Issue 1 – Summer 2019
Read about rockhopper, Re:Links, BLM Innovations and new report on branding legal tech and much more.
What’s new in the world of branding tech and innovation by law firms
In a flurry of activity last month, three global firms launched new lawtech brands within just a few days. All three follow the recent trend of separating out their legal services proposition from their master brand. Greenberg Traurig has Recurve, Eversheds Sutherland announced Konexo, and Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner debuted BCLP Cubed. These subsidiaries – alternative legal services providers – are described as innovation-focused and tech-led.
Konexo stands out with a striking yellow-and-purple combo (truly distinct from Eversheds Sutherland!) A modern sans serif logotype uses ‘X’ to reinforce the idea of connections along with the strapline ‘a meeting of minds’. Like Konexo (‘A Division of Eversheds Sutherland’), Recurve – not yet launched officially – will use a linking device to connect it to Greenberg Traurig.
While Konexo and Recurve are branded as separate entities, BCLP Cubed is more aligned with a sub-brand strategy; anticipate it adopting some visual elements of BCLP’s main corporate identity.
All three brands provide more evidence of a growing trend for law firms to brand their alternative delivery services separately: that is, selling different services to the same audiences. Most still use the master brand in this: acting as the hallmark for quality. In contrast, Recurve and Konexo join Condor (Fieldfisher) in a small group of stand-alone brands. These new structures provide the flexibility to manage free from the constraints of the traditional law firm. Accessing external funds, developing JVs, acquiring businesses, free to hire talent are some of the reported benefits.
All three of the new also names have a “techno” feel. (One caveat: could Greenberg Traurig find itself facing ‘throwing a recurve ball’ type headlines in future?)
BLM, the insurance risk and commercial law firm, has launched BLM Innovations, an AI-based toolkit for the insurance sector. BLM Innovations includes an assortment of seven tools covering online analytics, case management and communications (Foresight, Pathfinder, Forum, Collaborate, Searchlight, Realtime and Smartcase).
The firm leverages the reputation of its master brand BLM, adopting a sub-brand approach. The overall platform is BLM Innovations, with each of the seven sub-brands using the same visual identity and palette of colours. This approach requires careful management – the addition of multiple new solutions to a portfolio of similar-looking entities may make it more difficult for clients and partners to distinguish between them. (At DWF, this has already happened: at the last count, the firm had 12 sub-brands!)
To underline its approach to technology and how it delivers this, BLM uses the proposition ‘a smarter way to work’. ‘Smarter’ as a word and theme, however, is becoming over-used. Pinsent Masons has ‘SmartDelivery’, while Clifford Chance talks about ‘smart technology to improve delivery’ and HighQ claims ’smarter delivery’.
BLM Innovations – A smarter way to work
See more at https://www.blmlaw.com/blminnovations
Pinsent Masons recently launched a smart new website – and it’s taken the opportunity to refresh SmartDelivery, including an overarching video which spells out its narrative around “people, process and technology”. The firm believes SmartDelivery is a mindset and a response to the “more-for-less” client debate: it’s also a way for all lawyers at Pinsent Masons to consider people, process and technology in transforming the way they deliver services to clients, and the advice they give.
Ashurst also uses the power of three to describe its approach (“process, technology and resourcing”). Allen & Overy’s narrative has “expertise, resourcing and technology”. The similarity doesn’t end there: both Ashurst and Allen & Overy use the idea of delivery and, interestingly, “advanced delivery”. They are not alone: Addleshaw Goddard has “intelligent delivery”, Clifford Chance “innovation and best delivery”, and Linklaters “advanced matter delivery”. And, Pinsent Masons’ “SmartDelivery”.
Either firms are not working sufficiently hard to find alternative words and phrases, or no alternatives are available. How many suitable prefixes are there for delivery? As firms extend their ranges of solutions and products, and find it necessary to package them, this “me-too” approach may reach its limits without new creativity.
SmartDelivery – an intelligent mix of people, process and technology.
Clever. Re:link is Linklaters’ contact lawyer proposition, drawing (not exclusively) from its extensive alumni network, the idea being to “re-link” with former lawyers. The branding is distinctively Linklaters, using the same deep pink in its quirky and modern serif font. Re:link is more aligned to Linklaters than (say) PeerPoint is to Allen & Overy or Vario to Pinsent Masons – and this is important, because it increases Re:link’s capacity to trade off the equity and advertising spend for the Linklaters brand.
The firm adopts a hybrid approach to branding: the endorsed name first, followed by the master brand designed using Linklaters’ visual identity. This is in contrast to how the firm branded ‘nakhoda’ (the firm’s technology and AI platform). Separate name. Separate identity. Two different approaches. If not checked, other brands could be free to adopt their own approach. Adding to any (potential) market confusion. This a good example of the importance of establishing and agreeing a brand architecture first, before launching any new brands. It would also include debate on the use of phrases, initials and words to support or describe the master brand ie. ‘link’.
Back to Re: links. One point: a too-frequent use of ‘re’. One sub-head on the site already offers: “The market re-defined”. The prefix ‘re’ is widely used to form new words, but repeating this to reiterate the brand name would be regrettable!
Perusing the websites of law firms, I came across a few brand names that caught my eye.
NRF Parker is NRF’s suite of chatbots. Humanised with a Christian name, and positioned as a servant ready to assist, Parker uses AI to talk (though presumably not “You rang, m’lady?”) The site then follows up with: ‘If after chatting to Parker you need the help of our lawyers…’ Why Parker? Clearly somebody at NRF likes the Thunderbirds, but positioning these chatbots as a servant (not to Lady Penelope!) is a clever way to provide legal information to clients.
Keoghs, the insurance firm, gives its AI handling tool a female persona (Lauri). Like Parker, Lauri talks. Siri and Watson have been around for a while, but the approach – using machines to “talk” and giving them human names – is a new move for law firms.
Be careful in choosing a name to connote the right blend of characteristics for both parent and offspring: and steer clear an simplistic or jokey option… (In the 1990s, “Bob” was one of Microsoft’s more visible product failures, derided by Time as “overly cutesy”).
NB: what about a genderless voice and name? Q is the name of the first genderless AI voice ; and as the promotional video remarks, “created for a future where we are no longer defined by gender, but rather how we define ourselves”. Certainly hits the mark on diversity!
“Create” was an obvious choice for Clifford Chance in naming its innovation lab. But why ‘+65?’ The clue is Singapore, where the lab is based. ‘+65’ is the international dialling code for Singapore. It’s memorable and apposite.
“rockhopper” is Lewis Silkin’s contract lawyering platform, with a website featuring penguins of the same name. It’s a brave choice – why rockhopper? The suggestion is that both lawyers and clients can hop in and hop out of using the service. Unstuffy and friendly, it (probably) hits the mark for the firm’s range of creative, innovative and brand-focused businesses.
If you come across other unusual names chosen by firms in branding their tech, please drop me a note: I’ll publish the best.
There’s no shortage of opportunities to attend and speak at lawtech and AI conferences, seminars and summits. New events pop up all the time: this is, after all, a big growth area. When it comes to branding, hosting is a good technique.
Allen & Overy employed this when it hosted the relaunch of the Innovative General Counsel Club, using its tech innovation space Fuse. The panel discussions covered tech adoption, how to foster successful collaboration, and what the future will bring.
Organisers at Alternative Events in June launched Alternative Insights.
Continuing its commitment to connecting the Professional Services technology ecosystem across Accountancy, In-House Legal, Law Firms, Management Consultancies and Property & Real Estate, Alternative Insights is a new platform for sharing and accessing insights across sectors.
By bringing together insight across sectors on different topics, Alternative Insights aims to give members the knowledge and tools to address issues of concern and opportunity.
Earlier in the year, we reviewed how the top 30 UK law firms brand innovation and lawtech. From reviewing websites, our findings show that more than half of the firms we reviewed are failing to form a clear narrative. Unsurprisingly, most are still using the reputation of their master brand to endorse tech offerings.
If you are looking to review your approach to branding, or starting out on the journey, download a free copy of our report here. It includes 6 ideas to make your lawtech branding work harder.