Are you in the process of starting or rebranding a law firm?
The decision of what to name a law firm is something that can have far-reaching impact on the attorney or attorneys in the firm. It can impact everything from the obvious marketing, to the less obvious attracting and hiring good staff, to the nearly intangible things that can make or break a practice such as client control and even susceptibility to ethics complaints.
This post is intended to help attorneys think through the process of naming their firm whether opening their first law firm, rebranding, or merging with (or perhaps breaking up with) partners. we hope it helps with your process. For a more in-depth guide, we recommend downloading this eBook on the topic:
Your Law Firm’s Name is a First Impression
One of the most difficult decisions that lawyers starting a new practice struggle with is what to call their firm. Are you in this boat?
There is much debate about whether a solo practitioner can have a firm called “The Law Offices Of…”, the plural of office being the crux of the debate. Do you need more than one lawyer to have “offices,” or more than one office? If it hinges on physical offices, is one location enough for a solo practitioner to have “offices of” if there is more than one room in the office suite?
When there is more than one partner in a law firm, the debate is oftentimes about which partner’s name comes first. Should it be alphabetical? Should it be by age? Should it be what sounds better or is easier to pronounce?
The important thing to remember when it comes to naming your law firm is that you want people to be able to recognize it and say it easily. Notice how most of the old firms that had five or more named partners in the firm’s name have since shortened it.
It’s Not All About You
When it comes to naming your law firm, it’s often hard to put ego aside. If there are two or more partners or firm owners, it may help to bring in an outside uninterested 3rd party who can mediate any ego or taste clashes between partners.
Be sure to watch out for traps that may be hidden. For example, you might want to avoid naming your law firm “Anderson Smith and Shore” because inevitably the firm’s acronym will be used for something.
Are Location and Entity Necessary?
Some attorneys choose their name based on their location, region, or practice area. Examples include names such as, “Northwest Criminal Defense Center,” or “Inland Personal Injury.” Be sure to check with your state bar’s ethics rules before giving your firm such a name, as the rules vary.
Many attorneys feel that it is necessary to call their firm the exact same thing as their legal entity. Sometimes this can be a mouthful, and most clients don’t care if you have a “PLLC” after your firm’s name even if you are a “professional limited liability company,” registered with your state’s corporations commission.
Your firm’s name can impact the public’s perception of your practice. It can also affect internal morale and dynamics. For that reason, give careful thought to the name you choose.
As part of the law firm naming process, you should also make sure that the name you choose is available to register as a domain name. If your proposed firm name is not available, in a dot-com version, consider a variation. Potential clients and referral sources sometimes type in law firm’s names as web addresses, and the last thing you need is a potential client or referral (who is meant for you) to end up on the website of another attorney or law firm.
What Should a Law Firm Name Convey?
The law firm name that you choose needs to do many things. It needs to convey:
These are a very minimum set of starting points. You obviously don’t want to name your firm “The Trustworthy, Prestigious and Experienced Law Firm.” In most cases, your name will convey this.
What if you are a young lawyer just starting out, and all you have is trustworthiness because numbers two and three on the list above are yet to be earned?
In that case, stick with your name. By doing so, you can avoid a title that may sound unnatural for your level of experience.
We’ve seen many articles advocating against using your name in your law firm’s name. However, when it comes down to it, the attorney is the product and the service. It’s you, first, foremost and always. It’s you who is being sold, and it’s your service that is being bought.
Our CEO, Attorney Dan Jaffe, tested out four variations of his name in his own practice.
- “The Law Offices of Daniel M. Jaffe”
- “The Jaffe Law Firm”
- “Daniel Jaffe, Attorney at Law”
- “Daniel Jaffe & Associates”
Different names had different effects on the perceptions of clients and potential clients.
#1 “The Law Offices of Daniel M. Jaffe”
This was the most successful of the names in terms of both attracting and retaining new business. While you can draw your own conclusion as to why that was the case, we believe that the name accomplished several important things:
- It created trust by having an actual person’s name in the firm name.
- It created an expectation that the named attorney would not be the only person working on the client’s case.
- It contributed to a perception of success (offices as opposed to just an office).
#2 “The Jaffe Law Firm”
Next was “The Jaffe Law Firm.” This title may not have been as effective as the one above because, while clearly associated with an actual attorney in the practice, it didn’t give out as much information. Is the firm male or female-owned? Is it just one attorney, or many? What does “Jaffe” mean, anyway? His potential clients had to dig further to find additional information about him.
#3 “Daniel Jaffe & Associates”
This name did almost as well, but not quite. We think it may be because some vital information was missing. The most important missing item may have been the fact that it is a law firm. While it was not tested, we suspect that “Law Offices Of Daniel Jaffe & Associates” may have done better. The “& Associates” part is a matter of some debate when it comes to naming a law firm. Most non-lawyers don’t know that the term “associate” typically refers to another licensed attorney. The term also has some negative connotations. For a law firm, it is often used as a way of saying that the lead attorney has other attorneys working for him or her, but we feel there are better ways of saying this.
#4 “Daniel Jaffe, Attorney at Law”
This name performed worst of all. While there were many possible external factors, we believe that talking about the attorney as a person, as opposed to the firm, creates a feeling of smallness and impermanence which may affect the trust and experience factor.
What Else Should a Law Firm Name Do?
Your law firm’s name is going to be attached to virtually everything your firm does. From your pleadings, to your business cards, to your website, to your email signature, to your front door, your clients will see your name more than they see you. Here are some other considerations to keep in mind:
- Your law firm’s name needs to be easy to remember. This goes back to the advice of not overcomplicating the name by using too many named partners.
- Your law firm’s name should be easy to spell. If you have a name that is difficult to spell, you might take that fact into consideration. Referrals and referral sources may not know the exact spelling of your name, and that may make it difficult for them to find you and your firm.
- Your law firm’s name should be easily incorporated into a logo
- Your law firm’s name should accommodate growth. As you grow, especially as you take on partners, the name is likely to change. That said, it is a good idea to consider a naming convention whereby, as you grow, you can retain some recognizability in your firm’s name. Keeping a last name of the biggest rainmakers as firms merge is a standard practice.
- Your law firm’s name will be mentioned throughout your firm’s website, and therefore what you call yourself can affect how easy or difficult it is for clients and potential clients to find your website.
What’s in a (Law Firm) Name?
While your firm’s name is not the only, or most important consideration, it is a major one, so don’t gloss over it. Spend some time deciding. And most importantly, get feedback from people who are not related to you, and who fit the profile of somebody who would either become a client or refer clients to you.
We regularly help attorneys who are starting or rebranding their firms. Contacting us early in the process helps the attorney better navigate and coordinate the confluence of other choices that cascade from naming a law firm including domain name selection, logo, website styles, images and colors, and a general approach to growing the firm’s new brand through their website.
The best way to understand what LawLytics is and how it can help you get started, or restarted, on the right foot with your firm’s website is to schedule an interactive demo so you can experience it for yourself.