News and Views on branding tech and innovation by law firms
News of PwC entering the UK LawTech market with its ThoughtRiver collaboration has reverberated loudly throughout the legal sector. The news chimes with a trend that has seen the world’s largest four auditing and advisory firms advance, increasingly, into the field of legal services. A recent survey found 69% of law firms see Deloitte, PwC, KPMG and EY as major threats when it comes to their market share.
Meanwhile, Deloitte Legal has strengthened its claim, developing a partnering relationship with PhD entrepreneurship programme Conception X and gaining access to cutting-edge legal research and innovation. Both of these stories (occurring in the last three months) underline the intent and power of the Big 4. Without big brands and deep pockets, how are other firms responding?
This edition of BrandTech looks at how Hogan Lovells using collaboration to deliver significant benefits for clients, and at how firms are tackling the issue of naming products to help audiences understand tech. Talking of understanding, we also look at how the use of scribing and Plain English (and the role of marketing) can turn complex tech into something more accessible and user-friendly.
First, we review how some firms – looking to seize the opportunities promised by tech – have made recent brand developments.
Following on the heels of Eversheds Sutherland (which launched Konexo last summer), insurance specialist Kennedys has launched Kennedys iQ, becoming the latest firm to spin off its technology and software services business. This stand-alone business, which aims to manage claims more efficiently, adopts a sub-branding strategy to leverage the reputation of the Kennedys name for insurance. The approach will make it easier for the firm to expand into other areas of professional services, without being limited to law. The ‘iQ’ sub-brand name (shorthand for the platform’s proposition ‘Kennedys, without the lawyers’) is used for naming the iQ Platform, for example; and for its incubator iQ Lab.
This brave (oddly) sounding name does what it says. It kills duping. Or at least goes close! Kemp Little, a specialist law firm for technology and digital media, recently launched Dupe Killer, a stand-alone brand (in name, tone of voice, visual identity and website) that uses AI to recognise any design’s key features and sniff out copycat designs on the web. Kemp Little already has a modern, tech feel – ‘more Silicon Valley than Savile Row’ – but Dupe Killer pushes the boundaries further. It’s certainly more ‘NewLaw’!
Continuing its expansion plans, DWF recently acquired US legal services brand Mindcrest. DWF Mindcrest is the latest entity to form part of the firm’s sub-branding strategy but, unlike other sub-brands, Mindcrest will retain its logo, colours and website. This hybrid approach might be temporary (say, until the brand is fully absorbed into the DWF business) or it may prefigure how the firm chooses to manage its acquisitions henceforth, leveraging the visual strength of the acquired brand.
The firm recently launched its new Legal Operations function. Under the Linklaters brand, Legal Operations brings together a network of business experts who work closely with Linklaters lawyers to provide high-quality, practical support for clients. More than 400 specialists across Alternative Legal Services, Innovation, Knowledge and Learning and Matter Pricing will form part of this new client service.
Within the ‘NewLaw’ space, there’s a new name: Factor (previously Axiom Managed Services, or AMS). Factor in legal transformation, efficiency, innovation, modernisation, change, disruption – or so its website suggests. The rebrand is another step to distance operations from the Axiom brand, giving AMS independence to run things its own way.
Power of collaboration
This is becoming a hot topic in legaltech. Unable or unwilling to do things alone, firms are beginning to collaborate more widely. When clients face complex problems that legal skills alone cannot solve, they look for a multi-disciplinary approach – one that can draw upon different skillsets and know-how.
Create+65 (Clifford Chance’s LegalTech innovation hub) brings together venture capitalists, start-ups, product owners and developers, universities and private institutions to share knowledge, and to develop and test new legal services, tools and solutions.
Ashurst has developed a collaborative relationship with Cognia Law and Elevate to offer a flexible resourcing platform as part of its Ashurst Advance capability.
Hogan Lovells has gone even further. A strong believer in the power of collaboration, it makes this concept a key feature in how it delivers legal services. Which firm doesn’t collaborate? As with innovation, collaboration is at risk of becoming overused to the point of being meaningless, and few firms yet differentiate the concept. Hogan Lovells does, though.
For most law firms, in most cases, collaboration is about an arm’s length relationship in which the firm comes together with an outside provider for a specific task (1+1= 2) and then retreats. Hogan Lovells doesn’t believe in retreat: instead, it’s developed an interdependent model. With ALSP Elevate, it collaborates in a continuous, integrated way to develop different solutions, driving value for clients and for each firm, and sharing technology, knowledge and insights (1+1= 3). This seamless approach – one Hogan Lovells calls ‘fuzzy’ – can harness fully the skills and experiences not just of both firms, but of other providers such as Cognia Law and FTI Consulting. The approach has won awards, and has already delivered considerable efficiencies and savings.
Using brand architecture diagrams
Naming can be a challenge, even for the most tech-savvy partners and clients. How to come up with a name that enables others to decipher what your entity does or doesn’t do? A look at the short history of tech names (in law firms) confirms this is a delicate art. Often when names are developed at practice area level, firms (such as Allen & Overy and Freshfields) end up with a disjointed portfolio of abstract and descriptive names.
Some firms adopt a more top-down approach and use a sub-branding strategy to create a suite of related names. This approach doesn’t necessarily make names easier to understand, but at least you know where they’re coming from. DWF is a good example. At the last count, it had more than 11 DWF sub-branded services (12 if you include the new DWF Mindcrest). It also uses DWF to endorse some of its descriptive and abstract named products (DWF Pinpoint, DWF Evoclaim, DWF Notify etc).
To tackle the naming challenge, give the process more structure. Revisit or develop your brand architecture diagram. See the Tesla example. Visual schematic that shows every brand in the company portfolio – services, products, modules, tools, etc – and demonstrates how each one relates to the masterbrand, to each other and to your audiences.
This structure enables more sensible and rational decision-making about product naming, by helping to cut through subjective suggestions and ill-thought-out, throwaway names. It also makes it easier to discuss and analyse naming scenarios. What’s more, it gives a structure for your acquired products.
Structuring your products
Brand architecture also provides useful discussion on grouping products. As in the DWF example, lists can give an impression of order, but like any ‘to-do list’, they grow! Without strict management, lists (can) become unwieldy, and this makes them harder to understand.
Allen & Overy experienced and overcame this. The firm decided to give its products order and meaning firstly by packaging everything under its overarching proposition, Advanced Delivery, and then by grouping its range of products and programmes under three headings: Solutions. Technology. Resources.
Bird & Bird, under its ‘twoBirds Client Solutions’ platform, went further. It created eight groups: Access, Analytics, Assessment, Automation, Consulting, Flexibility, Insights and Protection. Each contains different products and solutions. It divided consulting further into discrete solutions: OXYGY, CyberBox, Foothold and Pattern. Phew!
Groupings help to signpost clients to where they can find the resources for what they want to achieve. But, in the case of Bird & Bird (and of DWF), there’s still an awful lot of meaning to communicate and understand. This is a big job for marketing!
Kennedys iQ made it easier for audiences to understand its six modules by reverting to a set of descriptive names, and structuring each as part of the claims cycle. Starting with Incident Manager, and ending with Recovery Manager, its analogy of a circle helps audiences to grasp what each module does, and how they relate to each other.
Talking of naming, another benefit of reviewing and developing your brand architecture is the opportunity to establish naming conventions. Types of names can include descriptive, abstract, and names that use the firm’s initials or acronyms. It can be tempting (and even legitimate) to adopt an abstract approach: creating a cool, fun, disrupter-sounding name such as Dupe Killer is a sure way to express techno credentials.
Remember that each new brand name requires additional marketing, and additional space in people’s memories. You don’t want to create confusion and misunderstanding. Consider, too, the financial and human energy you’ll need to support multiple brands.
Using scribing to bring tech to life
Technology is complex. For many, it can be hard to understand. ‘Scribing’ is a useful technique that can help to demystify topics and make them more approachable.
The aim of scribing is to extract key thoughts and ideas, then summarise these so they can be articulated quickly and easily to an audience. Our brains are wired for visual learning, and people respond strongly to images, so scribing also uses pictures to bring alive different business concepts, from strategy to change management.
Live scribing captures the essence of a conversation or presentation in a way that PowerPoint just can’t cut it. It’s a great way to capture conversations from live events – seminars, workshops and brainstorming, for example. Deloitte Legal recently adopted the approach to summarise the key discussion points at its inaugural Tech and LawTech education series for GCs and legal COO.
The role for marketing
Lawyers are notorious for speaking in code (known as ‘legalese’). Technologists also have their own language. This can leave clients and members of staff feeling lost and confused by jargon. Can marketing come to the rescue?
There’s a role here for marketing, using the principles of plain English to translate the needs of clients and how to meet these using tech. After all, the core principle of marketing is to think about audience needs: everything from listening to the client to ideating new ideas, developing marketing plans to launching them, supporting BD and practice areas to championing innovation, and developing insights to preparing tenders. There is a role for marketers at each stage of innovation.
The limitation here is bandwidth. Only a selection of the bigger firms has anything like a full-time marketing and BD staff for tech and innovation. Many firms beg, borrow and steal resources, often leaving IT, tech and innovation teams to go it alone.
In circumstances where resources are scarce, one of the most important roles is translation. To retain partner and staff buy-in, and to attract clients looking for solutions, it’s essential to ensure your firm’s stack of technology and resourcing solutions is clear and easy to understand.
How ‘the other half’ brands tech.
To discuss any aspects of our insights and capabilities, please contact Grahame Jones:
M: 07961 357 358