What’s Your Legal Team’s Brand - Part 5

Laura Jeffords GreenbergLaura Jeffords Greenberg
Written by
Laura Jeffords Greenberg
February 15, 2023

What’s Your Legal Team’s Marketing Plan? 

Returning to the wisdom of Simon Sinek: 

  • “People don’t buy what you do. They buy why you do it.” 

Often in-house legal teams face push-back when “selling” their services and advice. Building a brand around your legal team’s purpose and values ensures your “why” becomes embedded in all that you do. Infusing your team’s actions with your brand should change how your team interacts, is approached and received by the rest of the organization. 

I believe building a strong legal brand facilitates legal buy-in across an organization, reduces friction, and ensures legal a seat at the table. 

There are many ways to develop your legal team’s brand but I like breaking it into 4 steps:

  • Step 1: Purpose
  • Step 2: Core Values
  • Step 3: Brand Personality
  • Step 4: Brand Guidelines

Let’s dive in and build your legal team’s brand! 

Step 1: Purpose

You’ve established your team’s purpose in Step 4 - it’s your why. This is a good time to revisit your purpose to ensure it addresses: (a) what you want your team to be known for and (b) how your services become a part of your user’s goals. Your purpose should tie what you do to your why, which means it connects your work to a higher purpose. 

Step 2: Core Values

Developing core values will help your team to build trust within the company, which is important for cultivating a successful and thriving legal team and function. It is also important for brand building.

Your values shape your brand, the decisions your brand makes and how your brand acts. They should have meaning on a personal and organizational level. These core values will become deeply ingrained principles that will guide your team’s actions. More importantly, and sometimes forgotten by legal teams, your values should align with what matters most to your users. 

The easiest way to identify your team’s values is to brainstorm. 

You can start with Liza Furze’s list of over 200 brand value words and/or explore these questions:

  • What does my legal team stand for?
  • When conducting my business, what do I consider most important?
  • What do I believe in?
  • Do you want users to be happy, empowered, or more informed?
  • Do you want users to feel positive, confident, or intelligent?
  • Consider the negative aspects or perceptions of an in-house legal team. How does your team address and overcome these negatives? 

Discuss. Decide. Then write down your values. 

If you are using single words to describe your values, I’ve found it’s helpful to customize these words. If a word like “reliability” stands out to you, ask yourself why. For each value word, ensure you can explain how your brand upholds it. It may be helpful to include a brief explanation after each value word.

For example, Coca-Cola defines their brand values, by adding a short phrase to each one:

  • Leadership: The courage to shape a better future.
  • Collaboration: Leverage collective genius.
  • Integrity: Be real
  • Accountability: If it is to be, it’s up to me.
  • Passion: Committed in heart and mind.
  • Diversity: As inclusive as our brands.
  • Quality: What we do, we do well.

Your values should:

  • Connect with the services you offer and
  • Connect a higher purpose (i.e. your purpose statement (why)). 

For example, if your core values are centered on innovation, you will want to frame your services as pushing boundaries and explain how that helps your users innovate. 

Thinking about larger and more diverse legal teams I was inspired by Volvo’s approach. Volvo’s mission statement is “Driving prosperity through transport and infrastructure solutions.” Pushing forward and prosperity are core values for the company, which they’ve tied to their services. 

Given their wide array of services, they’ve further broken it down to “making modern life possible” with the following sub-categories: 

  • On the road: Our products help ensure that people have food on the table and roads to drive on.
  • In the city: Our products are part of the daily life. They take people to work, collect rubbish and generate power. Volvo Group is developing tomorrow’s public transport solutions.
  • Off road: We contribute to the extraction of some of the world’s most important raw materials. Volvo Group’s engines, machines and vehicles can be found at mining and construction sites and in the middle of forests.
  • At sea: Whether you are at work on a ship, on holiday in your pleasure boat or need urgent help from the sea rescue services. 

You can see how their values run through these sub-categories. I raise this example because it may be useful to develop unique value statements for each team or department within legal. For example, the legal team supporting sales will be much more focused on revenue and speed than the compliance team. Each team’s value statement should roll up and support the purpose statement for the legal organization.

Once you’ve developed your brand values, you will want to check that your brand reflects and connects with your users. This requires the legal teams to understand their user’s motivations, needs and aspirations. Luckily you’ve already explored this in the development of user personas in Step 3. Validate your brand values against your user personas to ensure the values are addressing your users’ pain points. 

Step 3: Brand Personality

5 dimensions of branding

Brand personality is the set of human characteristics you attribute to your brand and values conveyed to customers. The 5 Dimensions of Brand Personality is a great starting point to introduce brand personality. 

Why is this important? 

Customers are more likely to connect with a brand if its personality is aligned with their own. By infusing your brand with human characteristics, it makes it easier to engage with your users. A brand with a sense of personality is much more relatable. 

Once you've established your values, you can build your brand personality by asking your team questions as if your brand was a person:

  • How does my brand act when they go to a party?
  • What does my brand talk to its friends about?
  • What excites my brand? 
  • What scares my brand?
  • Why does my brand behave X way? 
  • What drives it?

It's critical you're able to describe who your brand is. It will help your team create materials that resonate with their users and begin to build a strong brand and brand loyalty.  If done effectively, your users will begin connecting to your brand without realizing why they feel as emotionally compelled as they do. The more specific you can be when identifying which traits belong to your brand, the more authentic and unique your legal team brand personality will be.

In defining what your brand is it can also be helpful to define what your brand isn’t. This can help crystalize your brand’s personality. 

In addition, your brand should not be stagnant. Over time and as you talk to your users, you'll want to remain open to iterating on your personality. For instance you might receive feedback that your brand is a little too aggressive. To fix this, you might soften your brand's personality and use more calming language in communications. With these tips in-mind, you're now well on your way to developing a strong, unique brand personality that works best for your team.

Step 4: Brand Guidelines

Over time, your team will change. New people will join, others will leave. If you don't have strong guardrails that outline your brand it will deteriorate over time. 

Brand guidelines set the standards and rules an organization uses to maintain brand consistency. They define the framework for visual, verbal, or written communication. Building a Brand Guideline provides information and guidance for how your team should communicate with their users. It also outlines what your brand is and isn’t or does and doesn’t do to establish a consistent tone of voice. 

Tone of voice is extremely important for legal teams since most of the legal team’s communication is written. 

Tone of voice establishes how you want to speak to your users and how you want to be heard as a brand across the company. For example, do you want your brand to sound more approachable or authoritative? [1]

There are generally four dimensions of Tone of Voice, which are represented by the following combination of words: 

1. Funny v. Serious 

  • More Funny:  “Whoops! Looks like you’re lost, this page doesn’t exist.”
  • More Serious: “This isn’t the page you’re looking for.”

2. Formal v. Casual

  • More Formal “You can rely on us” 
  • More Casual “We’ve got you covered”  

3. Respectful v. Rebellious

  • More Respectful “We prefer to think outside the box.”
  • More Rebellious “We break the rules.”

4. Enthusiastic v. Matter of Fact. 

  • More Enthusiastic ”We’ll help you get it done!”
  • More Matter of Fact “Just do it.”

Where do you want to fall on the spectrum between the two opposites presented in each pair? For establishing your brand’s voice, you need to gravitate to one side or the other. If you play it safe in the middle between the pairs you run the risk of having no tone of voice at all. [2]

Also consider whether your Brand Guideline will address: 

  • Using plain language and avoiding legalese
  • Using graphics and images instead of words to convey critical information
  • Limiting the number of words per slide in presentations
  • Listing words your team likes and dislikes
  • Avoiding acronyms without explanation
  • Incorporating legal design principles
  • Talking to your communications, marketing or branding department for help

With these steps completed and your brand established, it’s all about ensuring your team adheres to the guidelines.

And that’s your marketing plan! 

Happy branding! 

Previous: How Does Legal Make You Feel?

[1] See the Creative Circus Agency’s Create a Badass Brand Style Guide 

[2] See the Creative Circus Agency’s Create a Badass Brand Style Guide