Get Clear on Your Firm’s Identity to Supercharge Communications and Marketing

March 12, 2019

As ALM reporter Roy Strom recently pointed out in his Law Firm Disrupted newsletter, Big Law firms continue to make the mistake of seeing themselves as part of one universal market when in fact they fall into at least three distinct markets that face three different realities: The true top dogs (Am Law 1-50) have shown impressive growth. The big-but-not-biggest (Am Law 51-100) are stagnant. The second hundred (Am Law 101-200) are losing ground. Firms in the smaller two categories continue to operate as if they’re in the top tier, and it’s causing them to make bad business decisions.

But when the circumstances are right, mid-market firms can pick off Big Law business by offering greater value: work led by smaller teams, including hands-on work by partners, and all for a lower hourly rate. The Great Recession created an opportunity for smaller firms to show what they can do, and it created the circumstances that forced clients to consider making a change.

What does this have to do with communication? These two trends represent a kind of identity crisis for the Am Law 51-200, and a firm can only resolve it by getting serious about this question: Who are you?

Are you a mid-market player that is going to serve the (very large) set of middle-market companies that are price-sensitive and focused on value pretty much all of the time? If that’s the case, your firm’s marketing and communication must emphasize value above all else.

Or, despite your size, do you want to be the “little guy” that targets and wins the business of the most elite companies, which means getting the priciest work? If that’s the case, your marketing and communication must emphasize quality above all else.

It seems that some firms are trying to do both, and the lack of focus muddies the message. When your strategic goals and media strategy are aligned, the results can be powerful. But the first step to reaping those benefits is articulating your firm’s identity: who do you plan to serve, and why?