Bold legal branding that breaks precedent

Approaching its 100th anniversary and with new management in place, New England-based law firm Bernstein Shur was ready to take its business to the next level. As their creative partner in this endeavor, Thinkso implemented a wholesale rebranding, from developing a positioning and marketing strategy, to designing a new logotype and identity system, to rearchitecting and rewriting their entire website—and everything in between. We were able to capture the unique spirit of the firm, and Bernstein Shur was confident enough to own it publicly. The result is sophisticated yet accessible marketing communications that look and sound different from nearly every other law firm out there.

BACKGROUND

Progressive legal marketing is nearly impossible to find. First, it’s still relatively new: legal marketing has only been legally permitted for the past two decades. Second, lawyers tend to be deeply risk-averse—which makes them unwilling to break with precedent, legal or otherwise. Finally, even if a few members of the leadership team want to try new and ambitious marketing, they often find it hard to get all of the firm’s other partners on board. Especially when there’s strong messaging involved. 

As a result, most law firm branding is very safe and staid. Designed by committee and rife with legal jargon, it doesn’t say anything meaningful to potential clients—verbally or visually.

But while the industry’s marketing is fraught with sameness, there are some attorneys eager to differentiate themselves—particularly those at Bernstein Shur, a regional law firm with deep roots in its local community. With new, younger management in place, the firm’s partners decided they were ready to stand out from the crowd.

APPROACH

Bernstein Shur is a remarkable firm with a progressive, collaborative, genial culture; plainspoken, thoughtful attorneys; and a genuine commitment to placing each client’s needs above the firm’s bottom line. Because they have such client-friendly policies and unique personality, our goals were to 1) bring these differentiators to light (rather than just repeat table stakes) and 2) communicate the attorneys’ amazing warmth, accessibility, and humor through the brand.

Most law firms’ names comprise two or three founding partners’ last names. We gave the firm a nickname, “Be Shur,” to differentiate it from the competition, provide clients and colleagues with a short way to refer to it, and emphasize the firm’s key selling points: the ability to consistently deliver world-class legal counsel. “Be Shur” became the punchline for a new ad campaign and an editorial motif on other print collateral.

From an aesthetic perspective, our goal was to give Bernstein Shur an identity befitting a national firm (rather than a regional one) to position it for growth and give its nationally recognized practices the gravitas they needed. Additionally, between the square, the single horizontal line, and the nickname versions of the logotype, the system offers maximum flexibility. The design conveys both stability and modernity—reflecting the firm’s 100+ year history as well as their innovation and forward thinking.

We developed a distinct, hand-drawn illustration style to give the brand warmth and humanity. And the photos do the same: Nearly all the photography used on the website and in print materials is from a custom photoshoot we directed with a local photographer.

Our editorial team's focus was on breaking down complex legal concepts into plain language and weaving in the firm’s warmth and personality. The copy is down-to-earth, substantive, and, at times, funny. Instead of being filled with industry jargon, it reflects how real professionals talk—and more importantly, what real clients need to know when choosing a law firm.

“Our rebranding was a key component in our five-year strategic plan. In Thinkso, we found a creative agency that not only delivers breakthrough strategy, design, and editorial, but also really understands our business.” Patrick J. Scully, CEO and Shareholder, Bernstein Shur

RESULTS

Working closely with a small group of attorneys, we developed the firm’s new:

  • Brand identity (logotype, visual system, editorial voice)
  • Corporate paperware system (business cards, letterhead, memo template, folder, etc.)
  • Website (design and editorial)
  • Advertising campaign (creative and media plan/buy)
  • Printed marketing collateral (firm overview, select practice area brochures)
  • Brand spirit book
  • E-blast system
  • Office signage
  • Videos (firm overview video and 30-second spot for TV broadcast)
  • Radio commercial scripts

For months following the launch, we enjoyed receiving dozens of emails from Bernstein Shur, recounting praise from clients and firm lawyers. 

The new Bernstein Shur identity won a Merit award in the 2016 Rebrand 100 Global Awards. It also received first place in the LMA New England Chapter's 2016 Your Honor Awards for both brand identity and advertising.


Thinkso redesigned—and rewrote—a completely new website for the firm. The homepage targets prospective clients and employment candidates, putting the Bernstein Shur differentiators right up front. Our strategy also included structuring the site to aid cross-selling of the firm’s practices by industry, “chunking” page content to make it easier to read and digest, and mimicking the attorneys' straightforward, down-to-earth, plain language style. The website was programmed by Raka in New Hampshire.

An advertising campaign, for which we also handled the media plan and buy, marked the launch of the firm’s new image and voice. The ads introduce a shorthand for the firm name, “Be Shur,” which acts as the punch line to the headlines. Sponsorship and announcement ads, created as templates for in-house production, feature a loose, gestural style of illustration to further contextualize the messaging.

Simple, bold print collateral give the attorneys solid, sophisticated materials with which to market themselves. Shown here: Business cards and three practice area brochures that we wrote and designed.

We created a brand spirit book to help communicate the firm’s values to its 100+ lawyers, its staff, and its future hires. The booklet demonstrates the new identity system and editorial approach while articulating exactly what makes Bernstein Shur so special.