Tips For Naming A Law Firm
Naming a law firm is essential for many reasons. Your firm’s name will be how people recognize it. Depending on the style of name you go with, it may signal what area of the law your firm focuses on. It will even affect how easily potential clients find your firm online. All of that means it’s a good idea to put some thought into your law firm’s name. The considerations in this article can serve as a guide while you do so.
Naming a Law Firm after Partners: What to Avoid
It is common for law firms to name themselves by simply using the partners’ last names. This is the model that spawns easy-to-remember names like, for example, Johnson and Kinsey. However, in the case of big firms, it can also spawn overly long names like Johnson, Kinsey, Smith, Attenborough, Davis, Lewis, Charles, & Associates.
Jay Shepherd, a lawyer-turned-writer, advises that such names look unwieldy. Even worse, they are difficult for clients to remember. He points to the example of a real-life firm previously called Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP & Affiliates. The firm now goes by the simple, memorable brand name Skadden—which is what people already referred to the firm as anyway. Another concern raised by Shepherd is that naming the law firm after the partners seems to prioritize elevating the partners over providing high-quality services to clients.
Shepherd also points out that relying on surnames to name a firm also has hidden complications. For example, every time a partner leaves or joins, business cards, websites, voicemail greetings, signs, envelopes, and anything else using the firm’s name will need to be updated. Most seriously, a name change can make it tougher for clients to remember and find your firm. (In case you were wondering, Shepherd’s firm settled on the concise and clear name Shepherd Law Group.)
Naming a Law Firm after Partners: What to Embrace
Despite the potential pitfalls, it is still possible to create an effective law firm name using the lawyers’ last names. If you wish to do so, a good piece of overarching advice is to pick a name that will garner attention from the clients you are hoping to attract.
Catchy surnames are preferable to more ordinary ones. For example, the surname Jones is on the forgettable side, while Dasher would probably be more memorable. If there are more than two surnames in the name, the first two are the ones that have the best chance of sticking in clients’ minds. To take advantage of that, the most interesting, memorable names should probably go first.
If the firm has many partners, a good alternative to a long list of names is one partner’s name plus Associates. An example would be Goldenrod and Associates.
Check the acronym for double meanings—that is, shorten each name in it down to its first letter and see if the result is potentially embarrassing. The same goes for the name in general, as covered in a discussion with Andrew Garcia, Jared Correia, and Megan Zavieh on the Legal Toolkit podcast. For example, two partners named James Head and Sarah Ache would produce the firm name Head Ache, which is not desirable.
Other Approaches to Naming A Law Firm
As Shepherd points out, there are other methods of naming a law firm. One way is to still use the surname but include the firm’s area of focus, i.e., Mustaine Family Law. Another is to settle on a strong brand name and ditch surnames altogether. Shepherd brings up Summit Law Group and Archstone Law Group, P.C. as two real-life examples. This approach provides a durable name that won’t be vulnerable to partners leaving or joining, and it also removes any potential ego struggles over whose names appear where in the name. Yet another approach is to name your firm after its location.
Given their line of work, it should come as no surprise that there are strict ethics rules governing what lawyers can name firms. Take, for example, rules in the state of Georgia, which have been covered by Law Firm GC. These rules, set out by the Georgia State Bar, are meant to ban deceptive practices. One rule governs the use of the word “Group”: Sole practitioners may not use this term because to do so would imply that the firm has multiple lawyers. The same goes for including the word “Associates.” The term “Firm” is not banned outright for sole practitioners, but they must follow certain rules to ensure they are not using the term in a deceptive manner.
Sole-practitioner firms aren’t the only type of outfit with rules to follow. For example, the District of Columbia Bar has a rule affecting whether or not the name of a lawyer who holds public office may be used.
Keep in mind that the rules are specific to Georgia and Washington DC, and this post does not go over every naming rule in those areas. There are likely more and/or other rules that govern naming ethics in your jurisdiction, so do your research to avoid any sticking points. Your local bar association(s) will likely be a helpful resource here.
Once you’ve honed in on a naming approach that is above-board ethics wise, here are some final considerations to keep in mind.
- Firms can generally do with or without legal designations such as LLC after their name, but you should look into any rules governing such usage before doing so.
- Check to see whether an easy-to-use domain name is available for your firm’s website that matches up with its potential name.
- Your firm’s name may have an impact when it comes to search engine performance. Ask yourself whether or not this firm’s name will likely perform well when people search for law firms like yours. An SEO expert may be helpful to consult here.
By following the advice in this article, you’ll be well on your name to picking a great name for your firm. Congratulations on your new venture!