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Firms weigh up name changes

Firms weigh up name changes

Deacons will become Norton Rose, and Blake Dawson Waldron is no more. But law firm name changes are not always so simple, with partner egos and marketing all wanting a say.

DEACONS will become Norton Rose in January, and Blake Dawson Waldron is no more. But law firm name changes are not always so simple, with partner egos and marketing all wanting a say.

A panel of legal professionals and legal marketing experts came together this week to work through the various challenges in law firm name and logo changes. 

The Legal Marketing Association-run forum, based in the United States, saw marketing professionals and savvy partners quick to point out that short catchy names are more memorable - overruling egotistical equity partners all wanting their names on the signage. 


The needs of the target audiences, as opposed to the needs of the partners, should be a key decider, reports The Legal Intelligencer, on the forum discussions. 

New Australian law firms are increasingly abandoning the traditional string of partner names in their branding. Former managing partner of Gadens in Sydney, Michael Bradley, started boutique firm Marque Lawyers mid way through last year. The firm is known for moving away from time-based billing, but the maverick firm is equally unconventional in its branding and firm name. 

Optim Legal, which launched in January last year and is the brainchild of Christian Hyland and Nick James, is built on an ideal of innovative management. James, who had stints at Freehills and Allens Arthur Robinson, said: "We see ourselves as merging management thinking from other industries."

Other, older firms are meanwhile dropping elements of their names. Freehills Hollingdale & Page officially changed its name to Freehills in July 2000, while Blake Dawson dropped Waldron in 2007.

Taking marketing ideas from the successes in other industries is seeing law firms appeal to clients that are looking for more value and innovation from their legal advisers. And a lot of that is coming from the shorter, business-oriented names they choose. 

Australian marketing professional, Bruce Boundy, managing director of Legal Marketing Agency, told The New Lawyer that short names resonate more with consumers and have many benefits, but the history of the firm is also an important factor. 


“If they have a long history, its obvious there is little need to change their name,” he said. 


However, legal marketers have established countless reasons for shorter names, especially with the increase of search engine optimisation and search engine marketing, not to mention social media engagement. 


“If partners understand the importance of a short, catchy name, its clear they are more marketing orientated and therefore more aggressive marketers overall, so odds are the firm will do better in the long run,” said Boundy. 


“Shorter catchy names are more important though in the retail and consumer areas of practice rather than the commercial area though,” he added.


While the US is a far more competitive market than Australia, Boundy said firms here are just as aware of their need to be marketing, which is why his firm is working on the name changes of two firms at the moment. 


“Even firms with longer names are universally referred to by a single name, think Mallesons and Minters, its human nature to use single easy to say names.” 


Shorter names work better because they allow for better branding and are more memorable. They are easier to say and repeat, can be more affective in online marketing, and are easier to say in media interviews, he said. 

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