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| 17 minutes read

CMO Series EP131 - Noni Garratt-Wall of Charles Russell Speechlys on The Art Of A Law Firm Rebrand

Ensuring that clients align with a firm's values is vital for a successful legal rebrand. Actively listening to clients, crafting compelling brand narratives, and fostering a cohesive firm culture, all contribute to a brand that resonates and reflects a firm’s long-term strategic direction.

Today, Will Eke has the pleasure of speaking with Noni Garratt-Wall, Head of Marketing at Charles Russell Speechlys, about her journey through the rebranding process as she joins the CMO Series Podcast.

Will and Noni discuss: 

  • The reasons behind the rebrand and how the  process began
  • The importance of timing and the impact on the success of the project
  • The key starting points of the rebrand, and the core messages that were essential to the new brand narrative and positioning
  • The main challenges or roadblocks along the journey
  • How to get buy-in from the partnership and manage the feedback process 
  • How to launch the brand internally and embed it across the firm
  • Advice for any legal marketers embarking on a rebrand



Will: Welcome to the Passle CMO series podcast. We discuss all things marketing and business development, my name is Will Eke and today we're gonna be talking about the art of a law firm rebrand. Aligning client perception and the firm's values is really key to success for any legal rebrand. Client listening, brand narrative and firm culture all play a massive part in crafting a brand that meets everyone's expectations, but also represents the longer-term strategic direction of the firm. Today - and obviously lots of firms have been through this or are going through it - but today we've got a brilliant guest and I've got the pleasure of speaking to someone who's actually been through this rebrand journey and want to share their story, which is great for all of you listeners out there. Hello, Noni Garratt-Wall - she's Head of Marketing at Charles Russell Speechlys - and welcome to our podcast.

Noni: Thank you so much for having me!

Will: Now onto our main topic, which as I mentioned at the top of the podcast is the art of a law firm rebrand. I suppose starting from the beginning, Noni, can you sort of tell us why the rebrand at Charles Russell Speechlys came about and when that sort of process began?

Noni: Absolutely, so I joined the firm - it's just been my five year anniversary - in January of 2019, and I think you know the discussions of the rebrand were probably happening the moment I arrived and that having gone through a merger in 2014, the two firms, Charles Russell and Speechly Bircham, you know they were really keen to start having a look at their brand again. And I think, so we looked at that in 2019 and into early 2020 and obviously with COVID happening, it really wasn't the right time. But I think the other reason it wasn't the right time is because we hadn't yet really articulated who we were as a firm and what we wanted to be known for. And that was a journey we really needed to go on, so, you know, in the meantime, we sort of did a bit of a visual refresh in 2020 just to try and sort of modernise our look and feel a bit. And then flash forward to 2022, I think by this time, our leadership team had had a lot of discussions, we'd undertaken a client listening project, we'd done a lot of work to bring to life our firm strategy. And that gave us such a clear idea of who we are as a firm, how we want to stand out, what we want to be known for, and that really gave us the foundations we needed to start looking at our brand. And initially, we sort of kicked off with a creative agency just to focus on the brand narrative before eventually choosing to do sort of the full rebrand alongside that narrative shift.

Will: Congratulations on the five years, I think we'll probably touch upon it as well that the whole merger thing, obviously quite prevalent in the news at the moment and ongoing in the professional service law space, you know, why should you be know, you know, it's difficult as soon as you merge, why should you know what you stand for? Right. So again, and we'll come on to that sort of maturity of a merger. It is quite an interesting topic. Was the timing of the rebrand important and how integral was that a success for the project that took place?

Noni: Yeah well I think as I said, you know, 2024 marks 10 years post the merger for us. So it is a really interesting time for us as a firm, but I think when the two firms did merge in 2014, the brand they created, it served a purpose for that moment in time. As you said, it was two firms put together, but it always felt like it was sort of a short-term solution. So I think in 2021 our managing partner, Simon Ridpath started his first term, and along with that, we also did this massive client listening project and I think those two things combined, you know, those really bold ambitions, that client listening, that really helped shape our strategy, and I think one of the challenges we had faced was that historically, we'd been known as a private client firm. However, post that merger, we obviously brought in, you know, much more corporate transactional teams to our offering. So we really wanted to be seen as a full-service law firm and it was important to have a brand that reflected that. And so I think getting the timings right for kicking off the project was definitely a key factor. We had to make sure that we had all our ducks in a row, we'd done that client listening, we'd really shaped our firm strategy. So I think that was really important to sort of kick the project off. But I guess the success of the project isn't just about the timings more so than anything, it is about the people involved, the amazing team who work on it, but also the stakeholders, bringing everyone along on that journey, and that was, you know, very instrumental to the success of the project. 

Will: Well I'm sure it came with its challenges as well as managing that many stakeholders. You mentioned the client listening piece and you know, moving from private client to becoming a full-service law firm or letting everyone know that that's what you were, they sound like they're the sort of starting point of the rebrand. Were there any other essential messages that you sort of needed to include in the new brand narrative and the positioning of the new firm?

Noni: Yeah, absolutely. I think, you know, to start off even just getting the right agency on board was really paramount and you know, we've been really thankful to Huddle Creative because they, we wanted an agency that was going to be you know, bold that they were going to push us to be different. But obviously, as you say, we had some messages that they had to take on board and there were kind of three key things. One I guess was our new focus on being an integrated international firm, so really focusing on the fact that we were international, you know, we've had a lot of international growth, we recently opened an office in Singapore, I think that was incredibly important to sort of bring to life in our narrative. The second one and probably the most challenging one was, as you said, because we were known for private client and we brought in the transactional side, we needed sort of an anchor to articulate that in the market and for us, that was our focus on private capital. And this can be a bit challenging, you know, private capital can be defined in different ways, you know, for us it really is at its most basic sense really just describing investments and funding, whether by wealthy individuals, their families, family officers, into assets and other business ventures. So it's really just that alternative to funds raised by the public markets. But you know, this really gave us this fantastic anchor to use to bring together that private client and transactional side of the firms. But, you know, we also had to make sure that different areas of the firm could talk about private capital in different ways and ensure that they were confident in that message. And then the third sort of point was, or message, was really around emotional intelligence. You know, from I think the moment Simon Ridpath, our managing partner, you know, took on that role, I think that was one of the key things he always felt like was our differentiator. Our lawyers were very emotionally intelligent and that also came through so strongly in our client listening. You know that our clients are really looking for advisors who will listen to them and then collaborate internally to bring them those best fit solutions, so it wasn't an easy task, you know, having to look at international private capital and that emotional intelligence and sort of find that way to differentiate our narrative in the market. 

Will: And as people listening, obviously, I know a lot of people are involved in the O-shaped movement, which is all about the emotional intelligence part. I imagine the private client part of the business actually probably served that transition quite well because, you know, you're very, the lawyers are very close then to individuals often in that realm so they do get to build that emotional intelligence part out. It's really interesting that you say that. The next question I'm gonna ask you, which is what lots of people want to know or probably have experienced, but it could be quite interesting. What, would you say were the main challenges or roadblocks along that journey?

Noni: I mean, you're always, there's always going to be plenty of challenges I think in a rebrand project. It's such a massive undertaking. I guess one of the big ones for us was our name and, you know conversations about having a name change, you know, we do have that challenge. Charles Russell Speechlys can be a mouthful and if you abbreviate it, there are a lot of firms that sound quite similar, so we do have to be, you know, we had to be respectful of our peers, but we still obviously wanted to be unique. So I think, you know, a challenge was really talking to our stakeholders, our fee-earners, and really making sure they understood that there's nothing wrong with our name. It's okay to lean into it, to be confident with our name, and to the right audience, I think our name is really distinct and we've even seen that, you know, come through in some of the data we're receiving from some recent brand advertising. We've done that at the brand recall of our name is actually quite high, not just in the UK, but internationally as well. So it was a bit of a hurdle to overcome this perception that we would need to change our name, so it was quite a big one for sure and I guess the other one would be, you know, our new brand narrative whilst does bring in international private capital, the softer side of it, the personal relationships, the our tagline, knowing what matters, you know, making sure our lawyers are really comfortable with that language and phrases that, you know, really make you think, really make us stand out a bit more. But I think this is where we were really able to kind of link it into our values which are authentic, committed, forward-thinking, collaborative. You know, we wanna make sure that they have an authentic way to use that narrative, that language and really tailor the way they talk about the firm depending on the different client types that they're talking to. But again, that's something that's not happening overnight, there's still so much - even though the rebrand has happened, there's still so much work to really make sure there's that comfort level for all of our lawyers and being able to articulate our narrative and do it in a way that feels authentic and personal in the way that they're coming across to their clients. 

Will: There are too many acronyms, you're right, in professional services anyway, so yeah, Charles Russell Speechly is far better, rolls off the tongue. How did you get the buy-in from the partnership? I imagine there's lots of feedback. You know, how did you manage that process during the brand refresh and relaunch and where, you know, did you find that the key factors were, that contributed to that success?

Noni: Yeah, I mean, I think it's always going to be a top down approach in this kind of project, you know, starting off with our managing partner, our senior partner and our COO, you know, they were definitely the key to making sure that the feedback processes worked in the right ways and then it was about bringing the partners on board and then the rest of the firm. So I think, you know, the first stage was really around working on our brand narrative, but having an output for our partners conference because we knew getting them on board in the right way would be so important. So in order to set that up, we had a core group of stakeholders who were sort of involved from the get go. They did, you know, all of the interviews up front, they were the ones feeding back, and I think at that early stage where we were building that narrative, there was a lot more face-to-face involvement and time invested. So, you know, presentations to those stakeholders as a group, one-on-ones with them to make sure they felt like they were feeding back in the right ways. But we did, you know, keep it to a core group. I think that is one of the challenges of a rebrand, if you have every single partner or fee-earner and the firm involved, can be really challenging. So I think it was about focusing on the feedback that was coming through if you heard something more than once, yes, that's when you really need to sit up and listen to what that feedback is, but it was also just making sure that those that were involved felt like they were playing a part and they were really being listened to and then I think once we sort of moved from the narrative to the more visual side of the brand, that was much more focused on our managing partner, our senior partner, our COO, and at this stage we also brought in what we call a project owner, which was one of our divisional managing partners, David Collins, to become quite a champion for the project as well. And I think they sort of ultimately had the sign-off on the visual side. We still worked with that core group of stakeholders, we got their feedback, you know, we made sure we were listening, but, you know, when it came to things like the logo, you know, that ultimate sign off did sit with the senior leadership and I think the success really came from, what I would say, was confidence. So it was never faltering and never doubting what we were putting in front of people. So,- you know, our brand strategist from Huddle Creative was amazing. The way he presented work, he never lets you feel any doubt in what he was giving you and so I was always trying to mimic that myself when I had one-on-ones, when I talked to others, never doubting what we were putting, you know, in front of the stakeholders. But I think the other success point is really having the right, you know, champions to not only challenge you but to back you 100% and I think, you know, having a project owner like David Collins was amazing because on one hand, he would say to me, do we really think this is bold enough? And then on the other hand, he was, you know, always going in to bat when difficult decisions were being made about moving forward. But, you know, I think the absolute biggest success factor is having an incredibly hard-working and amazing team behind the scenes to actually bring this all to life, to deliver this to the firm, you know, that cannot be understated. 

Will: It sounds like you, you know, that brilliant team combined with the right stakeholders, you know, really owned the project. We hear where it can fall down is that you, to your point, you know, you let everyone have a pick and you never actually get anywhere because everyone wants it their way so actually, if you own that, keep ownership and trust of where you're going, sounds like, you know, it works really really well. So you've got your brand, you've done that, how- I know you've talked about the core group, but how did you then go about launching that brand successfully internally? I mean, did you have an activation plan that you know, you rolled out and helped embed that across the firm?

Noni: Yeah, absolutely and this was, you know, an incredibly big piece of work and I think it can't be underestimated how important that internal activation plan is, you know, to really make sure everybody's on board. So we kind of had a few different phases. I think we, you know, the first was always, you know, making sure the partners were on board. So there were lots of different presentations at partner meetings and things like that and then for the rest of the firm, we wanted to sort of generate a bit of buzz so we kicked things off with a teaser video that showcased the new messaging, the new brand. It had different voices from around the firm so it really sort of started to build that momentum and I then followed that up by doing a road show. So I went around to every single team meeting around the firm, not only fee-earners, but business services as well. And you know, the biggest success there, was really tailoring what I presented to the different teams thinking about how the rebrand, you know, presenting them the new brand, what it looks like, what it means, all of those things, but really thinking about how the rebrand affects them and making sure that I'm covering that off, that they can ask questions. And we also had this really fantastic advisory group with different team members from across the firm so they were also really paramount in sort of feeding into this plan and also helping in terms of tailoring what those roadshows looked like for the different teams. So once that sort of happened we then moved into more of the email communication side of things. But again, we tried to have a balance of yes, firm-wide emails, obviously, but also more tailored emails as well. And you know, more authentic ones that would come from our divisional managing partners that would talk about how messaging can be tailored to a different division, but then also obviously just your more standard firm-wide emails going out to make sure everybody knew what was happening when and everything sort of linked back to a page on the intranet to make sure that it was a one-stop shop, any tools that they needed, we made it really clear what was available, what was coming soon, just to make things sort of really clear and simple. I think the key with any activation plan like this is, you need it, you need that repetition. It's super important. But, you know, you can't always just be tell, tell, tell, you have to have that face-to-face engagement and that opportunity for people to ask questions and feel like you're taking them on the journey and it certainly did prove to be definitely very successful.

Will: It was fascinating stuff. It sounds like no stone unturned as well with everything that you guys did so congratulations! I mean, we're, nearly at, amazingly at the end of the podcast, but some really brilliant insights and takeaways, I'm sure for - your peers, Noni, who are either about to take this on and don't know where to start or are nodding their heads cos they've also been through something like this but maybe not done the things that you've done so successfully with the team. I'm gonna start with a nice quick-fire round just to get the tongues wagging. What's your favourite book, Noni? 

Noni: So, my favourite book is The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons.

Will: There we go I haven't read that one, so I'll make a note of that. What was your first job?

Noni: So when I was a teenager, a friend of mine, her mother before it was quite in vogue as it is now, she made brilliant cupcakes. So I used to get up at the crack of dawn on the weekends and go and sell these cupcakes at markets all over the place on the weekends.

Will: It's a lot nicer than some of the jobs I've done and heard of! If you could travel back in time, what period would you go to?

Noni: I always find this one hard because there are so many, but I think I would probably say the 1960s just for the music.

Will: Yeah. Good call. Beatle-mania. Where's your favourite place to visit and why?

Noni: So I've literally just come back from here and it was my sixth time, it would be Florence in Italy. It- I just can never describe it but the vibes there, the food, it's just such a beautiful happy place, just full of light.

Will: And good weather when you go a certain time of year I'm sure.

Noni: Very true.

Will: What's the best piece of advice that anyone has ever given you?

Noni: I think that would probably be, and I think I've had this in a few different ways over the year, but I think it would be, never lose sight of who you are.

Will: Lovely. Brilliant. Some great answers to those questions. I'm gonna try and nail you down on the last question. What would your one piece of advice be for any of your peers, any legal marketing folk, if they're about to embark on a rebrand, what would you,

what advice would you give them, particularly those, you know, and it is about to happen as we know in the market, that are about to go through a merger. 

Noni: I would say focus on what's important. I think it's- projects like this are incredibly challenging when there are so many moving parts, there are so many opinions, there are so many different things happening. Get the right senior stakeholders to stand behind you and that will allow you to focus on what's important and make sure that you can, you know, deliver a project like this. Find a brand that is authentic to your firm, I think that's the key for me.

Will: Amazing stuff, Noni, you've been amazing. Thank you so much for sharing your insights, you've been great to speak to, take care.

Noni: Thank you so much for having me.


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