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small_2005412895The other day, here at EC Towers, I was writing copy for a fantastic law firm to put on a new part of their website.  They were proudly launching an ‘International’ section with a snazzy interactive map and lots of dots in all right geographic places.  But the next day I was writing an article for the same law firm where we were talking about their multi-jurisdictional technology and financial services expertise… and it got me thinking.  If our business world is getting increasingly ‘virtual’ and clients are seeking legal expertise that spans borders… are the days of the international network of offices (or experts) over?  In short, does providing a multi-jurisdictional service automatically supersede the marketing benefit of having international offices?

Back in September 2014 Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer went on the record as saying they were “taking on Wall Street” and wanted the US market to think of them as a part of an international elite instead of the magic circle.  Managing partner David Aitman said the firm’s US aims were part of a strategy focused on building up its role as a trusted adviser on the regulatory issues at the heart of all transactions in any jurisdiction their clients were involved in.

So, in that respect, it wasn’t a case of Freshfield’s moving into the territory of the Golden Bull… more that they considered they were there anyhow.  Yes, they threw a lot of money at new hires and impressive people wearing Gordon Gekko shirts and smoking cigars… but actually their branding approach has been superbly intelligent.

You see, the usual message from firms is “we’re moving in”.  It creates a press release and a bit of fuss but, ultimately, dies down pretty quickly.  At which point all the locally-based people get to work on business development and networking – often to find that they, quite simply, aren’t speaking the right language.  It’s one of the reasons we’re often called upon to provide messaging advice for US and UK firms looking to tap into overseas markets.

But in this case Freshfield’s has taken a subtly different and ultimately brilliant communications approach.  They have described their strategic focus on this market within the context of providing better client value.  In essence, their clients want them to be multi jurisdictional… not international.  What’s the difference?  What they’re talking about is removing borders and boundaries to provide a service that, “frankly, doesn’t give a d**n” about where they’re based.  Their brand message is a clear, simple, expert service anywhere at all.  Yes, they have offices dotted about the globe but they communicate their reasons as ensuring that the ‘global’ team can work effectively.  Gone are the days of saying we provide utterly relevant local knowhow… that’s taken as read… we’re expected to… No, at Freshfields we provide one type of expertise and that’s global.

Clever branding and messaging, that, guys.

photo credit: Marionzetta via photopin cc