From Cobbetts to Cosmopolitans: law firms are ‘like cocktails’, claims brand research

What do Slater & Gordon and Tom Cruise have in common? Both make people think of Long Island Ice Teas, according to brand consultancy Intangible Business. 

‘I’ll have a Mojito, please,” requests a DWF lawyer on a chilled classic summer Friday.

The consultancy asked focus groups of law firm clients to compare recent mergers with well-known cocktails in a bid to assess their perception of brand new law firm brands.

Dentons’ Swiss Verein is akin to a B-52 for its “short name that packs a punch” and was made up of “three ingredients that blend together well”, said its client base. The firm’s three-way merger with Fraser Milner Casgrain, SNR Dentons and Salans was distilled in 2013 (8 November 2012).

Sex & The City fans should turn to Norton Rose Fulbright according to the report, as the merged firm most like a Cosmopolitan. Clients are reported to have said that it was “internationally recognised and familiar to many”.

Shakespeares reputed shaken-not-stirred approach to growth earned it the 007 classic, the Martini, according to Intangible Business. The firm may have not have been thinking about James Bond when acquiring Leicester-based Marrons and Coventry firm Newsome Vaughan in September, but its clients apparently were (5 September 2013).

The firm is “shaking up Britain’s domestic legal industry,” the report said.

At the most alcoholic end of the scale was Slater & Gordon. The firm’s concoction of mergers over the past financial year including Pannone, Fentons and Goodmans Law made it a “strong tipple with lots of ingredients, that you can continue adding to” (17 February 2014).

The designated driver of the group was BLM. The tie-up between HBM Sayers and legacy  Berrymans Lace Mawer, which went live on 1 May, made it a mocktail (1 May 2014). The tie-up gifted BLM its first presence in Scotland with the addition of HBM’s offices in Glasgow and Edinburgh but it still did not remind people of Scottish classic, the Rusty Nail, unlike Thorntons.

“A combination of some of Scotland’s finest”, clients apparently said, who likened the three-way merger between Thorntons, Murray Dnoald and Steel Eldridge Stewart to the thoroughly traditional tipple.

From the other side of the pond came Squire Sanders with a “strong US flavour” following its tie-up with Patton Boggs earlier this year (27 May 2014). 

Intangible Business’ managing director Thayne Forbes said: “Firms might not always place branding at the top of their list in merger considerations but it should arguably be the first matter to be discussed at the negotiation table.

“As demonstrated with the cocktail of merged firms in the report, law firm branding is undergoing a revolution, with firms using mergers as an opportunity to modernise and refresh their branding.

“Merged firms that do not consider their brands can suffer an identity crisis, both internally and externally. If employees and clients become disillusioned and feel the values and ethos of the firm have changed, they may not feel as loyal to the organisation as they originally felt.”

If comparing law firms to cocktails might seem of dubious value, try chocolate. Last year Intangible Business’ focus groups found that Eversheds shared characteristics with Kit-Kats, Slaughter and May was like a Crunchie and CMS was like Toblerone.

The full list (read in moderation)

King & Wood Mallesons SJ Berwin – “A classic drink with an Asian flavour” – Singapore Sling

Slater & Gordon – “A strong tipple with lots of ingredients, that you can continue adding to” – Long Island Ice Tea

DWF – “A classic mainstay” – Mojito

Norton Rose Fulbright – “Internationally recognised and familiar to many” – Cosmopolitan

Dentons –” A short name that packs a punch, with three ingredients that blend well” – B-52

Squire Sanders Patton Boggs – “A strong US flavour” – Manhattan

Thorntons – ”A combination of Scotland’s fines” – Rusty Nail

Blake Morgan –  “Life is simpler with two complimentary ingredients” – Gin and Tonic

BLM – “A low-risk blend” – Mocktail

Shakespeares – “Shaking up Britain’s legal industry” – Martini