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Law firm mergers: a tasty concoction?

June 25, 2015

Leading brand valuation consultancy Intangible Business has launched a new report on its research into law firm branding – likening recently merged firms’ brands to classic cocktail combinations in a light-hearted comparison to celebrate the summer season.

2013 and 2014 has seen a string of merger announcements as the legal industry consolidates in response to the much heralded impact of deregulation, with the introduction of ABSs creating new competition in the industry and causing existing law firms to examine their next strategic move in light of these changes.

Intangible Business went out to its client base and invited them to compare recently merged law firm brands to well-loved cocktail combinations, with some tasty results.

The research follows on from a similar exercise in 2012 where Intangible Business invited a focus group to draw comparisons between law firm and chocolate brands, in a bid to help the industry think about the branding opportunities they needed to get to grips with in a changing market. Almost two years on, the opportunities and threats of mergers on firms’ brand management is the big topic of the day.

SJ Berwin’s merger with Asian giant King & Wood Mallesons in 2013 was dubbed a Singapore Sling – ‘A classic drink with an Asian flavour’.

Murray Prior, Executive Director of Marketing and Business Development at the firm liked the comparison and suggested that when it comes to branding, “most firms are deeply connected to their heritage, often making it difficult to embrace rebranding and differentiate themselves in the legal market. King & Wood Mallesons on the other hand recognised the merger as an opportunity to create a powerful brand to resonate with clients and staff; a brand that is bold, new and grounded in the new world. It plays to where we think the global legal market is going.”

This international flavour was echoed in the recent merger of Squire Sanders with Washington firm Patton Boggs, creating Squire Patton Boggs which was likened to a Manhattan for its ‘strong US flavour.’

Closer to home, the merger of two stalwarts of the British legal scene, DWF and Cobbetts, drew the comparison to a Mojito for its reputation as ‘a classic mainstay’.

Slater & Gordon’s string of acquisitions inevitably saw it branded a Long Island Iced Tea. As one interviewee noted, ‘it’s a strong tipple with lots of ingredients that you can continue adding to.’
Intangible Business’ Managing Director Thayne Forbes said that the Report showed how law firm mergers are both an opportunity and a threat for the firms’ brands:

“Firms might not always place branding at the top of their list in merger considerations but it should arguably be the first matter to be discussed at the negotiation table.

“As demonstrated with the cocktail of merged firms in the Report, law firm branding is undergoing a revolution, with firms using mergers as an opportunity to modernise and refresh their branding.

“Merged firms that do not consider their brands can suffer an identity crisis, both internally and externally. If employees and clients become disillusioned and feel the values and ethos of the firm have changed, they may not feel as loyal to the organisation as they originally felt.”

“Mergers inevitably cause a stir in the legal industry, so law firms are advised to choose their new brand identity carefully and let it do the talking for them.”

PDF icon Law firm mergers: a tasty concoction?