JOB SEARCH
Employer Branding For Law Firms: What Is It and Can It Create Competitive Advantage?
       Dianne Duncan          Jun 29, 2012

One of my greatest frustrations as a recruiter is when a candidate accepts an offer I know is not their best career option. This is especially exasperating when the basis of the choice is based on intangible factors such as perception of a firm’s brand as opposed to tangibles such as quality of work or mentoring opportunities.

 

Many of you have heard about the concept of branding as it applies to the marketing of a product or service to consumers, but I would like to talk about an extension of that concept i.e. employer branding. In a competitive marketplace where there is little perceived difference between service providers, branding is an important strategy to differentiate a firm in the mind of consumers of its services and by extension employer branding is a way of communicating that the firm is a great place to work and develop a career for potential employees. Just like a branded law firm provides comfort and security in terms of the quality and consistency of the services that clients can expect from the firm, a strong employer brand achieves the same function in respect of the employment experience.

 

A common mistake is to think of the firm’s employer brand in terms of what its advertising or promotional materials claims the firm to be – think James Hardie, it is obvious that the positioning of their brand on the official website does not reflect how the company is viewed in the general community as the result of the way they handled the setting up of their asbestos fund. While marketing and brand communication activities play an important part in shaping a firm’s employer brand it is the perception of the firm and the quality of the employment experience in the mind of potential employees that determines how strong its employer brand is.

 

Many experts argue that essence of a successful recruitment strategy is building a strong employer brand in the minds of prospective employees, but for a firm to be able to achieve competitive advantage through the effective implementation of employer branding, a champion is required. A champion is a person or a group who believes in the benefits of effective employer branding and who ensures that the firm devotes the necessary resources to establishing and maintaining the firm’s employer brand.

 

Practical Steps Your Firm Can Take

 

There are some practical things you can do to get a start on an employment branding initiative. The first step is to conduct market research about the way current and prospective employees perceive the experience of working at the firm. Combine the results of the market research with the views of the firm’s opinion leaders, and distill what you have learned into a branding proposition. Critique the proposition from all sides and with rigor, and then implement the brand and conduct training for everyone in the firm about it and how to emphasize and maintain it.

 

To develop the branding proposition, collectively ask yourselves the following questions:

  • Who are we?
  • To whom?
  • Where are we?
  • What Is the employment experience that we offer?
  • How are we different or better than the competition?

 

Once you’ve done that, identify the attributes that spring from answering the questions, get a consensus on each attribute from the leaders of the firm, and put them into a branding statement.

 

After you’ve developed your branding statement, test it. Ask yourself, is it true, do we actually do what we are saying? Is it important to us? Is it differentiable from other firms? Are we unique? If we aren’t unique, can we be pre-emptive and say it first? Will these things (in our employer branding statement) be demonstrable over a period of time?

 

Conclusion

 

Employer branding is a concept whose time has come for the legal profession and for good reason. A strong employer brand can help a law firm attract and retain the best lawyers. It gives prospective employees a reason to choose the firm. It helps the firm avoid salary battles and greatly simplify its recruitment efforts.

 

It also helps the firm send a consistent message both internally and externally. Most importantly, it can lead to improved profitability.