31 October 1995
A brochure should be seen not as a means of presenting credentials but rather as an opportunity to express the philosophy and personality of a firm.
Most brochures are modern, stylish and struggle hard to look interesting. Some use a mixture of styles to provide interest but lack coherence. Some use illustration, currently in vogue with accountancy firms, but lack sophistication. A handful take an intriguing, intelligent and oblique but relevant approach.
When law firms tackle the issue of quality they generally limit their thoughts to materials and printing and therefore limit the overall quality of the result - the design and typography are often poorly crafted. Worse still, too many brochures show little consideration for the audience. The aim should be an effective document that will encourage new clients. Good brochures communicate on an intimate, one-to-one basis - the potential client should feel the brochure is directed at him or her. Only one brochure that I have seen addresses these issues with the client's perspective in mind and uses case studies to tell a story via clients' stories. This gives it credibility and substantiates the benefits of working with a particular firm. So why isn't this approach seen more often?
Partners often want to present their areas of expertise in an individual way, yet their firm's brochures often show them as remote, tedious and autocratic. With this in mind, is a single all-encompassing brochure the best way of marketing your firm? Even if you decide that it is, individuality should still be recognised and communicated. Where partners are involved in very different aspects of the law, yet operating under one firm's identity, it may be best to create a related series of brochures. This allows variety in how each partner represents his or her department but need not lose sight of the importance of a strong overall identity.
The designer's job is neither to create an artificially rigid structure within which everything must fit, nor to hijack the project and produce a self-indulgent portfolio piece. The end result should be driven by content and structured to achieve coherence.
Many law firms have tried to differentiate themselves from their competitors but have still produced brochures that are practically interchangeable with those from other firms simply because they have taken a 'pick and mix' approach using the same fashionable devices. Some even say in the text that they are a firm with a difference while the brochure is presented in the same old way.
Many brochures are good to look at but ignore fundamental principles of communication. When producing a brochure, the first questions must always be "Who is it for?" and "In what circumstances will it be read?" The brochure can then be tailored for its audience, omitting superfluous jargon. On the basis that less is more it should leave out information that prospective clients don't need.
Consider using consultants working outside the legal sector - they may be able to provide the objectivity and originality you need. Choose a designer first for creativity and second for relevant experience.
Together, we should look for means of expression that carries the legal profession forward.
Otherwise we will create and perpetuate an environment that stifles innovation, recycles ideas and inhibits communication.