How about watching Mad Men for some inspiration?
By Tony Wilson
Regular readers of this column might recall a piece I did a few years ago called “Law Firm Names in the Age of Google,” where I bragged about being a part-time branding guru and suggested naming law firms after celebrities just for the increased Google hits from people looking for jailed, rehabilitating or misbehaving starlets. Instead of finding Britney Spears, Paris Hilton or Lindsay Lohan, they’d find your newly branded law firm instead. You could place targeted ads on the right hand column of your web page, and increase your firm’s bottom line. Or if you were lucky enough to have Fiona Apple and Peter Macintosh as partners, you could rename your firm after a popular product, and neither the (surviving) Beatles nor Steve Jobs could stop you from naming your firm “Apple Macintosh.”
Unfortunately, law firms aren’t taking my branding advice. Lang Michener had a good chance when they merged with Toronto’s McMillan Binch in January. If they’d all been drinking with the TV tuned to “Mad Men” the night they came up with the “new” brand, they might have called themselves “Macallan” and gone head to head with the Single Malt Scotch people for misdirected Google hits and the resulting confusion. Having your law firm confused with a marquee Scotch is preferable to having it confused with a clothing line, like “Bench,” which may explain why they didn’t go with the second name, “Binch.” Alas, they chose McMillan, which is neither a Scotch nor a celebrity. However, I’m told Lang Michener may forever be known as McMichner, which is catchy among some of its Vancouver lawyers because it annoys the hell out of Toronto. It’s always a good thing to annoy the hell out of Toronto. I encourage it. Fortunately, it’s not too late to put the definite article “The” in front of McMillan and pretend it’s a Scotch and a law firm. The McMillan. Catchy and kitschy.
I always liked “Ogilvie Renault” because it sounded like a famous French car manufacturer and “Ovaltine.” But that firm will become “Norton Rose” in June and even though it has offices all over the world, all I can think of is some ship built by Henry XVIII in the 16th century. (May God Bless the Norton Rose, and all who may sail in her.)
There’s a trend away from two and three name firms to one-name firms. Boughton, Goodmans, McMillian (McMichner?), Gowlings and Torys all used to be multi-named firms who dropped all the other names from their masthead. Blake Cassels and Graydon, Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt, Stikeman Elliott and Fasken Martineau are colloquially called Blakes, Oslers, Stikemans and Faskens respectively, but I predict it’s just a matter of time before the poor sods in the second and third spots are voted off the island in the name of branding, leaving only one name; the first one. To the disappointment of all, I cannot see this ever happening to Bull Housser and Tupper. Ever.
I was consulted on a new name for a law firm in 2010, and was forced to think outside the box. I considered all those firms like Legacy, Catalyst and Quorum, which tossed out the whole idea that a law firm should be named after three dead white men. So I came up with names that inspired confidence and trust; boldness and courage. I came up with Reliant. Enterprise. Intrepid. Destiny. The fact that I was doing this while watching Star Trek one night and my choices were the names of Starships, cars and car rental companies proved a universal truth: The best ideas don’t always come in the shower, but the worst ones will always come while watching The Space Channel. You’ll get better ideas from watching Mad Men. With drinks, of course. Martinis. Manhattans.
By the way, I act for a law firm looking for people with the last names Smirnoff, Guinness, Obama, Porsche and Mercedes. Send the resumés to my attention.
Vancouver Franchise Lawyer Tony Wilson practices at Boughton Law Corporation, is a regular columnist with the Globe and Mail and is an Adjunct Professor at SFU. His views do not reflect the views of the CBABC, the Law Society of BC or any other organization.
This article was published in the February 2011 issue of BarTalk. © 2011 The Canadian Bar Association. All rights reserved.