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Bidding to win: brand & strategy - do you know where you’re going to?

Law Firms: Brand and Strategy

Law Firms: Brand and Strategy – do you know where you’re going to?

Law Firms: Brand and Strategy. Hello again. Recently I’ve found myself thinking increasingly about brand and strategy in bids – more specifically, about what happens when a brand loses direction and strategy appears to go horrendously wrong. The legal press can’t get enough of the CMS/Nabarro/Olswang merger and the collapse of King & Wood Mallesons. Then we have Theresa May and her Brexit strategy, Donald Trump and his media strategy (I’ll stop there) and the beleaguered Jeremy Corbyn being pushed to uncover a clearer stance (dare one say strategy?) on key issues. Headlines are full of it.

Here’s a sobering quote from The Lawyer Leader (28/11/16): “Fifteen years ago the name Olswang meant something … the idea of Olswang being subsumed into a European behemoth would have been unthinkable. Back then it may have been small compared with its rivals, but it had an outsized brand … a well-deserved identity. For the past decade or so it’s been a very different story. Missed opportunities, a loss of focus and strategic splits have led to the one-time trailblazer going the way of all diminished brands: a takeover.” Interestingly, but not coincidentally I’m sure, The Lawyer then devoted a fair few pages to the “march of technology”, and we all know what that will mean for firms who fail to catch on.

Similarly, the autopsy of KWM concludes that the failure was due to myriad causes, including management inadequacies, a lack of strategic direction and fundamental differences between practices in different parts of the world. “The Power of Together” motto may be for sale on eBay shortly…

So, what does this mean for the abundance of firms out there? How can you ensure that your bid strategy – and bid content – reflect both your firm’s brand and its strategy?

Strategy – Greatly Simplified

  • Who are you? What do you stand for?
  • Who do you want to act for? Why?
  • What do you want to do for them? (and what don’t you want to do for them?)
  • Where do you want to do that?
  • How do you want to do that?

So, you’re clear on strategy. Now embed that in your brand – and your bids – and do it with some emotion. I love TED talks and for me, Simon Sinek’s point that “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it” is as relevant to law firms as to anyone else.

Business model

Law Firms: Brand and Strategy - do you know where you’re going to? Your business model must enable you to deliver your strategy. Simple to state, not so simple to execute.

  • Is your business model focussed on the client? (sorry, but it pains me to type the phrase “client-centric”).
  • Is your structure and leadership team lean/agile enough to make strategic and innovative decisions quickly?
  • Are you entrepreneurial enough to encourage innovative experimentation?
  • Are you listening to your clients?
  • Are you offering them what they want to buy?
  • Have you diversified to match their needs?
  • What fee options are you offering? Are they aligned with your clients’ wishes?
  • What is your remuneration model? Is it aligned with your clients’ wishes?
  • [Example: if a client prefers AFAs, you need to focus on lawyers’ efficiency/profitability, not their billable hours target. It’s not about you; it’s about them.]
  • Does your resource model reflect your clients’ needs? Do you see the pattern here?
  • Do you have the range of lawyers/paralegals and non-legal experts the client needs to deliver the services they want in the way they want them?
  • [Yes, some of this is shocking. We’ll be seeing BHS go bust next, or find that the iPhone has replaced almost everything. Ooh, wait a second …]
  • Are you training your people on topics relevant for 2017 and beyond?
  • Finally, is your culture going to enable you to deliver your strategy? If not, best email all staff notifying them of a change in culture. I jest, of course.
  • If “no” to any of the above, what changes do you need to make?


Law Firms: Brand and Strategy - do you know where you’re going to? In all likelihood, there won’t be a direct question on “brand” in any RFP, but I think of it as “the silent question”.

  • Can you differentiate yourself in this competitive, crowded market place?
  • Is your brand constantly evolving?
  • Is it relevant and engaging – with service at its heart?
  • Who are you?
  • What do you do?
  • Why do you do it?
  • What’s your story?
  • What’s your personality?
  • Why is all this relevant for me, the client?


Don’t be the miserable grey face in the crowd; be the smiley yellow. This is like a dating game. You want me to choose you – but I’m picky. I can afford to be. It’s fiercely competitive out there. I’ve put client service at the top of my list. I’m selfish that way. It’s no longer just about giving excellent legal advice. That’s a given. It’s specific methods of delivery, top service and best value I’m after. I want to see from your bid that you’re the one that I want. Is that Olivia Newton-John straining for a mention? Sorry, Sandy, but the credit for today’s lyrics goes to Diana Ross. As far back as 1975, Ms Ross sensed disruption in the legal marketplace:

Do you know where you’re going to? …
Do you get what you’re hoping for?
When you look behind you there’s no open door.
What are you hoping for? Do you know?

Law Firms: Brand and Strategy. In conclusion, questions about your brand and strategy are in every RFP, even if not obvious on the face of it. Clients want to know that your service offering and pricing model is secure, well thought through, and indeed a part of your strategy.

Published 20 January 2017

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