The Great Logo Contest

There is absolutely nothing wrong with having a logo. Logos are fine. Sometimes, they’re pretty cool.  This is not about telling anyone that they should not have a logo.

Of course, I don’t have a logo. I never have. What was I thinking?

But as I sometimes do, I wandered into the pool at Lawyerist, where a very nice young lawyer, Josh Camson, decided to write about his “journey” in opening a two-man criminal defense practice.  It’s not a particularly scary pool, as it’s a mile wide but only an inch deep.  When Josh began this venture, I was dubious of its value; spreading bad information isn’t a virtue, even if it amuses other baby lawyers who want to “share” in the experience.  But then, being an old curmudgeon, I likely couldn’t appreciate the benefit of crowdsourcing among new lawyers and marketers.

And I was just so damn negative about it all. Nobody is negative at the Lawyerist. It’s a supportive place, no matter how blitheringly stupid something may be. Never is heard a discouraging word.

There was the post about the name of the firm. Josh came up with a cool variation, running the two names of the partners together without a space or ampersand.  I’m not sure it whether it was cool, but it was certainly different.  He chose, however, not to use a misleading name, such as one that would suggest they had associates when they didn’t, or multiple offices when they didn’t, despite expert advice to the contrary.

Then came a post that disturbed me.  The firm logo.

My partner and I knew from the beginning that we wanted the firm to have an identity.

Now, had Josh begun his post with something along the lines of, “I realize that this is silly and utterly inconsequential, but having already spoken with my mentors today, signed up for some skills CLEs and shined my shoes, I have nothing better to do,” I wouldn’t have been troubled at all.

But that’s not what he wrote.  Instead, he wrote this:

In the end, we went with the logo we thought would look good in black and white as well as color. We plan on doing some mailers that may be black and white, so we had to take that into account. It had to look equally good on a business card, our website, and any marketing materials we send out.

In other words, the logo mattered. To Josh. And to the marketers who applauded Josh. And to the baby lawyers who offered supportive comments to Josh.  One marketer with “vast experience,” Karin Conboy, who apparently also writes insipid posts for the Lawyerist, had this to say:

Having a successful logo is not meant to be a reflection of your competence, and no one is suggesting that it is. It is meant to be a representation of your brand and reputation and a method for clients to cut through the clutter of competing messages. A logo is a critical part in the development of any business. SHG, when do you suggest that should Josh be thinking about his logo?

Never would be a good time. Or when he’s sitting there staring at the silent phone and has absolutely nothing useful to do would be a good time. But never would be a better time, since the silent phone would be the sort of snarky comment that opens the door to the marketer.  If only he markets the crap out of himself, the phone will ring, they say. Let’s investigate, shall we.

Will clients call this budding criminal defense lawyer because he has a fabulous logo? No. Never. Won’t happen.  Consider this “hater” dialogue.

“So Joe, did you get a good lawyer?”
“Yeah, Sid. You should see his logo.”
“Has he ever tried a case?”
“Well, no, but the blue in his logo really pops.”

What if a potential client actually did call, spying this logo and saying to himself, any lawyer with a cool logo like this is the lawyer for me.  And this highly impressionable client retained Josh’s services to defend him in court. And the client wanted to go to trial.  And Josh, whose experience in the law thus far has been limited to a stint as a clerk for a judge, is constrained to tell this client that he’s never tried a case. He’s never opened. He’s never closed. He’s never cross-examined a witness. He’s never made an objection. He’s never picked a jury. He’s never made a Batson challenge or won a Batson challenge.

But he has a logo.

Karin Conboy, the marketer, might argue that he’s got to start somewhere, so why not bring in clients with his logo and worry about defending them later?  At least he can put some food on the table, if not a client in the clink, and isn’t that really what the practice of law is all about?

This where mean old men, like me, get unhappy. It’s a matter of sequence, where first a new lawyer concerns himself with gaining the competency to be a lawyer.  Later, he can worry about marketing, though if he’s done step one properly, he won’t have to. He will have already, inadvertently, “branded” himself as a competent, diligent lawyer.  Old lawyers never called this branding, of course. This was what we called practicing law.

My pal from Portland, David Sugerman, saw some of the hubbub I created at Josh’s post and twitted:

Why bother? Talking to these pinheads is like pissing in the wind.

Because these pinheads are the future of the legal profession.  Because these pinheads may one day hold someone’s life in their hands.  It may well be a worthless effort, ignored and rejected as just more hatred by old lawyers of new, who are jealous of their coolness, youth and vigor, and who smack them around to make ourselves not feel so bad about being past our prime.  But to leave these pinheads to their own devices is to abdicate the responsibility we have toward our profession and the public.  So what if they think we’re a bunch of nasty old morons. The obligation persists.

Then again, I don’t have a logo. In almost 30 years of practice, I never realized that I should. It never dawned on me to sell myself like laundry detergent or a pick-up truck. Having done it wrong all this time, and no client having shown the decency to tell me that they retained me despite my lack of a logo, Josh’s post has made me realize this gaping hole in my law practice.

Anybody have an idea of a logo for me?  And no phallic symbols, please, you snarky people.  Why shouldn’t an old dog like me be cool too?  Turn my frown upside down.  To make this even more fun, whoever produces the cooliest logo will win a prize.  More pie.

And the logo will mean absolutely nothing to anyone ever.  That’s okay, however, because I can cross-examine a witness.  My clients tend to like that about me.

39 thoughts on “The Great Logo Contest

  1. BL1Y

    I’d say you do actually have a logo, it’s at the top right of your blog. It says “Simple Justice.”

    It’s a logo, just not one that required any sort of graphical design work or art direction, and that’s what most firms go with. Maybe they spend a few minutes debating the color and font, but that’s more or less it.

    I will get working on a logo for you though. Do you want one for your law practice, or for this site?

  2. BL1Y

    Nice try, MSK, but how can a logo convey your reputation if it doesn’t even tell people who you are.

    Here’s my entry:

  3. SHG

    I tried to copy and paste it into your comment, but naturally, it failed.  On the bright side, it lacks the peculiarly phallic nature of Max’s (what made me guess that might happen?), and has a definite appeal to people who wear tin foil hats, an underserved population.

    Edit: Never mind. It appears I’ve been able to copy it, and feeling rather Ginger Baker-ish at the moment.

  4. John Neff

    The Simple Justice logo also has stripes but they are too wide and of various shades to match the jail stripes.

  5. Steve

    Regardless of your thoughts about all this logo business, your “conboy” attacks above are absolutely shameful and incredibly childish.

  6. SHG

    And yet, I’ve said worse about marketers. Go figure.

    By the way, welcome to SJ. It’s always exciting to have someone stop by who has never been here before to let me know that I’ve been shameful and childish toward a marketer.

  7. Steve

    Obviously, one time is all it takes. But, come now, respond to my point…you feel that’s a respectable little word game to play? That’s what puts the “simple” in “simple justice”?

  8. Steve

    Oh, I guess I had a dream where you realize that name games really are quite petty and mean-spirited and in the name of civil discourse you change it.

  9. Kathleen Casey

    He requested comments that have made everyone who reads them more stupid hasn’t he?

  10. CM

    Scott, I think this pretty much sums up what some new lawyers believe a potential client’s though process looks like:

  11. SHG

    Imagine how hard it must be to be Leo when he’s got Jordan in the room. And how did one firm get so much talent?

  12. Bryan

    I think you’re off the rails on this one. Yes, I agree that gaining expertise and being known for your quality work is the most important thing in the long run. But in the meantime, you will have to make sure people know who you are, so that when you get your experience and reputation, people who don’t see you all the time will know who you are.
    For example, consider our friend Josh Camson, but consider, instead, that his name is Josh Johnson, one of dozens with that name.
    Further consider that the conversation you hypothesize occurs in a bar, rather than over a glass of fine Portland beer:

    “So Joe, did you get a good lawyer in that case you had a year ago?”
    “Yeah, I sure did.”
    “Do you have that guy’s number handy?”
    “Well, no, sorry.”
    “So, what’s his name?”
    “Josh Johnson..”
    [some time later]
    “So, I looked up that Josh Johnson guy, but there are a bunch of them in the Yellow Pages.”
    “Oh, that’s no problem. Just look for the ad with the big, bold letter ‘J.'”

    Yes, that’s a cheesy example, but it’s certainly not out of the realm of possibility. A logo, by its nature, is meant to help we visual creatures when we can’t remember some random string of phone numbers, or someone’s name when it comes up in a random conversation. Josh’s logo will be a big help, but only if he backs up with good work. If he backs it up with bad work, you can imagine how the conversation above will change.

    Anyway, I’m on the “get yer logo early” band wagon. I had several friends go solo in the last couple years, and I never heard any of them complain that time they spent, immediately, on a logo and law firm identity was wasted time.


  13. SHG

    Your argument is a non-starter. You have some friends who have logos and they’ve never complained that it was a waste of time? So what? Correlation doesn’t prove causation. Have any of them said that but for their logo, their practice would suck?

    The best that can be said of your hypo is that a guy with a common name can use a logo so someone can find him in the yellow pages. I doubt this is a problem for much of anybody, considering there is one Josh Johnson, lawyer, in New York City. Really think this scales? Are there 50 Josh Johnson lawyers in Des Moines who have this problem? Use any name of your choosing and find me an actual problem that matches your hypo. It doesn’t exist.

    Now back to the real world. It’s nonsense. Just a rationale for meaningless marketing vanity, and if that’s what baby lawyers really think matters, they’re nuts. 

  14. Jordan

    I like it better when clients remember me as “that guy who always returned my phone calls” or “that guy who really knew what he was doing” or “that guy who really cared about helping me fix my problems, who I know would go to the ends of the Earth to defend my interests” or “that guy who learned all about fly fishing to defend my fly fishing business”.

    They usually remember my name, though.

  15. Dan

    I’m confused- why is a lawyer who thinks he needs to brand himself with a logo concerned with how people will find his yellow pages ad? Isn’t that lawyer supposed to be concerned about search engine optimization and how his logo will look on tablets and mobile devices?

    Anyway, having a logo is stupid. That is all.

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