Brand On The Run

There’s an email that comes around every so often, and which may well have previously landed in your inbox.

It always amuses me each time I receive it, and works by posing you two moral dilemmas:-

Question 1:
If you knew a woman who was pregnant, who had 8 kids already, three who were deaf, two who were blind, one mentally retarded, and she had syphilis, would you recommend that she have an abortion?
We’ll come back to that one, but first try this next question:-

Question 2:
It is time to elect a new world leader, and only your vote counts. Here are the facts about the three candidates. Who would you vote for?

  • Candidate A:- Associates with crooked politicians, and consults with astrologist. He’s had two mistresses. He also chain smokes and drinks 8 to 10 martinis a day.
  • Candidate B:- He was kicked out of office twice, sleeps until noon, used opium in college and drinks a quart of whisky every evening.
  • Candidate C:- He is a decorated war hero. He’s a vegetarian, doesn’t smoke, drinks an occasional beer and never cheated on his wife.


Candidate A is Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Candidate B is Winston Churchill.
Candidate C is Adolf Hitler.

Whoops. Yeah, I went for C too.

Recently we were retained on a national Head of Property opportunity with a Top 100 practice. As is standard we discussed potential candidates with the client before approaching and meeting these partners face-to-face to discuss the opening in some detail, initially on a confidential basis until we has ascertained that there was sufficient interest to discuss things more formally.

As is occasionally the case, when we disclosed which firm we were representing one of the candidates opted not to be considered further, despite the fact that she was presently with a smaller firm, the job specification ticked all of the boxes and that the position represented a significant uplift in salary. Why? Quite simply the brand wasn’t good enough.

Interestingly enough there were others who were pleasantly surprised when we revealed who our client was. Having discussed the PEP, the projected earnings, ambitions of the firm, the turnover and the calibre of the client base some of the individuals were perhaps slightly surprised that a brand they believed to be inferior could offer work of that quality and the financial remuneration to match.

Brands can be weakened or tainted through a number of factors. Loss of high profile clients (or high profile loss of clients!) poor financial performance and departure of key staff can impact a firm’s standing, although dodgy write-ups in the press or a well-documented high staff turnover can also lead to a firm being tarred with an undesired reputation. Particularly post-recession there are a number of law firms who didn’t do themselves a huge amount of credit by the way that they handled the downturn.

The fact is that the partners who will gain are those willing to look beyond the rumour and the brand, and instead look at the opportunity. One client we have acted for in the past who have a damaged brand can also boast of top equity being substantially higher than any other client in the city; is it worth discounting an opportunity just based on the name when you’re talking about those numbers?

Obviously as the saying goes there is no smoke without fire; if you hear horror stories about a firm it is worth looking in some detail as to whether these are genuine and if there are currently issues in need of resolution. However you may just find that these rumours have been greatly exaggerated and that there’s actually an absolute diamond in the rough where you can handle good quality work; only by exploring the options and not discounting opportunities out of hand will you get the opportunity to discover this further.

And, by the way, back to your answer to the abortion question: if you said yes, you just killed Beethoven.



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