tag lines on for size . . .

    “When good enough is good enough™ . . .” or maybe “Where seldom is heard a discouraging word . . .”

    I was gonna trademark that second line too but then I thought I might be infringing on an existing copyright of some kind . . .

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