Legal branding – its significance in the context of legal recruitment
The Lawyer this week published an article on the annual findings of research conducted by Acritas into the relative strength of UK Legal brands. Eversheds came out on top and has now won this award 3 out of the last 4 years beating both DLA and Pinsents as well as the rest of the magic circle, all of whom were in the top ten.
So how important is brand strength as a potential recruitment tool for law firms and can national publicity like this be used locally to effect change in the choices and opinions of legal talent in Manchester and elsewhere? If so how is this achieved?
This research only surveyed senior buyers of legal services (2300 this year) and therefore didn’t seek the opinion of those working or commentating on the profession. Also it is impossible to know without further analysis of the research whether or not there were regional variations in brand strength and how London centric this exercise was.
One might say they have asked the most important people, the clients. Nonetheless the very nature and structure of the largest law firms means that its people from Managing Partners to paralegals have to – to varying degrees – “buy in” to their working environment and the people they work with. While this is true of any organisation, the principle of consensus and commonality that underpins an LLP makes this even more true for most law firms, particularly at Partner level. We’ve seen this recently as Addleshaws look to establish consensus and agreement on altering their partnership deed – its vary rare that top down decisions, particularly those affecting Partners, don’t result in a fall out.
Given this unique context it’s fair to say that any research into legal brands would do well to consider the opinion of private practice lawyers themselves. In large law firms the picture is further muddled by regional variations where they compete against law firms in differing ways. For example, Eversheds can legitimately claim a long running commitment to Manchester through legacy firm Alexander Tatham. In contrast in the North East they have been viewed as outsiders given the longstanding presence of a number of rival firms in Newcastle with deep connections to the local community.
How important is this to legal buyers? Perhaps not so much, but it has proven effective in altering or reinforcing the views of regional legal communities and those that commentate on them. Further in large law firms there are further nuances between different departments. Again these are often driven by perceptions of the culture and personality of Partners within specific teams which can be very different even in the same firm. The unique nature of the legal community, particularly outside of London where news tends to travel fast, means that the perception of brand strength can feel like its arbitrated on by fellow lawyers as opposed to those they serve.
The importance of brand strength as one of a range of factors within the wider recruitment piece can be debated. However what brand strength actually means varies across the country and while client perceptions are key, very often the legal community itself play a pivotal role in deciding which teams are on the rise and which are in decline. Effective use of brand perceptions as a recruitment tool is therefore very nuanced and much more emphasis should be placed on responding to local factors and perceptions, as well as recognising the importance of the opinions of the industry itself.
For a confidential discussion please contact Paul Warbuton at Think Legal Recruitment – firstname.lastname@example.org