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Should We Change Our Law Firm’s Logo?

By Elonide Semmes

The process of updating your law firm’s website or marketing materials invariably creates strong opinions about whether to change the firm’s logo. While consistency and brand equity (as well as being budget friendly) are valid arguments for keeping your existing logo, it’s important to understand that a change could be a powerful move.

Generally speaking, most law firm logos were not conceived as part of a comprehensive brand. Just think of how many law firm logos exist with a traditional serif font, with multiple names shown stacked, or in some shade of blue. Most are neither distinct nor memorable, and seldom were they designed carefully or chosen based on what would stand apart from key competitors. More likely they were selected based on the partners’ personal aesthetics, or what leadership believed they could get approved.

Just Because It’s Old Doesn’t Mean It’s Good

While examples of successful logos that remain virtually unchanged — think Apple or Coca-Cola — may support the mantra of consistency, take care to make “apples to apples“ comparisons. There is a difference between consumer goods targeted to the mass market and your legal services targeted to in-house counsel and C-suite executives. With some consumer products, a “bond” is formed by the user — a feeling of true identity with the product and related logo. Think Harley Davidson. If the logo changed drastically, would there be a lot of laser tattoo removals? To date, we haven’t seen any law firm logos tattooed on arms.

It’s just not that memorable. When we conduct focus groups of AmLaw 200 buyers of legal services and ask them to describe memorable law firm logos, often there’s a struggle to recall any logos — except for Skadden’s early adoption of red or the Orrick “O.” So if you worry that changing your logo will waste equity you’ve built, the hard data just isn’t there to support that argument.

Logos and related marketing materials should position your firm to compete effectively. The more similarities your firm’s graphic identity shares with its competitors, the less likely a buyer will burn that firm’s name into their long-term memory.

It’s out of date and out of sync. Why saddle marketing efforts with a logo at odds with what the firm actually is today? Or worse yet, why create confusion by having an antiquated logo slapped on a contemporary website or ad campaign?

If you are considering a logo change, ask yourself these questions:

  • Is your firm’s logo different enough from key competitors? (Look at color, font, structure and icons.)
  • Does it feel true to who the firm is today and where the firm is headed?
  • Is it meaningful? Does it start to tell a story about the firm?
  • Would your logo catch your eye in a sea of logos at a trade show or the Chamber of Commerce event?
  • Is it flexible? Will it work as well digitally as in print? Or on a T-shirt for the charitable event you’ve just sponsored?

Logos like Apple’s and Coca-Cola’s have been around a long time. But the logos you see today are not the original logos created at the companies’ inception. At some point, these companies made a drastic visual jump to the recognizable logos we see today on products and billboards. We advocate for the visual jump, and then to keep the logo consistent, unless a strong reason demands a change.

Every law firm situation is different. Sometimes the logo should be kept, sometimes it should be refined, and sometimes it should be completely changed. But in all cases, your logo is part of a full branding program and should be evaluated with careful scrutiny, not protected because of indifference or fear of change.

Illustration ©

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Elonide Semmes

Elonide Semmes is the President of Right Hat, a brand consultancy that “helps law firms create simple yet powerful brands.” At the heart of Right Hat’s approach is getting into the minds of buyers by grounding strategy in external research, not just internal opinion. Elonide is a member of the Legal Marketing Association’s Hall of Fame and a Fellow in the College of Law Practice Management. Follow her @esemmes.

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