Real People Make a DifferenceBy Greenfield Belser, a Finn Partners company
June 1, 2005
The legal business is a relationship business like no other!
The goal of all we do is to put lawyers in front of clients and prospects. When lawyers appear in your ads and direct mail and on your website, you're doing just that. You're providing evidence of what it will be like to work with the people in your firm-who they are, what they do and how they do it.
The legal business has no other tangible product. Our product is people.
A basic tenet of advertising is: SHOW THE PRODUCT. As David Ogilvy put it, "Show the product in use. It pays to show the product being used, and if possible, the end-result of using it." In the legal business, the end-result is establishing a long-term relationship of trust between a lawyer and a prospect.
For the prospect, the first hurdle is: "Will I like these people? Will I enjoy working with them?" Featuring lawyers in your marketing materials gives prospects a chance to imagine what it will be like.
What are the hidden benefits?
Showing lawyers in your office surroundings-or, better yet, in a client's lab or factory-helps prospects connect with them on an emotional level.
Also on an emotional level, featuring lawyers in your ads generates enthusiasm inside the firm. Seeing a colleague in a publication or Web site creates an energy you can't get from using impersonal stock photography. For marketers of professional services, this sense of internal excitement can be as important, if not more so, than how a campaign plays externally.
Celebrate your accomplishments and awards
When 15 female partners and associates at Piper Rudnick won prestigious awards within the same few months, gathering them together for an ad was a natural. To ensure consistency, we flew a photographer to Piper's offices around the country. The ad generated tremendous buzz internally and externally.
Demonstrate how your lawyers work together to achieve client goals
Pillsbury Winthrop's annual report features its "client teams." Each spread features an industry team in a client's environment-on an airplane, in a subway station, in the clients' offices. Each shot sends a message about the firm's dedication to the client's business. Internally, the images helped sell the idea of the value of interdisciplinary teams.
Showcase your rock stars
Piper Rudnick could have used a tombstone ad to announce it had absorbed Verner Liipfert. Instead, the ads featured four prominent political figures (Berl Bernhard, Senator George Mitchell, Lloyd Hand and Harry McPherson) who were valuable additions to the firm's government affairs practice. From Capitol Hill to K Street, no one missed the message.
Show law students what it's like
Recruits are savvy. They've leafed through hundreds of college and law school brochures. They can tell who's a stock model and who isn't. Using your own people conveys a genuine idea of what your firm is about. Featuring your associates gives students a better idea of whom they might be working with.
The Womble Carlyle recruiting brochure proves that Womble lawyers have a life outside the office-and inside the office. The playful photos of partners and associates with their dogs subtly make the point that this is a firm that doesn't take itself too seriously.
To generate an emotional response, Sutherland Asbill & Brennan's recruiting campaign documents associates' experiences at the firm-in contrast to what life might have been like in another firm. On Sutherland's website and accompanying brochure, associates appear in videos relating their stories in language that speak directly to students' concerns. Quotes are used in the calendar-like brochure to tell the day-in-the-life at Sutherland
Six tips for using lawyers in your campaigns
Lawyers make better spokespeople than models or actors, who can come off as too poised, too posed too canned. And there are ethical issues in some jurisdictions. But if politics are not a problem, use your own lawyers.
1. Anticipate the politics. For any firm, the decision to choose whose faces represent the firm can be a harrowing experience. Avoid trouble by following these guidelines:
- Pick the people who are likely to be doing the work. Don't use an estates lawyer in an IP ad.
- Pick people who are fervent disciples of the firm's approach, style and philosophy. But accept the fact that those who best represent the values of your firm may not be the most photogenic.
- Make it voluntary. Don't cajole or pressure any lawyer who doesn't want to participate.
- Having more volunteers than you have space for is a good kind of problem. Establish a waiting list for the next publication or ad, if you're working in print.
- If you're building a Web site, use database technology to rotate lawyer images in successive presentations of the pages where lawyer images appear.
2. Know that lawyers will leave the firm. Featuring a lawyer who ends up leaving-even on good terms-can render an ad or brochure out-of-date or unusable. That means you either have to spend more money to redesign the advertising, or you're stuck with Bob representing your company when Bob left over a year ago. Which can hurt your firm both externally and internally.
- The advent of digital printing mitigates the problem. And on Web sites, the problem goes away.
3. Cover yourself. If you're spending the money to coordinate a photo shoot, bring alternate lawyers just in case. That way you have a replacement if someone leaves the firm. Always photograph the lawyers in multiple poses-so that everyone is comfortable with the final product.
4. Be mindful of diversity. But not obsessed with it. Firms are eager to showcase their diversity-especially in recruiting materials. But the politically correct impulse can go too far. If you think you're misrepresenting the make-up of your firm, then you probably are. Trying too hard can backfire. Or worse, it could recruit new employees who end up leaving because they feel they've been mislead.
5. Get professional help. Being photographed for publication can be intimidating. A skilled art director can calm those fears and coax out a great performance. A photographer with a sure command of lighting is a must. Makeup artists and hair stylists are good investments.
6. Use people who know real people. Choosing an agency (and a photographer) that has experience working with first-timers will improve the quality of the end product. And it will make your lawyers feel more comfortable about appearing in your campaign.