I’m sure you don’t have to go as far as Chicago to find a law firm with a personality, but I stumbled upon one such organisation recently and was instantly drawn to their message. The Valorem Law web site was showcased in a presentation given at the International Referral conference in London (Sept 2013), an event with the theme “Dare, Dream, Do & Deliver”.
The venue was the prestigious British Academy for Film, Television & Arts (BAFTA) and lawyers and accountants from around the world had gathered to learn how to market their business in new and innovative ways. I was one of the speakers that day (covering the topic of storytelling in business), but the speaker before me had introduced us to a law firm who “dared to be different.”
Click on their site and you’re met by some intriguing imagery and unconventional language (at least for the professional services community). Bold, scrolling statements like, “We don’t boil the ocean to make a cup of tea” and “Wolves in sheep’s clothing,” set the tone for the site. Elsewhere there’s talk of Collab-o-Storms® and ‘Lunch with a cool person’ – they’ve even called their main conference space the ‘Bored Room’, to warn against the dangers of long, pointless meetings!
Given that our mission at Mojo Your Business is to rid the world of impersonal corporate-speak and help companies find their unique voice, I really wanted to talk to the people behind Valorem.
Happily, my approach was warmly received and led to an enjoyable 20 minute Skype conversation with Nicole Auerbach and Patrick J Lamb, the founding partners of this refreshingly original firm.
“So many firms are vanilla,” explained Lamb. “They’re afraid to upset any part of their potential client base by being too forthright in their views, but they just end up being invisible. When we created Valorem Law we wanted to stand for something and accepted that we wouldn’t be right for everybody. But we’re happy with that because we attract the clients that are right for us.”
This reminded me very much of the TEDx talk by Simon Sinek, the man behind the ‘Start with Why’ concept. He talks about the importance of attracting people who believe what you believe. In Valorem’s case this centres around the use of ‘alternative fees’ in litigation – the customization of fee arrangements to ensure an alignment of the firm’s interests and objectives with the business objectives of its clients. For years, other firms have indeed tried to boil the ocean to produce a cup of tea, by implication rewarding lower efficiency. Valorem see themselves as “architects of the New Normal”.
But it’s more than that. “Talking straight allows us to attract the right talent too,” explained Auerbach. “We’ve got a very distinctive culture and it’s no surprise that our people share core beliefs and values about client service and how we handle litigation. We talk about those things relentlessly, so we rarely get a mis-match.”
An indication of this distinctive culture is Valorem’s Collab-o-Storms®, where members of staff from all levels of the firm are invited to put forward ideas and challenge the status quo. And of course because of the firm’s aversion to the billable hour method, clients don’t have to worry about all those extra brains coming together to find the best solutions to a case or issue.
It’s been said that transparency is the fast route to trust and I especially like the openness of the partners’ profile pieces. In his bio Lamb explains how they haven’t always got their message right and were willing to take advice from their Advisory Board and adapt accordingly.
I also like the way they balance the serious and profound messages about expertise, values and beliefs with the cheekier references to “Contact Us” options (“fax – so 1990’s”) and non-corporate language (“Putting our own skin in the game…”).
This plain speaking has paid dividends for Valorem; since its formation in 2008 the firm has tripled in size, with new clients clearly drawn to its distinctive fee model and style of communication.
Valorem’s consistent marketing message and its use of social media has also opened the door to invitations to speak at conferences both legal and non-legal and to write articles on innovation for key publications in the legal industry.
So all in all a tremendously refreshing web site and a company that’s willing to stand for something in a crowded marketplace. My marketing hero Seth Godin tells us that “safe is the new risky.” It’s a strong message, but it seems to me that Valorem has embraced the notion that vanilla is out and that being ‘architects of the New Normal’ is very much in.