DOCTOR SPIN

Two established and respected institutions have announced that they are set to reinvigorate themselves. Time magazine is planning a repositioning while the Rugby Football Union (RFU) has launched an eight-year plan to remould the game's image and make it more accessible.

Through a series of e-commerce initiatives, a television production and travel company and opening high street stores, the RFU hopes to secure the Rugby World Cup in 2007. The Union's commercial director told Marketing Week: "We need to modernise the image of the game."

Time's strategic plan involves a £6m pan-European marketing campaign. The flagship title of the AOL Time Warner giant hopes to attract a younger readership along with more female buyers. The magazine will now bear the slogan "Europe's Newsmagazine" and will be backed up with print, poster, TV and ambient advertising.

Both the RFU and Time have quality products to work with – neither are really struggling brands. But they both realise that if they are to future-proof their business, and strengthen their reach, they need to broaden their appeal. The balance is in broadening without diluting the core values that die-hard Rugby union fans and Time readers value.

As law firms become more adept at marketing their businesses, they will strive to establish their own individual brands and identities in the increasingly complex and competitive marketplace. If they are successful, they will attract loyalty and build relationships – but they will be relationships with the individual law firm, not with the legal business.

Let's face it, the legal business as a whole does not have a good image. Whether it is the pantomime antics of certain sections of the Law Society or the fat cat stereotypes of certain City practices, the law is not a sector that attracts affection or even respect.

The Lawyer has documented many times the contribution that City firms make to the economy, and we can all list clients who will testify to the efficiency and skill of those who run the legal business. But that is not the point.

The RFU spokesperson also said: "The team is performing well and playing an attractive game. We need to exploit that." The same could be said of the legal business. Rugby union has the RFU to do that, and clearly – with a bit of help from the Lottery – it intends to back that up with cash.

Its tempting, but probably futile, to go off here into a critique of the Law Society and its position as the industry's public face – an industry which is now diverse, specialist and with little to hold it together beyond a legal qualification or two.

The thing is the specific image and brand of the City-based legal business is crucial to everyone's future. AOL Time Warner has realised that a successful magazine and brand that has served the company well may not hold the next generation of magazine subscribers.

As new technologies are opening up new options for clients, City firms may not be able to depend on, some would say take for granted, their subscriber base in the way they always have. They – and the emphasis is on the plural – may have to win them back.

This is not a matter for individual firms, it is matter for the business a whole. There is something specific about the City and its legal business that needs communicating, selling and reinvigorating.

City firms need to ask themselves whether they are happy having their collective image defined by stereotypes or by chance, or whether they want to take control of it and reinvigorate it in ways that they control.