…If the lawyers who helped establish the brand depart. That is the real lesson of Howrey’s demise, according to John Hellerman. In an excellent article published on Law360 yesterday, he points out how Howrey was praised in recent years for its branding campaign and its success; but couldn’t survive after its heavy hitters left.

That is not to say that there is no such thing as a lasting “institutional brand” developed over many years – such as Skadden’s M&A brand. However, Hellerman goes on to proffer that “if all its (Skadden’s) stellar M&A lawyers walked out the door,” it would likely be only a “few days” before that firm lost its “preeminent M&A” status.

I believe Hellerman is correct. The lesson for law firm marketers is to focus on developing the lawyer’s brand, which in turn will enhance the firm’s brand. The buyers of legal services “…hire the lawyer, not the firm – and although a cliché, it’s (still) true.” Hellerman continues “And if lawyers are what clients are buying, then they should also be what law firms are selling.”

And the lesson for lawyers in any size firm is focus on developing your own brand through speaking, writing, networking, excellent client service, etc., rather than relying on the firm’s branding or “institutional” efforts to keep your plate full.  If it didn’t work for Howrey, it ain’t going to happen in the majority of law firms.