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House Stationery Is the New Black
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Analog Attorney

House Stationery Is the New Black

By Bull Garlington

Image is critical. You know this. It’s embedded in every design decision you make for your practice. You labored over your website and dropped a significant wad of cash to make it look good. Your business cards are richly tactile, with serif small caps embossed on 100-grain paper. Your brochures are award-worthy. Your emails are gorgeous.

You’ve considered everything about the experience of your office, too, from the carpet to the door handles. Everything you offer potential clients and visiting counsel is top-notch. Outstanding. Until they ask for a piece of paper. Then you toss them a bent legal pad you got from Office Supply Store dot com.

Image Is Tactile, Too

Visitors to your office judge everything, from the way they’re greeted to the comfort level of your meeting room chairs. It may be your estate planning skills that bring them in the door, but while you’re going on about the best way to inventory their collection of antique garden shears, they’re thinking this legal pad is crap. I’m hiring my cousin.

Lydia Evans, the owner of Chicago’s Letterpress by Lydia, agrees:

“The argument could be made that any service you provide that lacks a tangible entity benefits from a tactile representation of its value. And, the more high-end that representation is, the better the message is sent to your clients that your service is the best.”

House stationery is a way to introduce a distinct sense of style to your office and curate the user experience your visitors will associate with your firm. But we’re not talking VistaPrint here. Great stationery is custom fitted like a bespoke suit. You’ll want to reach out to a local printer, or depending on your budget, one of the historic stationers who’s been printing letterhead and invitations since the Civil War. Sit down and talk with them about paper. Ask about places to use fine quality printing and engraving in the office.

Here are three ideas that local Chicago printers (and yours truly) think will make a difference in your meeting room, your shared space or your lobby.

House Letterhead

You might have letterhead already. You might just use a custom header in your Word files. But visiting counsel isn’t going to ask your office manager for paper. Offering a short stack of fine quality paper is a nice gesture and delivers your brand message with a flourish.

“For a top-shelf attorney, only engraved stationery materials should be considered,” according to Gary Mordhorst of AccuColor Plus. “Engraved business cards, heavyweight note sheets and Monarch-size note cards and envelopes. All on 100 percent cotton papers, like Crane’s or Reich Savoy.”

Of course, you’re a lawyer and you’ve already disagreed with me because leaving your letterhead unsupervised could lead to mayhem and pranks. Which is why the house stationery you provide is not your official letterhead, but more like branded paper. It’s the difference between a business card and a calling card.

Analog Attorney House Letterhead is the new black

In the footer of your stationery, instead of the usual address and other details, put only your company motto and web address. This further distances it from official letterhead and promotes your brand to whoever shoves it into their briefcase — which is not so much stealing as unintentional marketing.

Special Stationery Items

Think about how your guests move and work in your space and look for the most likely place to add nice stationery. Some ways to use it:

  • Give them your Wi-Fi password and other network details embossed and foil-stamped on an opulent paper card.
  • Keeping delivery menus behind the desk is helpful, but how about giving your guests the three best delivery joints and their top menu items imprinted on a nice vertical menu card — with your logo and info at the bottom, of course.
  • You could have a map of your offices, of the business amenities, the coffee hutch, and the conference room, engraved on heavy card stock with your logo at the bottom.

According to Forbes and 97 million other business branding websites, much of a company’s value lies in its intangible assets. All those late nights honing your skills have turned you into a legal ninja. Intangible. You’ve written a body of citable briefs that make you a thought leader in your niche. Tangible. Luxurious paper products combine these qualities: a gorgeous piece of stationery bears the intangible value of your style and consideration. When clients hold it in their hands, it bears that same message in a very tangible, tactile, memorable form.

Of course, paper alone is not enough. Consider providing quality writing instruments and branded pocket notebooks. However, those are more akin to promotional items. Stationery is different. Stationery is an understated, generous way of informing your visitors that you think beyond the brief, that you’ve considered their experience. That you have class.

Shop at Top Stationers

  • Prantl, Europe’s oldest printer, sets a standard that’s hard to beat. Its writing paper sets are perfect.
  • A classic New York stationery shop, Dempsey & Carroll has been engraving such luminous specialties as silver beveled calling cards since 1878.
  • Smythson has been making deliciously dignified paper products since Queen Victoria’s golden jubilee.
  • Stately and stateside, Mrs. John L. Strong was founded on the heels of the great stock market crash of 1929.
  • Los Angeles stationer Sugar Paper’s bespoke work is elegant and slightly whimsical.

Illustration ©

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Categories: Analog Attorney, Daily Dispatch, Law Firm Branding
Originally published July 29, 2018
Last updated April 13, 2019
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BULL Garlington Bull Garlington

Analog Attorney columnist Bull Garlington is an award-winning author, columnist and public speaker. He is the author of the books “Fat in Paris,” “The Full English,” “Death by Children” and “The Beat Cop’s Guide.” He prefers South American literature, classic jazz, Partagas 1945s, a decent Laphroaig, and makes a mean chicken and andouille gumbo. Follow him @bull_garlington.

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