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| 18 minutes read

CMO Series EP84 - Rachael Schilling of Liskow on the decisions and challenges behind a legal rebrand

Law firms increasingly see their brand and digital presence as key to growth. With this demand, there is more pressure on marketing teams to execute successful redesigns and rebrands which often turn into the most complicated marketing projects.

Today we're diving into the decisions and challenges of a rebrand. Charles Cousins is thrilled to welcome Rachael Schilling, Director of Marketing at Liskow to the CMO Series to discuss how she and her team navigated their recent rebranding and web redesign.

Charles and Rachael discuss: 

  • Rachael’s background and how she came to be CMO at Liskow
  • How the rebrand came about, and the driving forces behind it
  • How the rebrand fitted into the wider strategy
  • The influence of industry changes on the redesign
  • Managing the internal communications around the rebrand 
  • Advice for others trying to lead a rebrand in their firms


Intro: Welcome to the Passle podcast CMO Series.

Charles:  As more firms see their brand and digital presence as a key to growth, there are more demands on marketing teams to execute successful redesigns and rebrands and these end up being some of the most complicated marketing projects.

Today, we're diving into the decisions and challenges of a rebrand. We're thrilled to welcome to the CMO Series Rachael Schilling, Director of Marketing at Liscow, to discuss how she and her team navigated their recent rebrand and web redesign. Rachael, welcome to the Passle CMO series.

Rachael: Thanks Charles. Thanks for having me. I'm excited to be with you today.

Charles: We first met, it was probably about a year ago now, wasn't it the marketing partners forum um out in Jacksonville? Well, not in Jacksonville. It was Amelia Island. I think I'm underselling it a bit there Fantastic resort nonetheless. But I remember when we were speaking or it might have been a correspondence afterwards. You talked about the rebrand and what you're working on. It's great to have you here a year later where we can dive into what you've done see some of the successes and how that year has been.

Rachael: Yes, that sounds great.I'm excited. It has definitely been a busy year. But a very rewarding one and the rebrand was very exciting. And so I'm excited to be here to talk about it.

Charles:  Brill. So maybe to kick things off and to give our listeners a bit of context. What's your background and how did you become Director of Marketing at Liscow?

Rachael: So since beginning my career, my entire career has been in marketing, although not entirely in legal marketing. I started in healthcare, I worked for a children's hospital in Louisiana. I was in their PR and marketing department and it was truly a wonderful experience. And I had the opportunity to learn a lot about marketing and specifically for this conversation, a lot about branding. I sort of got the opportunity to witness the true power behind a brand. We had other pediatric hospital competitors, but because of our strong brand and our reputation, we were really well known and respected and not just in the state but in the region. And we were the go-to healthcare facility for children in our  region. And so it, it was just a really fascinating experience from there. I took the opportunity with Liscow, which is the firm I'm still with today. And to give some context for listeners, Liscow is a midsize full-service firm.We're roughly 100 and 50 lawyers, Liscow is the only firm that I've worked for.I did have a short hiatus, I led the marketing efforts for a construction equipment dealer which was actually very helpful in enlightening. I was able to experience product marketing versus service marketing. And while there are many differences, there are also a lot of similarities. And so when I came back to the legal world, I kind of feel like that experience allowed me to come back with more of an innovative mindset and sort of allowed me to think more outside of the box um in the legal world. And so all good experiences, but I am happy to be back in the legal world since coming back, I've served as the head of the department, the Marketing and Business Development department at Liscow. Quickly touching on sort of my journey in the legal industry, I've served in various roles, but all within the marketing and business development department, I sort of quickly became the head of the department. And because of that quick progression, my mantra has kind of been, you know, ‘being comfortable being uncomfortable’. I like to have all the answers, especially when working with lawyers. But I've just kind of had to be ok with learning as I go and it's been an experience and it's been a really good journey and it hasn't been very long but it's been a good one and I hope there's still a lot of road left to travel in the legal world. So that's, that's sort of my background.

Charles: Yeah. And so you've done a bit of everything, you've done some marketing for building machinery and then you've switched from marketing diggers to marketing people.

Rachael: Yes, exactly.

Charles: So going back to the rebrand at Liscow, how did that all come about? Was that something that's been in the pipeline for a while, or, what were the driving forces behind that?

Rachael: A couple of things, I would say it really wasn't just one single thing. But so when I came back to Liscow, I came back in the height of the pandemic. And, you know, I think like a lot of other law firms and really just all industries, we saw online activity increase significantly, you know, we weren't having in-person meetings, we weren't having events. And so we had to find new and better ways to communicate to our clients. And so we saw, I mean, our blogs, our blog posts from lawyers, you know, doubled, if not tripled. We saw an increase in newsletters. We saw a significant increase in website traffic we witnessed, which was a great thing. Lawyers paying a lot more attention to their bios. And so with all of this, we were working with a website that was, you know, probably 6-7 years old, doesn't sound old. But as we all know, technology just is constantly progressing and progressing quickly. And so your website can become outdated and no longer relevant very quickly. And so it just sort of with all of this increase in online activity, it just sort of brought to light that we, we needed a new website. And so we started the process of redesigning the site. And that's really what started this whole thing, you know, we got into the early phases of talking about the design and who we are and what we want to communicate and what we want our presence online to look like. And, you know, the committee, we sort of struggled a bit because we felt like our current logo and our brand, which as we all know, the brand is much more than just the logo, wasn't telling our full story. You know, we've been in the market for almost 90 years and not much about our visual identity has changed since we were founded and we recognised that there was more story to tell and that we are more modern and we are more progressive and we are more focused on the future. And so we sort of thought while we're going through this website process and we are investing in this major project, it just made sense to at least consider a rebrand. And so we put together a committee to work with an on going down this road of exploring, you know, who we are, who we've been, what we're working towards. And so that, that's I would say the website.

So the pandemic, I think really accelerated the need for an updated website. And then with the website because of, you know, the significant investment, it made us explore the rebrand more quickly than maybe we would have. But it all really worked out, you know, we started with the name and the logo and like many firms, we decided it was best to shorten our name. We were Liscow and Lewis. We always have been and thankfully for us, Liscow is a more unique name and honestly, it was what the market knew us as anyways, you know, our clients and um others in the market referred to us as Liscow. And so that was sort of, you know, just an easy decision for us, that was something that we've been contemplating for a long time. And so we, we started by making the decision that shortening our name made sense. And so then we, we went down the road of our visual identity and sort of aligning our brand with who we had become as a firm. So yeah, I would say, you know, COVID and the website, those were really the major factors behind the rebrand.

Charles: And you mentioned it there. Other people knew you as and it goes back to that saying that you can't, you don't decide what your brand is, you know, your brand is, what other people think of you. And if everyone else in the market is calling you Liskow then it sort of makes sense to go with that. And it also seems to be all the rage at the moment for law firms shortening their name, doesn't it?

Rachael: Absolutely. It's sort of, you know, the more modern way to go, the legal industry has changed significantly and we're not, you know, at least most of us are no longer the old law firms that you think of. And so I think just that shortening of the name has aligned more with firms and where we are today.

Charles: You mentioned a couple of times, the people behind these sort of decisions, your committee, who was on that committee?

Rachael: It was a very good mix of lawyers and administration. Going into this project, I sort of had peers and vendors encourage, you know, make sure that you know, you have the leaders and the major decision-makers on this committee, you know, you want to make sure that you have a small committee of just the key decision-makers and I would encourage firms that are thinking about a rebrand. I sort of went a different path and I'm glad that I did. This committee that I put together for the website and the rebrand was a really diverse mix of lawyers. I had representation from all generations and I had partners and I had board members, but I also had associates and young junior partners. And I think because of that, our brand will be relevant for longer. I think our new brand speaks well to all generations and it's relevant to all generations. And because we had such a diverse group, we had so many different perspectives and experiences and thoughts and ideas that were brought to the table. And I'm really, really happy that committee was a mix of backgrounds and perspectives, because ultimately, I think we landed with the best brand because of that.

So I would encourage other firms, you know, you definitely need the key decision-makers, you need some on that committee and you know, you have to communicate with the board and the leaders and the partners and get that buy-in. But you know, with the brainstorming and the discussions leading up to these decisions around rebrand, I think it's so important to have that diverse mix.

Charles: And who had the wildest ideas, out of all of those people on the committee?

Rachael: Who had the wildest ideas?

Charles: Yeah. Was there any that you just had to say ‘we can't do that, that's not possible’?

Rachael: Many times. Many times. I did have to sort of move the conversation away from wild ideas but, you know it was a fun experience. It was fun to see just different generations talking about the same thing and having different ideas of what it should be. I can't specifically remember a wild idea. But I'm sure there were.

Charles: Yeah, don't worry about that. We don't want to point a finger at anyone. And when we spoke before the podcast, you mentioned that a lot of direction and scope of the project were defined by changes in the industries that your firm focuses on. Can you tell our listeners a bit more about that? So, obviously, part of that change and rebrand was, was led by the website being redone, but the sort of changes in the industries that how did that affect your rebrand?

Rachael: I would say a couple things. You know, all of the industries that we serve have experienced rapid change due to the pandemic. And so, we sort of saw this as an opportunity to communicate to, you know, our clients that, that we are transitioning and we are changing and, you know, we're their business partners, we're not just their law firm and their lawyers. And so there, there definitely was, you know, a wider strategy to this even before the pandemic. You know, we've been transitioning, I think like a lot of other law firms, we have seen client expectations of law firms change. It's sort of prompted us to become more focused on the future. We created a strategic plan that has pushed us to be more intentional with our efforts. We have a retention plan ad and I plan and all of those are sort of focused on where we're going as a firm. We've also developed which I have really loved uh business development, client service training program for our younger lawyers. And through that, we've started to really instil in lawyers more innovative thinking and client service like a client service mindset earlier in their career. So if you notice in the logo, there's sort of this element in the new logo and it represents forward motion and all of our kind of visual identity components represent future-focused and forward movement. And that is aligned with our strategy of being more focused on the future. So a major component of our firm, our bread and butter is energy, we were founded as an oil and gas firm and we have served the energy industry for almost 90 years. And that is really, while we are a full-service firm, we serve the energy industry in a significant way and we serve oil and gas companies and we also support them in their renewable efforts. We have lawyers who are highly focused and experienced in renewables and other energy-friendly operations like carbon capture. And so we're seeing this, our clients and the companies that we serve go through this major energy transition. And so this rebrand sort of allowed us to tell that story to our clients that we are going through this transition with them and we are transitioning and we are changing and we are adapting. And so it was definitely, you know, focused on a wider strategy with just our strategic efforts as a firm, but also with the industries we serve specifically the energy industry, it allowed us to communicate that we're transitioning with our clients. 

Charles: So as part of the rebrand refresh, it's important that client-facing representatives of the firm understand the brand. So essentially all your lawyers need to understand it and be able to communicate it day to day. How did you manage that internally? How did you manage the sort of internal communications around why the brand was changing?

Rachael: This is a major component of a rebrand. You have to get lawyer buy-in to make this successful. And I don't mean lawyer buy-in meaning, you know, get everyone to fall in love with the new visual identity in the logo because we all know that's just not gonna happen. You're never gonna make everyone happy. And it's certainly not to please everyone, but it's to encourage them to believe in the brand because ultimately, you can run campaigns and you can send communications and you can promote the new brand at events. But the best way to communicate and, and promote your brand is through lawyers, through the individuals who have the relationships and who have the opportunity to meet and talk one on one with the people that you want to know about your brand. It's essential that they are able to tell the story about your brand and to emphasise what makes your firm and your brand unique. And so, you know, we kind of did this in a variety of ways throughout the rebrand. I had meetings with partners.  We had a firm retreat right before the rebrand where we talked a lot about the rebrand and the sort of key points behind the brand and how to communicate it and how to share it and how to highlight what makes our firm unique. So that was all very helpful. We also made sure that our vendors understood the new brand and why we rebranded and what it meant. For instance, you know, we have a, I mentioned the business development training program earlier. And so the vendor that we use to lead and facilitate those training, a lot of the training programs implemented things from the rebrand and sort of the why behind the rebrand. And so it has to, I think the communication behind the rebrand has to be intentional and it has to be um wedged into many other efforts. But yeah, I mean, ultimately, it's so important that lawyers know why, because everyone can't be involved in the rebrand process, it would never happen. And so it is driven by a committee, but it's, it's so important that, you know, all the lawyers at the firm know why you're rebranding. And one way that we help facilitate that is we have apr company that we use and they helped us put together sort of key points and highlights around why we did the rebrand and what it means. And so that was a helpful tool for lawyers. So I would definitely recommend that to other firms because we found that to be really helpful.

Charles: So in, in terms of the actual resource was that like a document they got sent to everyone or what did that look like?

Rachael: Yes. So it was a document, but the timing worked out that we had a firm retreat right before we launched the rebrand and so we were able to talk through those key points. And it's also a living document that lives on our firms, you know, internal internet, but it was helpful that we had that opportunity to have everyone in the same room to talk about these key points. And it allowed lawyers to ask questions and such. So that's sort of how we did it.

Charles: Brill. So now you're on the other side, the rebrand is done and you're looking back, you've got this fantastic new website, awesome slick new logo. If you could go back to the beginning of the project and tell yourself one thing, what would that be?

Rachael:  So many things.

Charles: So many things?

Rachael: So many things. I mean, first I would, I would tell myself, you know, be prepared to age about 10 years because it's a lot to do it right. It is a major, major project that requires a lot of time and effort.  But well worth it. But what I guess I would tell myself, you know, be open to ideas and thoughts, but stay focused and really stay behind, you know, what you believe in as a marketing professional and know when to pull that card, you know, if you want the professional opinion card, because it is important to use your expertise. And while you want a committee of other people and other perspectives, just sort of know when to stand behind what you believe in. And don't be afraid to communicate that. And then also a rebrand is not a one-person job. And I was very lucky to have an incredible team and have an incredible team to see this through because it is a major you're undertaking and to do it right, you need a team of people invested in the project. So lean on your team and don't forget that at the end of the day, you're the expert in marketing.

Charles: Not your partners who are experts in energy.

Rachael: That's right.

Charles: And so to finish off the podcast, we are going to jump into a quick-fire round if that's all right.

Rachael: Yeah, let's do it.

Charles: So I'll ask you a question and you gotta tell me the first thing that comes to your mind.

Rachael: OK.

Charles: So question one. What's your favourite business and non-business book?

Rachael: Oh, I have so many, I love to read. Although I have small Children and I don't get to read as much as I would like. But my favourite business book, I would say Start With Why. And it's an excellent book and probably many have read it because it's very well-known in the business world.  But I try to, I constantly refer to that book because it's important to start with why. Non-business book. It is called, I'll Show Myself Out. It is essays on midlife and motherhood and it is brutally honest and hilarious. And I recommend it to all my mom friends.

Charles:I'll show myself out. I'll make a note of that. I've got my sister coming to visit. She's recently had a few children. She can read that one.

Rachael: Yes, I would say buy it for her and put a bow on it and give it to her. Fantastic, life-changing.Yeah, it's great.

Charles: So, Rachael, what was your first job?

Rachael: First job? I worked at a gift shop like a floral and gift shop. And I learned to make flower arrangements and tie pretty bows, which comes in handy often. I also worked for this incredible woman who had so much passion for her business. And so it sort of made me realize at a young age that finding a path that you enjoy is so important.

Charles: Yeah, don't ration passion. What makes you happy at work?

Rachael: People. I mentioned, you know, my team earlier, I definitely would say people and connections and teamwork. I've been incredibly fortunate to have just an amazing administrative team and um that we grow and learn and um collaborate alongside one another. So I think the people, you know…

Charles: Shout out to the team at Liscow, absolute legends. And what are you listening to at the moment? This could be a podcast, music, or audiobook.

Rachael: You know, I don't listen too much but I am listening to, this is not exciting, but it's a podcast. It's called Oil and Gas This Week. It helps me stay on top of what's going on in the energy industry. Like I said, it's transitioning so quickly. So it's kind of helpful to keep my pulse on things but not super exciting,I guess.

Charles: And where is your favourite place to visit and why?

Rachael: Definitely the beach, I live close to the water and um we go there often and it's just, I don't know, something about being close to the water. It's calming. It makes me feel like, you know, I'm connected to a greater purpose and we take our kids there a lot and I hope they experience the same feelings. I don't know something about the water being close to the beach.

Charles:  I think for me it's standing on the shore and you look out and realise that actually there's a big world out there. You're not just confined to your day and your sort of routines. Beyond the horizon, there's much more going on. So to wrap up the podcast, we always ask this question, it is what would be your one piece of advice for others trying to lead a rebrand in their firm? 

Rachael: One piece of advice. I think I would go back to, you know, forming that committee and having that mix, you want to go through the rebrand and to go to the market with something new, you want to have something that's relevant and has sort of a lasting impression. And so to have that mix of people that are, you know, behind making the decisions, I think that's key. I think that would be my one piece of advice and to know your firm, you know, really, really understand your firm um and who you are and what makes you unique.

Charles: Fantastic. So, have a decent committee and know what you want to achieve. And so thanks for coming on the podcast, Rachael and sharing about the rebrand and the refresh and what that involved. For anyone listening that wants to go and check out and they can go on the website and have a look at some of the things we've been talking about today. But once again, Rachel, thanks for coming on the podcast and sharing your journey.

Rachael: Thanks for having me.


e2e, professional services, marketing, cmoseries