Marketing Matters Boost Your Firm’s Brand

Goldfish, Zebra Robes and Law Firm Branding

I gave a “Branding, Differentiation and Firm Culture” presentation in Seattle some time ago and the law firm put me up at the Hotel Monaco. I love all the quirky Kimpton family hotels. The rooms are all unique and different, with funky furniture and furnishings. At a Monaco, it’s all the little eccentricities that differentiate them and set the tone for your stay.

Ross Fishman, JD

For example, at a typical Hilton, Hyatt or Marriott, the robes in the closets (if any) are fluffy and white. At a Monaco, they’re leopard, giraffe-print or zebra-striped. Simply donning a robe makes you smile — and I’m not really a robe guy.

However, my favorite part was that if you were feeling lonely, they’d bring you a pet goldfish in a nice big bowl. Frankly, I travel regularly and don’t get all that lonely. But I always requested a goldfish anyway. When the bellman brought the goldfish to my room, he set it down — along with a tiny table-card informing me that the fish’s name was Jason or whatever. It was a genuinely sweet touch.


The little quirks put you in a good mood and on your best behavior. The staff is well trained and highly professional. The accommodations are appropriate for a business traveler, but the innovative touches make it warmer and more personal — a pleasant change.

When I later spoke to the law firm, we discussed culture and differentiation.

“All law firms look alike,” the managing partner declared.

I assured him that they didn’t have to.

It’s up to the firm to decide who they want to be, and how they want their people to behave — what they value and how to execute on it. But we have to decide very specifically and tell them just as clearly, and then we must model that behavior.

As it turns out, the managing partner at this firm also enjoys staying at Monaco hotels. I asked him, what he’d do differently if he decided they wanted to become the Monaco Hotel of law firms? If they wanted to infuse more style and personality into their environment?

You can be different. It’s simply a matter of choice and leadership, and it starts with understanding who you are and want to be.

I remember walking into the lobby of the Gilbert LLP firm. It had a red Ducati racing motorcycle in the lobby instead of a sculpture, and autographed electric guitars and album covers instead of framed artwork in the hallways — it was a conscious decision. They know very specifically who they are and how they want to be perceived, and they ensured that they told that story as soon as you walked through their doors.


How would you dress? What would hang on your walls? What little robe- or goldfish-like touches could you create that would be appropriate for a law firm, but still get people talking and feeling like they were part of something special? How could you make your environment more comfortable and inviting for your clients? What training would be required? Would you have to hire more or different people?

It’s not that you can’t be different. It’s just that you haven’t yet chosen to be. But wouldn’t it make the firm a more interesting place to work?

Not long after that, I was working in Boise, Idaho, and stayed in the Hotel 43. When I entered my room, I was greeted with a little stuffed bear on the bed wearing an adorable Hotel 43 terrycloth robe.

It’s just a little thing, but after a long day of traveling, it really helped set the hotel apart from the typical business hotels. Can you imagine a Hilton or Hyatt doing something like this? No, you probably can’t.

It doesn’t take much to stand out, but you first have to know precisely who you are and what your message is. Once you do, finding ways to convey that sensibility to the marketplace is relatively easy.

How can your law firm use this same type of idea? And I don’t mean tiny plush lawyers in terry robes.