In a word: Yes, if it is more than two names.

In my experience there are a couple of things that seem to run true in the Name Dept:

  • No matter how long the name, people on the street (and other lawyers) only refer to the firm by the first name or at most the first two,
  • Only in the case of firms that have a name like Smith, Jones, Ego, Ego, Ego & Ego, P.A. does even the receptionist answer the telephone with more than Smith Jones.
  • The smaller the firm the longer the name it seems, for example:
  • Ziffren, Brittenham, Branca, Fischer, Gilbert-Lurie, Stiffelman, & Cook, LLP (18 partners/3 associates/1 of counsel)
  • Krupnick Campbell Malone Buser Slama Hancock Liberman and McKee (15 partners/3 associates)

And then you have:

  • Skadden (1900-plus lawyers)(although their web site says “Skadden,” in fairness their legal name is still Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP),
  • Dechert LLP (1000-plus)
  • Venable LLP (520-plus)
  • Etc.

What brought the issue to mind was an article on New York (free registration required) last Friday that reported that Mayer Brown Rowe & Maw is shortening its name to Mayer Brown. Although the article indicates that this is a new trend, in fact it has been going on for many years.

Moreover, my intention is certainly not to be critical of firms with long names. My only point is that from a legal marketing and business development standpoint, it is more important to have a memorable, short name that clients (and certainly prospects and referrals sources) can say without embarrassing themselves when asked. I actually spoke to a client of a law firm with a long name who told me the name of his lawyer, but COULDN’T for the life of him remember the name of law firm he was with. No joke.

It is a difficult issue I know, particularly when a named partner is still alive and coming to the office regularly. That was the situation in two of my firms when I was in-house (one went from 6 to two names, the other from four to two). For marketing purposes, it just made sense. That isn’t to say it will be an easy transition to a shorter name, but in my opinion it is something your firm should consider seriously, if it hasn’t shortened it already.