f/k/a archives . . . real opinions & real haiku

April 11, 2004

Another Lap Around Law Firm Branding

Filed under: pre-06-2006 — David Giacalone @ 10:59 pm

Recent press about a NASCAR-sponsoring law firm has once again left me puzzled as to just how the client benefits from the branding efforts of lawyers. (E.g., AP/ESPN, Firm sponsors Cup, Busch, Truck teams; Larry Bodine’s Law Marketing Blog; and here)

 

checkered flags  The La Plata, Maryland, law firm of Jenkins, Jenkins & Jenkins apparently decided last winter to use a connection with NASCAR motorsports as a branding and marketing tool.   The three-lawyer firm includes Louis P. Jenkins, Sr., who founded the firm in 1955, and his two sons, Frank and Louis, Jr..  Frank Jenkins is the moving force behind the motorsport connection.  In the A/P article, he explains:



“Anytime you are involved in a legal situation it’s pretty unsettling. People want a friend there.  They see we are involved in stock car racing as a sponsor and feel we have something in common — a love of racing. So they call to ask us to help.”


“We’re in motorsports to get our name out there, to receive brand recognition and to let NASCAR fans know we are as big a fan as they are.”


To make sure the link to auto racing won’t be missed, the firm’s website domain name is  racinglaw.com/ .  It’s doesn’t “do” Racing Law, of course.  Instead, the firm appears to favor personal injury law, and lists its practice areas as Automobile Accidents; Corporate; Criminal; DUI/DWI & Traffic; Divorce; Medical Malpractice; Personal Injury; Real Estate Settlements; and Wrongful Death.  


It’s a little hard to understand why this very-local law firm is seeking national attention and clients.  Unfortunately, the firm’s About Us page gives no information at all about the founder, and has only the picture and name of Louis, Jr.   However, Frank Jenkins is said to be a member of the Maryland Bar (since 1993).  Although Frank’s short bio gives us the names of his high school and college, we are merely told “Mr. Jenkins graduated from law school.” (Given the NASCAR image he is cultivating, I wonder if Frank is covering up graduation from a highly prestigious law school.)  


car blue flip  I don’t know how much money it costs to become a major sponsor on the NASCAR circuit.  Clearly, very little of the firm’s marketing budget went into the content of its website.  Although we learn that “We are committed to providing aggressive representation for our clients” in personal injury cases, there is not one word of substantive information about any of the practice areas.  The Resources/Links page has two law-related sites — the ABA and the Maryland Bar Association.  It also includes a number of race driver fan websites, and a link to the law firm’s public relations firm.


How does the law client benefit from this expensive branding campaign?  Is getting “a friend” who shares your love of motor-racing advantageous to the “upset” personal injury client?  The DUI defendant? 


  • I’ve voiced my concerns over law firm branding before (see Brand LEX), but I finally read Branding the Law Firm by the marketing firm InterAct.  Frankly, I’m as skeptical as ever.
  • Soon (I hope), Matt Homann will give us his explanation of value billing, to help assuage my concern over the use of branding and value pricing to achieve “premium pricing” of lawyer fees.  Matt suggested last month that I read The Firm of the Future: A Guide for Accountants, Lawyers, and Other Professional Services by Paul Dunn & Ronald J. Baker.  Matt said that the book “sets out their vision of value pricing and serves as much of the model for my new firm.”   I couldn’t find the book at my local Library (and won’t pay $40+ to buy one).  However, I did use the Amazon.com “Search in the Book” feature to check out “value pricing” or “value billing” and ethics.  The results were not the least bit calming for me on whether value billing will result in reasonable fees.  For example (at p. 217)



    1. The book asserts there is no ethical contradiction, quoting from an ABA report, which says an agreed upon price is fair subject to market realities and the attorney’s professional obligations.  Of course, that begs the question: the whole issue is what the lawyer’s obligations are when reaching the fee agreement (such as to disclose the amount of time needed to perform the work; or to limit profit to a reasonable level). and
    2. The book also says value pricing is ethically okay because businesses do it all the time — using airlines charging different fliers different prices for the same seat, movie theatres’ price for popcorn, and premium ice cream makers, as examples.  My reaction:  None of those sellers have fiducial duties; none promises to put the customers’ interests first (except when that will incease profits); none sell a product whose qualities the buyer is unable to judge.  As I wrote back to Matt, “If movie theater popcorn is the touchstone for the ethics of value billing, I rest my case.”
    3. Update: For more on this topic see our posts LexThink about higher fees (er, value billing), Value Billing or Venal Bilking? and chronomentrophobia.

Another Lap Around Law Firm Branding

Filed under: pre-06-2006 — David Giacalone @ 10:59 pm

checkered flags  Recent press about a NASCAR-sponsoring law firm has once again left me puzzled as to just how the client benefits from the branding efforts of lawyers. (E.g., AP/ESPN, Firm sponsors Cup, Busch, Truck teams; Larry Bodine’s Law Marketing Blog; and here)

The La Plata, Maryland, law firm of Jenkins, Jenkins & Jenkins apparently decided last winter to use a connection with NASCAR motorsports as a branding and marketing tool. The three-lawyer firm includes Louis P. Jenkins, Sr., who founded the firm in 1955, and his two sons, Frank and Louis, Jr.. Frank Jenkins is the moving force behind the motorsport connection. In the A/P article, he explains:

“Anytime you are involved in a legal situation it’s pretty unsettling. People want a friend there. They see we are involved in stock car racing as a sponsor and feel we have something in common — a love of racing. So they call to ask us to help.”

“We’re in motorsports to get our name out there, to receive brand recognition and to let NASCAR fans know we are as big a fan as they are.”

To make sure the link to auto racing won’t be missed, the firm’s website domain name is racinglaw.com/ . It’s doesn’t “do” Racing Law, of course. Instead, the firm appears to favor personal injury law, and lists its practice areas as Automobile Accidents; Corporate; Criminal; DUI/DWI & Traffic; Divorce; Medical Malpractice; Personal Injury; Real Estate Settlements; and Wrongful Death.

It’s a little hard to understand why this very-local law firm is seeking national attention and clients. Unfortunately, the firm’s About Us page gives no information at all about the founder, and has only the picture and name of Louis, Jr. However, Frank Jenkins is said to be a member of the Maryland Bar (since 1993). Although Frank’s short bio gives us the names of his high school and college, we are merely told “Mr. Jenkins graduated from law school.” (Given the NASCAR image he is cultivating, I wonder if Frank is covering up graduation from a highly prestigious law school.)

car blue flip I don’t know how much money it costs to become a major sponsor on the NASCAR circuit. Clearly, very little of the firm’s marketing budget went into the content of its website. Although we learn that “We are committed to providing aggressive representation for our clients” in personal injury cases, there is not one word of substantive information about any of the practice areas. The Resources/Links page has two law-related sites — the ABA and the Maryland Bar Association. It also includes a number of race driver fan websites, and a link to the law firm’s public relations firm.

How does the law client benefit from this expensive branding campaign? Is getting “a friend” who shares your love of motor-racing advantageous to the “upset” personal injury client? The DUI defendant?

  • I’ve voiced my concerns over law firm branding before (see Brand LEX), but I finally read Branding the Law Firm by the marketing firm InterAct. Frankly, I’m as skeptical as ever.
  • Soon (I hope), Matt Homann will give us his explanation of value billing, to help assuage my concern over the use of branding and value pricing to achieve “premium pricing” of lawyer fees. Matt suggested last month that I read The Firm of the Future: A Guide for Accountants, Lawyers, and Other Professional Services by Paul Dunn & Ronald J. Baker. Matt said that the book “sets out their vision of value pricing and serves as much of the model for my new firm.” I couldn’t find the book at my local Library (and won’t pay $40+ to buy one). However, I did use the Amazon.com “Search in the Book” feature to check out “value pricing” or “value billing” and ethics. The results were not the least bit calming for me on whether value billing will result in reasonable fees. For example (at p. 217)

    1. The book asserts there is no ethical contradiction, quoting from an ABA report, which says an agreed upon price is fair subject to market realities and the attorney’s professional obligations. Of course, that begs the question: the whole issue is what the lawyer’s obligations are when reaching the fee agreement (such as to disclose the amount of time needed to perform the work; or to limit profit to a reasonable level). and
    2. The book also says value pricing is ethically okay because businesses do it all the time — using airlines charging different fliers different prices for the same seat, movie theatres’ price for popcorn, and premium ice cream makers, as examples. My reaction: None of those sellers have fiducial duties; none promises to put the customers’ interests first (except when that will incease profits); none sell a product whose qualities the buyer is unable to judge. As I wrote back to Matt, “If movie theater popcorn is the touchstone for the ethics of value billing, I rest my case.”
    3. Update: For more on this topic see our posts LexThink about higher fees (er, value billing), Value Billing or Venal Bilking? and chronomentrophobia.

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