Three Questions to Differentiate Your Law Firm

November 1, 2021

When it comes to successfully doing business as a law firm, understanding what you bring to the table that your competitors do not is critical. But sometimes, although you may know on an intuitive level that you do have something unique to offer, it can still be difficult to formulate your unique value proposition in clear, concrete terms. To help you understand what differentiates your law firm, here are three questions you can ask yourself as a starting point. If you can provide compelling answers to each of these questions, you will be in a solid place to create an appealing legal brand.

A person drawing a white circle in a field of yellow squares
The value of differentiation is clear: we notice what’s different.

Why Differentiation is Important

If you can answer these three questions, you become irresistible to customers. Why? Because it makes you different. It helps you to stand out from the crowd. It gives you a clear brand and identity that makes you easy to remember and trust.

Why is the ability to be different from your competition so powerful? Well, because it’s built into how our brains function. Our eyes, ears, and noses sense a veritable excess of input on a regular basis. If we were to be aware of all of them consciously, those inputs would paralyze us from sensory overload. To make it easier, our brains function as filters to protect us from what is irrelevant to us. That’s why you don’t see your glasses sitting there on the bridge of your nose all the time. It just wouldn’t serve you, so your brain essentially makes you blind to them.

The things that mark something as important enough for your brain to send to your consciousness after processing are variation and contrast. Something new, unusual, and – yes – different is marked as worthy of our attention. Like the silver pin glinting in the proverbial haystack, a stimulus that is different is read as meaningful.

That’s why differentiation is so critical to branding. Simply put, we are trained to care about things that stand out and forget about all of the rest. That’s why your eyes will go straight to the bright pink box of cereal in an aisle full of blue. And that’s why law firms that zig when others zag have what it takes to become the leaders of their industry. They can be fresh, creative, and different instead of being the same, stale thing as everybody else.

Now, we’re not saying that you need to reinvent your brand identity to be all about iconoclasm. If that’s not true to who you are, you should actively avoid making that kind of move. But chances are, you already have what it takes to differentiate you from your competition. After all, you’re you, not some other law firm. So it’s just a matter of identifying what it is that makes you different. And these three questions are a powerful tool to help get you there.

Who are You?

The first question may be the easiest to answer, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Answering “who are you?” isn’t just a matter of knowing the name of your law firm. It’s about brand identity. Who are you? What is your story? How did you come into existence, and for what purpose? Who are the people who make up your organization? What do they stand for? As a law firm, what are your values? What impact do you seek to make on the world? What is your voice? How do you want to make your audience feel?

This admittedly overwhelming barrage of questions is just the beginning of understanding your brand identity, and you should be able to answer each of them with confidence if you intend to be able to differentiate yourself from other law firms. So if you aren’t yet able to confidently respond to the true essence of the question “who are you?”, it’s a sign that it’s time to do some real soul-searching as a company.

What Does Your Law Firm Do?

Law firms don’t exist simply to exist. Unlike people, they are not brought into the world through no will of their own and seek to find their purpose after the fact. A law firm should have a purpose from the get-go and be very clear about what they do. Where do you operate? Who do you represent? What kind of clients should come to you? What will you be able to do for them?

Understanding what it is that you can offer your customers is crucial to your business. After all, clients aren’t giving you money as a donation. They expect to receive something in return, and you should have absolute clarity as to what you can give them.

Ideally, you will have a clear vision for what it is that your law firm does. If your offerings are too varied and scattered, it can be confusing and dilute your brand identity. So whether you limit your services or just find a common thread between the different offerings you do have, it’s crucial to be able to be clear about the messaging when it comes to answering the question, “what do you do?”.

Why Does it Matter?

And now we come to the most challenging question of all – “Why does it matter?”. Because, again, unlike people, law firms are not automatically granted value and worth simply by their existence. If you want your clients to care about you (which they have to in order to choose you above one of your competitors), you need to give them a reason to do so.

So why does what you do matter? Is it because you have a long history that has granted you years of experience that your competitors just don’t have? Is it because you take an innovative approach that your competition hasn’t thought of? Is it because you are daring and willing to take on cases that other firms wouldn’t even touch? Is it because you operate based on a strong moral backbone and put ethics at the center of your organization? Is it because you make your services available at an affordable price?

As you can see, there are many different things that can make your law firm matter, but you will not have success if you do not have at least one that is unique and true to you.

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