In this episode of Legal Marketing 2.0, Leslie Gross of Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr discusses the marketing challenges that can occur during a law firm merger.
Podcast Show Notes
Leslie Gross has served as the Director of Communications of Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr for 13 years. Her time at the firm also includes being responsible for marketing during the Saul Ewing and Arnstein & Lehr merger of 2017. During the merger she effectively implemented new and merged old marketing strategies to make the firm’s branding as cohesive as possible. She previously worked in marketing and public relations for both Comcast and Ketchum, and is a former attorney who litigated cases in the state and federal courts in Pennsylvania for 9 years.
What are the most pressing marketing concerns when approaching a merger?
When approaching a merger, the luxury of time is the most important element. In our circumstance, we had a good amount of pull with the management so that we were pulled into the discussion early. This meant that we were able to put plans together six months in advance.
The most pressing concern was the volume of what had to change, from logos and branding to signage and places we didn’t even think about. Although it was a large list of items we had to consider, we’re organized by functional area at the firm, so within each of our areas we worked to have an exhaustive list of everything that had to get done for the launch date. It’s critical to prioritize so you can see what you have to get done first.
How do you socialize your brand in new markets?
It’s multi-faceted. You want to do it organically, you want people to start using it with an across the board signature block. Making sure to track down your logo and information to ensure everything is updated is crucial. In our firm, changing the advertising was also very important. We had to go down the ticket sheet in regards to all of our markets to make sure that we were using all the new branding and getting out there with PR. Continuity is key.
How do you integrate attorneys into the firm’s culture?
We have a very defined culture here, with a large portion of it surrounding collaboration. From senior professionals, to lawyers, to staff members, we’re constantly meeting and sharing best practices. Folding Arnstein into how we do things was definitely a process. There’s no question some of their staff members were overwhelmed by the sheer amount of communication that took place at our firm, but I would say they all embraced the collaborative culture. It definitely took time and education and pounding on doors, but I’d say we’ve made it.
Were there any unexpected marketing needs you discovered the hard way in your recent merger?
There was one funny one: the parking facility. After the merger, everyone was declined parking spots due to the fact that the firm’s name changed following the merger. Something as seemingly unimportant as parking wasn’t on anyone’s checklist. These quirky little things, places where your logo appears or a piece of swag, reminded us that we didn’t want that older brand out there. It’s also difficult to get clients to understand that we’re a merged, larger firm. It’s all about client service, and we were lucky enough to bring in really good client practitioners to the practices we already have. Trying to educate the clients and invite them to things to show what the new merged firm offers is key to overcoming any hurdles along the way.
What was the heaviest lift from a communications standpoint?
By far and above, bios. We had to go through 160 bios, read them, reclassify them, take out practice areas, and add pictures. To pull Arnstein’s bios into our format was a huge task. I wasn’t convinced we were going to be ready on launch day. It wasn’t the kind of thing you could automate, so the volume of work was overwhelming. It was a lot of fixing, editing, and sheer manpower. Simple components such as how the bios started and the type of content that was in them made all the difference.
In the 13 years I’ve been here, the difference between being pulled in early and late to a merge is night and day. My advice is that when you first hear a rumor of something like this going down, insert yourself into it. Everything in the early days is about the launch of the new brand. You can’t scramble to do that; if you don’t have time, it’s not going to be an effective launch. You have to be at the table during the strategic development stage. Even if nothing comes of it, you’d rather be involved than have to scramble at the end.