Anatomy of a Law Firm Positioning Statement

Five years ago I wrote a post on this blog about the emptiness of law firm positioning statements, taglines and value propositions. Clearly my critique has not had the desired corrective effect over the intervening years.

How many buzz words are crammed into your firm's positioning statement?

How many buzz words are crammed into your firm’s positioning statement?

Law firm websites are now a bit less visually clunky — just a bit — but the dull, empty prose meant to animate them remains standard.

For example, law firm Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP. — Taft, to its friends —  anchors its homepage with the grand-sounding but hollow “Innovation and Leadership Since 1885.” I say hollow because no evidence is provided to back up the brag. Wait, that’s not entirely true. While it feels empty, it’s actually filled with zero-calorie buzz words strung together in insubstantial assertions:

We work as one team, driven and committed to helping you succeed. Our attorneys understand that innovative, value-creating solutions help our clients reach their goals. Our collaborative approach, advanced technological resources and depth of services can transform what you expect from your legal team.

The mind reels.

A Law Firm Positioning Statement That Works

By contrast, my friends over at Klein Moynihan Turco LLP have crafted a positioning statement that connects its business practices and priorities with those of its clients.

Internet Lawyers Working on Internet Time

Our clients work in the Internet, mobile and new media worlds, where time is always of the essence. Whether our clients are working on mobile, telemarketing or e-mail marketing campaigns, hosting fantasy sports websites or conducting promotional sweepstakes, we ensure that they are compliant with all applicable laws, rules and regulations and are first to market.

Nailed it.

Three Rules of Thumb

If you’re considering updating your law firm’s positioning statement or crafting a new one, these simple guidelines will help you add depth and context.

Identify and articulate:

  • How your firm differs from/is better than your competitors.
  • Why current and potential clients should care about those differences.
  • What unique expertise your firm possesses.

Give it a shot. Let me know what you come up with.

Winning Words: What Do We Mean When We Say “Experience”?

In a post on The Great Jakes Blog yesterday, Robert Algeri made an important point about vague or undifferentiated positioning and messaging in law firm taglines:

A quick glance reveals tagline after tagline of monotony. Here are a few examples from the AmLaw 100:

  • Experience. Creativity. Results.
  • Experience Innovation
  • When Experience Matters
  • Everything Matters

I agree that advertising taglines generally don’t provide value for professional services firms (mostly because they’re not pervasive enough to generate top-of-mind awareness), but a unique value proposition is essential for crafting an effective marketing communications program.

Crafting a pithy, evocative expression of your brand’s essence — whether it’s a tagline, a positioning statement or an “elevator pitch” — is tremendously difficult, but it provides coherence and focus.

For example, “Experience. Creativity. Results.” might not move the needle as a tagline, but could be a powerful editorial blueprint. Think of a blog where every post reinforces one or more of those attributes. Likewise, clearly and consistently incorporating those characteristics into case studies and presentations given by individual attorneys — whatever their niche — has a cumulative effect and distinguishes both the attorneys and the firm as a whole.

Differentiated positioning and messaging are:

Direct – Specific words convey clearer ideas. “Experience” is not an inherent strength, let alone a unique advantage. Also, unless it is contextualized, it can be high-sounding but basically meaningless — consider the Rommelwood Military Academy motto from “The Simpsons”: “A Tradition of Heritage.”

 At base, “experience” only conveys longevity, which is comforting but not compelling. If what you’re really talking about is superior insight or a record of success derived from experience, say that.  Similarly, if you have unique experience in a niche (e.g. international adoptions), lead with that.

Ownable – If you can credibly replace your name with a competitor’s in your positioning and messaging, it’s not ownable. How many times have you seen lawyers touting “We Fight for You”  or “We Have a Passion for Justice”? Unlike all those other surrender monkeys who are indifferent to justice?

What’s your secret sauce? Connections? Creativity? Big-dollar awards? Reassuring manner and pleasant phone voice?

Identify it and communicate it.

Defensible – You can easily and credibly support your claims with data.