Sunday, 22 April 2012

Thayne Forbes

Who'd have thought that chocolate would be the next new angle on the story of the deregulation of the legal services market? I'm always interested in new angles on the LSA/ABS story and this week I was in for a delicious treat when Thayne Forbes, co-founder of world-leading brand valuation company Intangible Business paid us a visit. Intangible Business works regularly with law firms typically valuing brands in the context of eg M&A transactions or commercial disputes. But this week Thayne had a lot to say about law firms' own brand valuation issues - and when he made the link with chocolate brands he really got my attention. 

Thayne is challenging law firms to develop a deeper understanding of what their brand means to their business, as he believe that in a fast deregulating legal marketplace branding is increasing in importance. He describe how a not uncommon lawyer response to the concept of branding is 'Reputation is key to our business of course, but we're a law firm not a chocolate bar, we don't have a brand'.  I have long advised law firms to think of their brand as a 'promise' as to what people can expect from the firm -  and the strength (or otherwise) of a brand relating directly to the extent to which the experience of the firm backs up that promise (or doesn't).  Thayne concurs: in essence, Intangible Business describes a brand as simply 'a promise of what to expect'. And they have now launched a game challenging legal professionals to show their understanding of branding by matching up law firm characteristics to well known chocolate bar brands.  If you're intrigued to learn more, click here to read Thayne's colleague Keith Lucas on the subject of Chocolate Bars and Law Firms

Although over the last decade many law firms have developed a highly  sophisticated grasp of what branding is really  about - not just the big City or national firms, but some smaller regional firms too - many are still content to dismiss the concept of brand value as 'far too woolly for a business as serious as law to be concerned with'.  But Thayne talked to me about brands in law firms in a totally new way and gave me real (chocolatey) food for thought. 

'I have seen a number of disputes, particularly where a partner has left a firm, or has been effectively kicked out, and a good part of the argument about compensation has focussed on the value that the individual contributed to the firm's brand or vice versa. The reality is that most partnership deeds normally expressly preclude issues of brand value being disputed in this way so as one partner goes out or one partner comes in to the partnership issues of an individual's contribution to the firm's brand are not debated. I think it is perhaps for this reason that lawyers have got into the habit of thinking that these issues of brand simply don't apply to their type of business. But they do, and the issue inevitably comes up where such partnership deeds don't apply. And the value of a law firm brand can be enormous.'

Deregulation and non-lawyer investment in law businesses will put brand valuation on the table as never before.' Interesting times ahead.

To take part in Intangible Business's Chocolate Bars and Law Firms game, click here to name a law firm and say which chocolate bar it should be and why. The prize for the top suggestion is a Magnum of Champagne. The winner will be announced in May 2012.

Chocolate and Champagne? Now that's my kind of client! 

Uncanny timing for the Brighton Conference on the future of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) which kicked off this Wednesday (18-20 April 2012); the UK Government is all set to challenge ECHR powers to interfere with UK affairs and is hoping to sign up to a package of reforms - The Brighton Declaration. The irony was that the conference opened in the midst of the furore over radical cleric Abu Qatada's appeal to the ECHR against his deportation to face terrorism charges in his native Jordan; questions over whether or not his appeal had been lodged within the deadline; and whether the UK Government in fact knew when that deadline actually fell anyway! News reports from the Conference have made fascinating reading. So far I particularly like Lord McNally's analogy when urging that the reforms must put more onus on individual member states to consider human rights issues at the national level, and not leaving the job entirely to the ECHR: 'Responsibility of individual member states for human rights should run through the reforms like the letters through a stick of Brighton Rock' he said. Sweet. 

The Pre-Raphaelites are coming to London. Excited to hear the news this week that the Tate Britain is to stage an exhibition this Autumn promoting the Pre-Raphaelites as the rebels - the Damien Hirsts - of their age. Looking at their paintings in the 21st century it's hard to imagine just how much their work shook the art world. Alison Smith, curator of Pre-Raphaelites: the Victorian Avante-Garde, explains how John Millais' casual depiction of Jesus in Christ in the House of his Parents outraged Victorian society inviting criticism even from Charles Dickens.

Rebellion as 'passé' - now that's a theme: could be a good one to take the teenagers to... 

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