At Contrast & Co., we don’t like our branding projects easy. In fact, we’re usually at our best when working on challenging brands in unforgiving industries with few easy answers. This is not only when we are happiest. It’s where we’re exceptional. And it’s also the reason we’re hired. The organizations that usually seek us out have unique offerings in the marketplace. They have complex products and services, and they struggle to articulate them effectively. They struggle to be seen. To be noticed.
We’ve personally been branding in the legal space for decades. My official design career began working for a small legal marketing design firm. It was there that I learned the basic rules. The challenges of marketing in this space. What works. What doesn’t. The nuances in language. The complex needs of attorneys. The all-important bio. The difficulties of consensus. The aversion to risk. The importance of recruiting. And the list continues…
Across the board, the legal industry has complex marketing and communication requirements. Which is why people are often surprised to learn that firms were once reluctant to even advertise their services.
Now, in today’s hyper-competitive business environment, few firms doubt the value of an effective brand. But the industry at large still remains slow to adapt creatively. And often, what passes for creativity here simply isn’t enough.
As law firms fend off competition from other firms, intelligence platforms, and consulting behemoths, the value of a powerful brand today is more critical than ever before.
But recognizing a need to stand out and actually being noticed are fundamentally different concepts. The first is easy. The latter, extraordinarily difficult. Why? For starters, law firms are limited in how they can communicate, often restricted in even what words they can or cannot use.
This is the first challenge, but it's easily solvable. The more complex challenge is that all law firms are ultimately still delivering legal services. Those legal services may take vastly different forms and shapes. They may be in different industries across different time zones. But ultimately, they are all still delivering legal services. That is the constant.
When we ask firms what it is that makes them different, we often hear identical responses. Not similar responses, mind you—identical ones.
We’ll hear: It's our people. Or, it’s our depth. Our reach. Our culture. Our collegiality. Our business acumen. And so on.
It’s not that the detailed descriptions that follow these statements aren’t believed. They are. But the challenge persists: If everyone is essentially saying the same thing, how do you tell a story that others aren’t telling? How do you create an experience that people haven’t experienced before? How do you make your mark when everyone is using the exact same pen?
We understand the rules of legal marketing. We’ve worked with firms around the corner, and Global 200 and AmLaw 200 firms across the country—some of the absolute leaders in the space. What have we learned? Legal branding has evolved, just not nearly enough. Changing your logo, updating your website, making your attorney photos bigger, and calling it a day just isn’t going to cut it.
Law firms today require a far more thoughtful and creative approach to branding. Forget what your logo or your color palette looks like for a second.
How do you create a brand experience that shapes people's thoughts and actions? How do you define your culture in a way that actually aligns behavior across your firm? How do you build a brand that exudes purpose and inspires pride? How do you create flexible design systems that scale for vastly complex communication needs?
These are the challenges of law firms today. And they’re not going to be solved with dated thinking and templated solutions.
When it comes to those solutions, we look outside the law. We respect the rules of legal branding—but we also know which rules to break. How? We’ve worked with organizations outside legal that struggle with very similar challenges. We’ve worked with cybersecurity companies unable to differentiate their platforms. We’ve worked with food delivery services competing against much larger market forces. We’ve worked with nonprofits that have lofty goals and not much else.
These are the challenges we like to solve. And it is here that we see the possibilities for law. The chance to apply a different way of thinking. To usher in a unique creative approach. To create visual symbols that seamlessly cascade across all touchpoints. To refine messaging frameworks that standardize the language for organizations to communicate.
So, what are our three laws of legal?
Everything starts with positioning. If everyone is saying the exact same thing, it’s time to say something fundamentally different. It’s time to zag, so to speak. We had worked with Hogan Lovells before on multiple internal communication initiatives, from mastering digital technologies to firm-wide protocols on client service. But branding their massive global regulatory practice was a different type of challenge. They wanted a bold and recognizable practice area positioning strategy and a unique visual vocabulary that could help support it.
Everyone was talking about the regulatory space. How tediously complex it was to navigate. Nobody was speaking about advancement. So we took a different tact. The result: “Go.” It’s an idea that’s strong, definitive, powerful. “Go” is an unexpected position that reinforces the concept of being able to advance clients in the face of complexity. And with a visual identity designed to reinforce this idea of movement and momentum, the brand was well on its way to the forefront.
Our brand redesigns begin with a powerful orienting idea. That’s key. But even as the idea gives the brand direction and purpose, it’s the shapes and visual signals we choose that give that idea form. When we rebranded Wiley Rein into Wiley, the firm had been at the forefront of defining the legal and regulatory frameworks for the most instrumental change-makers in the world. But they had evolved significantly over the years—and as the team accelerated into a new decade, it needed an identity that could effectively communicate both its legacy of impact and vision for the future.
Our solution: “Wired into Washington, Felt Across the World.” Brand idea, complete. But from a design perspective, we wanted something more. We wanted a powerful defining shape that could scale easily across their entire marketing engine. Using a shape culled from the logo that we named The Pillar, we established a defining visual element to unify the look of their brand communications across all touchpoints. From practice area brochures, to social media posts, to covers of DEI reports and recruiting materials, The Pillar gave Wiley a powerful symbol to anchor their identity and own their look.
Most recently, we worked with Rissman. With offices stretching across Florida and over 100 lawyers navigating the nuances and demands of defense, this powerful insurance defense firm has cultivated an approach that’s truly distinct. So, we set out to reflect their aggressive drive, collaborative spirit, and passionate dedication to results through a distinctive voice and messaging experience.
Enter “Rissman Resolves.” In the landscape of insurance defense, intricacy runs deep and the stakes are incredibly high—especially in Florida. Whether navigating workers’ compensation matters, medical malpractice concerns, automobile liability, or premises liability cases, Rissman resolves to deliver what clients need most: Results. “Rissman Resolves” captures the ethos of the organization—and the accompanying tone and vocabulary choices we made throughout the brand reinforce the perspective at every turn. One firm, two core practices, and a boldness and a confidence that was palpable in every touchpoint of the brand.
These are just a few samples of the groundbreaking work we continue to do in legal marketing. We’ve got a few other big firm rebrands in the works, and working in this space is always energizing on so many levels.
Okay, enough talk. We’re ready to listen. Just as importantly, we’re ready to help create some contrast. If you’re looking to partner on legal sector branding, get in touch to see how we can create some real impact together.
Contrast & Co. is a boutique brand strategy, design, and digital studio driven to create the smartest and most effective brand experiences anywhere. We help organizations of all sizes define themselves and express their messages in ways that are unique, motivating, and powerful. From naming and identities to comprehensive brand guides, rollout strategies, and websites, we help our clients stand out and get noticed.
Contrast & Co. has been named to Adweek's Top 100 Fastest-Growing Agencies. We see it as our responsibility, and honor, to help our clients shine—so let's create some contrast together. Reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org