LI Feature

Building a Better Brand

In the hypercompetitive legal talent market, what goes into your firm’s brand can distinguish you.

It’s no secret that the legal industry is crazy competitive. The unemployment rate is currently at a 17-year low, coming in at 4.1 percent in March 2018 for the sixth month in a row. On the other hand, the number of jobs that need to be filled is at nearly an eight-year high.

So even if your firm boasts high profits and has great employees who provide results for its clients, the key to a firm’s longevity depends on your ability to attract top talent who can be developed to eventually lead the firm. Offering an attractive position, salary and benefits are perennial employee attractors. However, there’s one area you might not consider that can make a huge impact on prospective employee’s first impression of you — your brand.

According to CareerBuilder and Personified’s Employment Brand Study, companies that have a strong employment brand receive 3.5 times more applications than businesses in the same industry.

“Employment branding that properly represents your firm is critical,” says Allison Frazier, Communications Director at Sodoma Law. “It should bring and attract quality candidates and those candidates should bring and increase consult and retention rates.”

You’ve got step one covered. You have built a thriving law firm that stands out from its competitors. You have a well-known name. Now it’s time to focus on your brand.

IT’S IN THE DETAILS

An employment brand is what people believe it looks like to be an employee at your law firm. It’s what applicants and current and past workers think about when your law firm is mentioned, and includes things like the employee value proposition, the office environment, the company culture and the benefits. If the employment brand is positive and appealing, you’re going to appeal to the best candidates.


“Employment branding that properly represents your firm is critical. It should bring and attract quality candidates and those candidates should bring and increase consult and retention rates.”




“When individuals are the cream of the crop in any field, they have many choices as to where they will work,” says Angat Saini, Principal Lawyer and Founder of Accord Law. “If your firm has a great employee reputation, you’ll get a lot more applicants, and if the branding is really strong, they’ll likely be some of the best in your city applying.”

First, look at what is significant to your firm, whether it’s your benefits and perks, your work culture, your values, or all four aspects of branding. “So many firms operate ‘business as usual’ without identifying these very important elements,” says Frazier. “And, while your leadership may believe these elements meet or exceed expectations of the employees, steps must be taken internally to ensure that all employees have sufficient ‘buy-in’ to the same elements in order for there to be healthy growth and support of the brand overall.”

Next, analyze what message your law firm puts out. Are you known for your diverse workplace? Do you put an emphasis on community service? Do you fight for the rights of immigrants? Determine what your firm stands for and is attempting to achieve day in and day out.

When Jesse Harrison, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Employee Justice Legal Team, founded his firm, he stressed that his team would be representing workers, many of whom were harassed, treated unfairly and wrongfully terminated.

Collectively, he says he and his employees bring these workers justice. “All of our employees contribute to that purpose in one way or another, and we make that clear in every hiring situation. With strong branding, you will get the strongest candidates for your positions.”


“If your firm has a great employee reputation, you’ll get a lot more applicants, and if the branding is really strong, they’ll likely be some of the best in your city applying.”




MESSAGING MATTERS

You need a well-defined and consistent message that highlights your purpose across all platforms and in every situation. According to John Meredith, Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Chamberlain Hrdlicka, having this message and repeating it will build recognition. “[It] reinforces a firm’s core principles and supports employee retention. If a firm is well-known for delivering on certain principles, it helps attorneys build their individual practices and develop strong teams, leading to long-term success.”

When figuring out your message and elements like company culture and benefits, you need to speak to your employees to find out what they like and dislike about the firm, according to Saini. The latter is crucial, because if employees are badmouthing the firm online or off, it can easily take a toll on the firm’s reputation.

Make sure you ask employees how you can improve the work environment and their experiences on the job. “Even if you’re not able to accommodate every request, just the fact that you take the time to listen and show you’re putting the effort in will go a long way in their minds,” says Saini.

You may not be able to change everything, but you should at least put into practice what you promise applicants. “Don’t forget that the reason you are bringing many of these quality candidates through the door is because of your brand,” says Nicole Sodoma, Managing Principal of Sodoma Law. “It’s so easy to paint a dreamy picture of work culture and then fail to follow through. This isn’t just bad for employee retention rates. It’s bad for reputation and for the brand that’s been built.”


“If a firm is well-known for delivering on certain principles, it helps attorneys build their individual practices and develop strong teams, leading to long-term success.”




Remember to deliver the coherent messaging and support it on social media and marketing materials, and into training and onboarding sessions, says Meredith. Combined with quality work and a consistent company culture, you are only going to see stellar results: employees will stay longer, be happier, and are going to work harder to achieve your firm’s goals.

If you already have a strong employment brand already, there’s always room for improvement. Decide what your big picture purpose is, how you will communicate your unique message and what culture and benefits you provide to employees. Be clear, be consistent and tweak when necessary to attract and retain the best talent out there.

After all, according to Frazier: “Strong employment branding is paramount for longevity in a successful organization.”

About the Author

Kylie Ora Lobell is a freelance writer living in Los Angeles. She covers legal issues, blogs about content marketing, and reports on Jewish topics. She’s been published in Tablet Magazine, NewsCred, The Jewish Journal of Los Angeles and CMO.com.

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