Unwritten messages

There's not much to look for, or at, in most law firms' literature.

Many legal brochures are interchangeable in terms of the text, service values and marketing claims they try to communicate. The majority are also copy-heavy, difficult to assimilate and geared towards the internal workings of firm. Most also go straight into the bin.

So, what do you look for? Lloyd Northover Citigate's view is that a brochure should convey the personality and ethos of the firm.

Text should focus on client needs and should leave the reader feeling they have at least learnt something about the firm, its people, where they excel and the firm's particular areas of specialisation.

This is quite a tall order when most law firms offer a similar service. It is, however, the people who deliver that service and how they do it which can set one firm apart from another.

These are also very difficult notions to communicate and even harder to convey in the written word. It is the visual or unwritten messages in a brochure that often communicate different levels of information and convey cultural messages about the firm.

The text of the original brochure Citigate worked on with Rowe & Maw followed the standard 'menu' of services approach.

The visuals, however, sought to give an insight into the people, the clients and the workings of the firm.

Rowe & Maw also elected to take the patronage route and commissioned artist Noel Myles to produce four large photo-collages of various aspects of the firm and its work (see above and pages 17 and 24). The pictures said as much about the firm as the words. The brochure initially had a mixed response, but has generally been favourably received.

Another important element in producing literature is consistency of message and application. This is also one of the basic principals of corporate identity – thorough and consistent implementation.

When Rowe & Maw considered its new brochure, the firm elected to update its existing brochure – giving consistency of message. It also decided to commission four new pieces from Noel Myles.

The new works will focus on the 100-year history of the firm, its work within the City of London, its clients and its strong personal relationships with clients.

The text in the new document emphasises client needs and explains how the firm works. It also conveys the views of the partners, who, uncommonly for a law firm, speak with unanimity about the firm's many strengths.

The new brochure will be published in early 1995 and an exhibition is also planned of the new works. The original works now hang in Rowe & Maw's Blackfriars Lane offices.

As for the original brochure, it is now regarded as a great success. It is certainly memorable – which is perhaps what to aim for.

I wonder how memorable other firms' brochures are?

Hugh Oxborrow, director, Lloyd Northover Citigate.