This is an outstanding guest blog post by Aaron Hall of Twin Cities Law Firm in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
One of the biggest mistakes I see new lawyers making is spending too much money on logo design and branding. It's fine for the large law firms to focus on a particular brand, but for solo attorneys, the attorney is the brand. A professionally designed logo is helpful to communicate professionalism, but that is all that it can offer. You can get a logo designed inexpensively at a site like 99Designs.com, which is where our law firm designed our logo.
There are a number of reasons why a small law firm (or solo attorney) should focus on its attorneys as the brand rather than a logo, tag-line, or some other branding element.
Logos have their place in marketing. If you're a large company, it makes sense to have a brand built around a product, but for a small personal services company, it is going to be virtually impossible to make a branding impression on the mind of your target audience without a massive marketing budget.
Think about it. For any small business where you are a customer or client, what has a stronger impression in your mind: their logo, their branding, or the person you know there? This is even more important when the service you are buying is provided by an individual professional like an attorney, tax preparer, CPA, plumber, or electrician.
If you speak with professional business appraisers who understand how to appraise the value of a professional services firm like a law firm or CPA firm, they will tell you that most of the reputation, goodwill, and value is connected with the professionals providing the services, not the name of the business, its logo, or other branding elements. In succession planning, attorneys or business brokers need to put together a plan to transfer the goodwill of one professional service provider to the new owner by having a gradual handing off of the baton. The goal is to transfer the goodwill over a period of time from one owner to the next. If all of the value were tied up in a logo, this wouldn't be as crucial.
I'm not saying you should not have a professional logo, website, or other marketing materials. The point is not to spend an unnecessary amount of time picking the right images in your logo, spending too much time thinking about a slogan, or other techniques that big marketing companies do for large companies.
Careful branding, logos, and slogans work well if you are Nike, Apple, or another major brand, but for attorneys, you are the brand. You are the image of the business, its mascot, its spokesperson, and the impression in the minds of your target market.
If you are launching a new practice, spend a minimal amount of time picking a logo that you can place on letterhead and your website. Don't worry about branding certain attributes and themes like quality service, professionalism, low prices, value, etc. Instead focus on how you are experienced in your niche, the way that you can solve problems for your clients (your target market), and your expertise. This can be done through speaking, writing, and other marketing tips discussed on this blog.
Do you need a logo at all? This is largely a personal decision, but I recommend you have some logo—potentially just your name in a nice font—to make your letterhead, website, business card, and other materials have a common, professional mark associated with them. Generally, this can simply be your name in a nice font and color, and possibly an image (a very simple image) or slogan focusing on your practice area. Keep in mind that your practice may evolve over time, so it is nice to have a logo that doesn't box you in too narrowly. Also, it is somewhat expensive to update a logo, so it's worth having a professionally designed logo in the beginning. The expense of updating a logo in the future will include updating your website, business cards, and all other marketing materials.
Summary and Tips
If you don't have a professionally designed logo, go get one at 99designs.com. Have the logo include just your name or a simple image. Use that logo on business cards and your website.
Instead of printing stationary, save money by putting the logo on a Word document that you use as a template for all letters and correspondence. Then you can print that logo from your printer in the office. This is much more convenient than having to load stationary into a printer whenever you want an official letter sent out.
If you decide to print your letters with your logo, this is another reason why your logo should be simple, and preferably one or two colors. Also, avoid gray scale images or fonts because they can look unprofessional when printed on a black toner printer. By focusing less on marketing a logo or slogan, you can focus more on marketing yourself.