Earlier today Dr George Beaton (@grbeaton_law), Partner in Beaton Capital and an associate professor at the University of Melbourne, posted the following question to Twitter:
“Which firm is the ‘world’s strongest’? Skadden or Baker & McKenzie or Jones Day. Confusing”
With a twitter pic link to an article on the Global Legal Post website that contains links to the following “Related stories”:
Leaving aside the issue of financial strength, as George’s tweet clearly infers brand strength, the question I always ask when I see news items and survey responses of this nature is this:
Does it really matter?
And the answer to that really depends on what my firm’s overall strategy is.
Taking a step back, whenever I’m asked in my role as a business development consultant by law firm partners of the importance of such survey findings I will often respond by asking them the following question in return:
Imagine we are on a long distance flight on an important business route – say Sydney to London or Tokyo to New York. Now, say I give out a questionnaire to all 300 plus passengers on that plane asking them the simple question of whether or not they have heard of your firm. Would you prefer:
A. a greater percentage of passengers in first class to have heard of you?
B. a greater percentage of passengers in business class to have heard of you? 0r
C. a greater percentage of passengers in economy class to have heard of you?
Now if your firm’s business plan is to be doing “premium work for premium clients”, then my guess is you’d want a greater percentage of first class passengers to have heard of you. Similarly, if your business plan is to be working with the top ASX 200 companies, then I would hazard a guess you would want to be known by both first class and business class passengers, with the edge being on the greater brand recognition among the business class passengers. Finally, if your firm’s business plan is to be a leading B2C law firm, that I’m guessing you wouldn’t mind if your brand is widely recognised by the economy class passengers.
A very simplistic way of looking at this issue? Very much so.
But, at the end of the day, despite headlines that read ‘Top legal brands grow 45pc faster than others over last four years‘, I’m very much of the view that surveys of this nature fail to ask a more critical question, namely:
Do you regularly, or have you ever, instructed one or more of these firms you have heard of in the last three years?
Because, does it really matter if you have heard of me but never given me any work (ie, fed me)?
And all of this is before we get into the even more interesting discussion of whether or not you instruct individual lawyers (lawyer name [brand] recognition) – either at my firm or elsewhere – regardless of which firm they work for (lateral hire movements)?
After all, we have a long flight ahead of us…