5 Tips for the Best Law Firm Logo

What does your law firm logo suggest to your potential clients?

You only have one chance to make a first impression. Upon meeting a new or prospective client and exchanging business cards, the client will get an impression of your firm based on the law firm logo alone.

So, what does your logo say about your firm?

Your law firm logo represents your law firm to the outside world. Every seemingly insignificant aspect of it makes an impression on the client. Font. Color scheme. Name arrangement. Text size. Spacing. Inclusion of a scale or gavel image.

Looking at your business card and firm logo, your client gets an impression. Your client forms an idea in his or her head of what your firm stands for. Is your logo modern or traditional? Does it make you look frugal and indifferent, like you made the logo yourself in Microsoft Word or does it look like you value your reputation and appearance, and had a professional designer create the logo?

Before approaching a logo designer or creating the logo yourself, there are some very important steps you can take to get a clear picture of what the logo should entail and how it should represent your law firm.

Tip 1: Look at your competitors

You don’t want your law firm to look like the other law firms in your practice area and location, lest your firm be unmemorable to the client. The last thing you want to do is confuse the client with what sets your firm apart from everyone else. See what you like about their logos. Make notes. Try and gauge how their logos make you perceive their law firms. Do their logos make the firms appear professional or do they seem like the firms are unremarkable? Think about what you like and don’t like about these firm logos when deciding on how your own logo is going to look.

Tip 2: Modern or traditional? Decide on a theme

Do you want your logo to be modern or traditional?

These are the two main theme options for law firm logos. This usually means the difference between serif and sans-serif font. What does that mean? Open Microsoft Word or Google Docs. Type your law firm name in Times New Roman, Georgia, or Garamond font. Then, type your firm name again in either Arial or Helvetica. The first three fonts are considered serif fonts because you can see they have little lines on the bottom and sides of letters like A, B, and C. The sans-serif fonts do not have these lines. Serif fonts are associated with newspapers, considered more traditional fonts. Sans-serif fonts are associated with Internet content and are considered modern. Do you want your law firm to have the appearance of a traditional, storied practice or do you want it to appear sleek, adaptive, and modern? The choice is yours.

Tip 3: Choose a Font

Now that we’ve decided whether to go serif or sans-serif, we need to choose which font is going to represent the firm. First thing’s first, it should be noted that you should NOT use a commonly used font. Arial, Helvetica, Times New Roman. People see these fonts every day. Whether they recognize them immediately as Arial, Helvetica, or Times New Roman, people know these fonts. They see Times New Roman while reading the newspaper. They see Helvetica when getting on the subway. They see Arial while reading websites. These fonts do not make an impression anymore.

There are many sites where you can download fonts for free. Google has a directory of free fonts, most of which you’re guaranteed to not have come across. Take a look around. Use the Google Font tool to test out your law firm name in different fonts and compare them side by side.

One last tip on choosing a font: Don’t be indecisive. While two or three fonts may look similar to you, your clients will never know the difference when you choose a font for your law firm logo. They will never know that it was down to three similar fonts. The client will likely not be influenced any differently by similar looking fonts. You may want to ask someone else for their opinion on two or three fonts, but make a choice and stick with it.

Tip 4: Choose your colors

Online you can find many color wheel tools useful to help web designers choose color schemes. Click on a primary color and they will suggest complementary colors. Just make sure that you use a color selection helping tool. Otherwise, you may end up picking two colors that just don’t work together.

When picking colors try avoiding those of a law firm in your practice area and region. You want to make sure you stand apart in the mind of the client. If you think every color combination has been taken by the firms in your region, just ensure that your logo look different to distinguish you from your competitors.

Tip 5: Images or No Images?

Often a law firm logo entails an arrangement of the names of the partners. Sometimes it’s an abbreviation of those names. Other times, the logo includes a tried and true symbol of the legal profession – the scales of justice – or a gavel – alongside the partner names.

Generally, I hate the scales of justice and gavel. They’ve been played out. They’re overdone. They’re sickening. They’re unimaginative.

If you are going to include an image alongside your partner names, why not include a memorable image that represents your law firm, conveys professionalism, and also originality? You can do this by including an image, if you so choose, of the initials of the firm partners’ names. If the firm is Crane, Poole, and Schmidt, you could have a small CPS initialed logo. This is a more modern element to law firm logos, differentiates the firm, and also looks professional. So, if you are going to include an image, consider shelving the gavel and scales for something a bit more contemporary and unique.

Conclusion

With all of these tips in mind, you’re ahead of the game. Whether you decide to make a logo yourself or approach logo designers, you know what you want your logo to convey. You know the message you want your clients to receive. You know how your competitors look and how you’re going to look different. Now, you can clearly envision what your logo is going to look like without having to get wildly different designs from a designer that won’t be useful for your firm.

If you are proficient at Photoshop, I would suggest taking a shot at creating a logo yourself. If not, maybe you should consider hiring a logo designer. In this crowdsourcing era of Internet technology, logo designs can be incredibly inexpensive. There are many sites now like 99designs.com where you can crowdsource your logo design, having up to several hundred design mock-ups sent to you by freelance designers, with you choosing and paying for your favorite.

Good luck.

Doing Well by Doing Good: Law Firm Social Responsibility

Corporations increasingly subscribe to the principle of corporate social responsibility. CSR is based on the belief that a demonstration of concern for the environment, human rights, community development and the welfare of their employees can make a corporation more profitable. And if not more profitable, at least a better place to work.

Law firms can learn from corporate experience to create their own social responsibility programs. Such programs can help law firms to do well by doing good. They can strengthen the firm’s reputation and market position. They can help the firm identify with the culture and CSR activities of clients and potential clients. They can help lawyers and staff find more meaning in their work and improve as human beings.

In the words of the social responsibility Karma Committee at Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck: Be kind. Be generous. Be concerned. Donate time. Donate effort. Donate money. Just find a cause and give. You’ll quickly discover giving is also receiving.

A panel discussion about how law firms can learn about CSR and introduce some of its elements into their own models was sponsored by the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the Legal Marketing Association. The program was held May 8 at Maggiano’s Little Italy in downtown Denver.

Panelists included Sarah Hogan, vice president of Barefoot PR; Bruce DeBoskey, lawyer and founder of The DeBoskey Group, which focuses on philanthropic advising; Joyce Witte, Community Investment Advisor and director of the Encana Cares Foundation, Encana Oil & Gas (USA); and Amy Venturi, director of community relations & karma at Brownstein. Moderator was Cori Plotkin, president of Barefoot PR.

At law firms, the product is the people – the lawyers and support staff who provide high quality legal services. It is an easy fit. There are many ways that this ‘product’ can contribute time, talent and treasure to socially responsible activities.

Social responsibility: Focus and strategy

Law firm social responsibility is all about making a difference within the community and the profession, and within a firm. Even the best efforts will make no impact if spread too thin. You cannot maximize the value of your contributions or tell your story if your efforts are too diluted. To decide how to most effectively invest its resources, a law firm needs a social responsibility focus and a strategy.

Social responsibility efforts must be authentic. Law firms and other entities should always avoid ‘green-washing’ – telling a story that is aspirational, but not really true. Know yourself. Let your firm’s unique culture and skills determine which efforts to pursue and which to avoid.

When examining your culture, don’t limit yourself to partner input. Law firms are small communities, almost like families. Any effort to define culture and social responsibility should represent not only the interests of lawyers, but the interests of all levels of support staff. Efforts must be meaningful throughout the firm. The benefits to employee recruitment, retention and satisfaction can be remarkable.

DeBoskey outlined three types of community involvement and stated his belief that a good social responsibility plan includes elements of all three.

In a traditional model, an organization ‘gives back’ randomly to the community when asked – as a good citizen, rather than for any strategic purposes. In a social responsibility model, these efforts align with the capabilities of the business – like the legal skills of lawyers. Every non-profit needs legal advice.

At it’s most sophisticated, a social responsibility program involves using your core product – legal services – as a tool for social change. Volunteer with organizations like the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System at the University of Denver, or the Rocky Mountain Children’s Law Center.

A strong focus makes it much easier to make decisions. Encana, for example, focuses its charitable giving strategy on issues surrounding its product — natural gas. Brownstein will donate money only if the request comes from a client, or if one of their attorneys is a member of the organization and on the board.

Law firms looking for additional advice can find valuable resources within the Corporate Community Investment Network. CCIN is an association for professionals whose primary responsibility is to manage community investment programs in a for-profit business setting.

Many corporations and a few law firms have actually created separate foundations to mange some of their giving. A foundation comes with more restrictions and different tax methods. As entities with a life of their own, however, foundations are more likely than one-off efforts to continue a useful existence.

Social responsibility: Good policies make good decisions

Strategy and focus provide the foundation for an effective social responsibility policy. Most law firms are inundated with requests from good causes asking for their support. A policy helps you know when to say “yes” to and when to say “no.”

In the law firm model, where all partners are owners with a sense of entitlement to resources, it can be very difficult to say no. A keenly focused policy makes it much easier to do so and keep the firm’s efforts on track.

Encana, for example, uses a five-step tool to determine the level of fit between a request and the company’s strategic goals in the field of natural gas – with level five being the largest commitment and level one the lowest.

Level five efforts integrate core product or service and often involve natural gas vehicles and energy efficiency initiatives using natural gas. These efforts contribute to best practices and leading trends in the industry, while enhancing the company’s reputation as a leader.

Level four efforts focus on strategic partnerships and often involve sustainable and long-term solutions like workforce development initiatives, signature programs (which can be repeated in other markets) and multi-year grants.

Level three efforts include strategic grants to assist with projects, programs or initiatives made to local non-profits aligned with natural gas.

Level two efforts include responsive giving, which is a one-time gift for a broad community effort that has local support. Participation of company representatives is required.

Level one efforts include the “t-shirt and banner” category, which contains one-day items like dinners, receptions, golf tournaments, events and races. These offer the least impact and awareness for the money, and therefore the least support.

At Brownstein, requests made to the firm are judged by two factors. The firm considers only requests made by clients and requests made by organizations where one of its attorneys participates at the board level.

Social responsibility: Engagement

Effective social responsibility programs involve not only checkbook involvement, but personal and professional involvement.

At Brownstein, the brand has always been about being out in the community. Six years ago, Venturi was asked to formalize this essential component of the firm’s culture into a social responsibility program that would further energize lawyers.

She started by spending 15 minutes with each of the attorneys, to discover their passions – which were used to identify a good non-profit match. After all, lawyers and staff will stay involved and do their best only when an organization is something that they care deeply about. If there is no engagement, the placement will backfire.

Finally, Venturi offers the lawyer’s services to the non-profit in some capacity – but it must be at the board level. Otherwise, she won’t make the match.

Project Karma is a Brownstein program dedicated to volunteer opportunities, and maintains a committee in each of the firm’s 12 offices. It sponsors informal lunch & learn presentations by local non-profits to encourage interest.

The message about active engagement by lawyers and staff must come from the top. Brownstein makes it very clear that the path to partnership for a new attorney is based not only on legal skills, but also on engagement and involvement with the community.

It is important to add a community involvement component to lawyer reviews, even if it is only one goal a year. That lets the lawyers know that you are serious. The Colorado Supreme Court asks every lawyer in to contribute 50 hours of pro bono work each year. Integrating these programs leads to win/win results for the firm.

Not every firm can match the efforts of a large company like Encana or a large law firm like Brownstein. However, there are good matches for firms of every size. Once again, it is all a matter of focus.

In fact, it is much easier to get five members of a small firm to focus on a strategic initiative than 500 lawyers in a huge firm. If a law firm has $10,000 to donate, that money goes a lot father and has a lot more impact to one organization than do $100 donations spread across 100 organizations.

Smaller law firms can also multiply its impact by partnering with others in an industry, like vendors or clients, to support a particular non-profit.

Social responsibility: Return on investment

Corporations measure the results of their social responsibility programs, and use these results to make decisions on efforts going forward. Law firms should do the same.

At the end of the year, Encana uses its five-level model (outline above) to analyze our charitable giving. How much was given at each level? Then the company sends a form to each non-profit, asking the recipient to evaluate outcomes (statistics for what was accomplished), process (did efforts meet the intended audience) and impact (what difference did it make).

Encana asks recipients to reply within 60 days, and uses this information to calculate return on investment. Those who do not report back are not eligible for further contributions. The non-profits might gripe at first, but they seem to change their minds once they’ve been through the process – finding that it has useful strategic value.

It is entirely appropriate to ask a non-profit to document the results they’ve achieved based on your contribution. It lets them know that you are truly invested in the organization. They will see you more as partners and engage you differently.

Most corporations have created and benefited from well-thought-through and strategic social responsibility programs. Law firms are starting to do the same. A program with tight focus and strict guidelines guarantees maximum impact and awareness in exchange for a law firm’s commitment of time, talent and treasure.

Documenting Legal Information Through Legal Transcription

In the world of transcribing, there may be none as important as the legal transcriptionist. Not only are they charged with the responsibility to record legal interviews for hearings, motions, pleadings, depositions, legal argument, and judgments, there are countless other topics that these transcribers must document accurately, efficiently, and without any pause.

The major reason that legal transcription is so important is because it can be used as evidence in an important case. Not only that, it can also be used for future reference for possible repeat offenders in some instances. These transcriptionists will sit for hours on end, documenting each word that is said between legal parties. While in some cases, it may be done through a recording of the legal movement; it is often times done live and without any ability to pause in typing.

Unlike other forms of transcription, legal transcriptionists often times will type on specialized transcription equipment, rather than on a computer. The major reason for this is because if the power goes out, or if there is a technical error during a court hearing, there is no way for the transcriptionist to get back any lost files, which may have actually sent a criminal to their rightful place.

While there are many freelance transcription jobs out there, legal transcription is not one of them. Legal transcription often times requires years of college education, but why? Well, with something so important on the line, there is no room for a rookie error. Typically, these people are hired after schooling and years of transcription work under their belts. However, it is possible to get them fresh out of college as well if you show potential in accuracy and speed.

If the court or company that is needing legal transcription doesn’t have an in-house transcriptionist, they will often times hire from one of the many different transcription companies housed in each state and country in the world. This is mostly because if they hire in, they do not need to pay an hourly or salaried employee when there is no work to be done in transcribing.

On the flip side of the coin, if you’re a hiring law firm or someone else who may need legal transcribing? It is quite easy to find a legal transcriptionist these days with the invention of the Internet. It seems they are a dime a dozen when you know just how and where to look.

Of course as with anything else that is for sale, whether it be time, goods, or transcribing, the prices will vary from place to place. However, just because it is affordable, won’t mean it is bad. Just like if it is extraordinarily expensive, will it be good. The most important thing to do is to look for the credentials of both the individual who will be performing the legal transcribing and the company, which employs them. Remember; protect yourself from scams, even a company with good standing in the legal world can get scammed online. Know the company that you are hiring for legal transcription!