Sunday, February 17, 2013

Awful law firm names and initials: Small names act bigger.

Lawyers love having their names in the logo.  Hey, who wouldn't?  It's the gold star, the brass ring, the highest honor law firms bestow, our industry's Oscar.  But it can get ridiculous, as over time more and more names get added for personal or ego-driven, not strategic reasons.

Firms with more than one or two name have to abbreviate the name somehow, for simple comprehensibility.  Some choose to do so with initials.  Don't get me started on how silly it is to use a meaningless jumble of letters instead of selecting a simple word that people can actually remember.

Here's “Ross's Rule on Law Firm Initials”:

     "Unless you're DLA, don't use initials in your name or logo."

(OK, K&L Gates too.  But we're still on the fence about "V&E" outside of Texas.)  Here's an example of a firm where someone needs to have a hard conversation with 6 or 7 of its partners:

Really, guys?
When firms' names are this cumbersome, too often they elect to use some or all of their initials as the name or logo, resulting in this type of awkward design. This is just silly.  No one refers to them as "S-M-R-L."   Or even worse, as "Smerl." 

I don't know these guys, I've heard that they're fine lawyers, but I'll bet $1 that they're known locally as either "Syprett" or "Syprett Meshad."  After that, the rest of the names are just annoying static.

Below is a logo we redesigned as part of a pretty cool rebrand and website for a terrific New Orleans-based firm with a lot of names. The two logos are the same width, but one stands out and the other doesn't. 



Take a step back from your computer and tell me which one(s) you can still read.  It took real strength of character and a long-term commitment to the firm for the last four names to suppress their egos and let "Lugenbuhl" stand out. This isn't easy. Good for them. 

Of course, I never recommend shortening the actual name of the firm. The design change does not  in any way suggest that Mr. Lugenbuhl was a better person or smarter lawyer, or otherwise more valuable than the others -- his name was simply the first one on the door.  And fortunately it was strong, unique, and memorable -- a good name to use.  

Most outsiders don't really think of the firm name as a person, it's just a word - the Company Name.    

Rodger Wheaton is a great guy and a terrific lawyer, but for obvious reasons, no one calls the firm "Lugenbuhl Wheaton."   Why?  Because "Lugenbuhl" is a strong enough name standing alone that everyone subconsciously chooses to stop there.  The logo change is just agreeing with the marketplace's decision.  Being a strategic guy, Rodger, the managing partner, understood the argument, and helped advocate the issue internally.

Harry Beckwith framed this issue beautifully in What Clients Love:

“The human brain rejects names of more than four syllables, and abbreviates them.  The brain turned Harley Davidson into Harley.
"To fit into all but the largest print ads, long names must be printed in small type. Shorter names can be printed in far more conspicuous type and ensure the ad does what today’s marketing must - make their name more familiar.
"Small names act bigger."
It's what Ries and Trout call "The No-Name Trap" in another of my favorite marketing books, "Positioning: The Battle for The Mind."   If your firm has this same long-name issue, read Chapter 10 of this book (see below), or just contact me (at +1.847.432.3546 or and I'll talk you through how to safely handle the process and pitfalls.

Here's one more example, one of my favorite law firm rebrands, including logo, website, print ads, and brochure campaign from a few years ago for a dynamic litigation boutique.  It's pretty clear, isn't it?

     So?  How's your logo looking?

Logos (c) 2013 (1) Lugenbuhl, Wheaton, Peck, Rankin & Hubbard, (2) Segal McCambridge, and (3) Syprett, Meshad, Resnick, Lieb, and aw heck, all the rest of them.

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