My hypotheses are:

  • It’s rare to see a single monolithic brand offering high-end and economical products or services under one name. Even where it’s clear that there’s common parentage, brand names are distinct, as are distribution channels (read: stores or offices). “Giorgio Armani,” “Armani Exchange,” and “Mani” are all clearly part of one corporate parent, but it’s a parent that works very hard to keep the lineages separate. Mixing them up will kill you. If you doubt me, just ask those with long memories at General Motors. In the 1970’s it came out that the carefully manicured brand distinctions between Cheverolet, Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Buick, and Cadillac were more imaginary than real. An impressive array of not just parts but entire drivetrains, chassis, and fundamental platforms were shared indiscriminately. Oldsmobile “Rocket V-8’s” in Chevy’s? You betcha. If you’re tempted into operational efficiencies, don’t even think about it.
  • If you want it to borrow from the cachet of the established parent by sharing the name, you may be able to get away with it (the jury is still out on Hyundai/Genesis, and I would argue that the Armani stable is the exception), but then again staking our entirely new mental territory in the clients’ minds is probably better. “Lexus” not “Toyota,” “Smart” not “Daimler,” and for that matter “Scion” not “Toyota.”
  • Safeguarding the integrity of the “offshoot” brand is paramount. Do not pollute its operations, marketing, finances, or talent-acquisition processes with “learning” from the parent.
  • Keep it geographically separate (LaJolla, not Battle Creek).
  • Give it its own stores/offices.

Fundamentally, these add up to one imperative: Don’t meddle!

So what are the prospects for this kind of dual-track offering in Law Land?

Highly improbable, bordering on “not going to succeed if you try it,” I would argue.

For one simple reason which has far more to do with culture, psychology, and training than it has to do with marketing, finance, or operations: Lawyers cannot control themselves when it comes to meddling. They simply won’t be able to restrain themselves and keep their hands and their opinions away from the offshoot. (If the offshoot is looking for funding from the parent, which seems far more likely than not, the meddlers will have a ready-made rationale: “It’s my money.”)

I’m not fond of this behavioral dynamic and I disapprove of it mightily. After all, it boils down to the unattractive attitude that lawyers can do anyone else’s job but no one can else could possibly do the lawyer’s job.

But is this attitude real? With resignation, I admit that it is.

So can the “offshoot” be pulled off? I fervently hope so. Allen & Overy/Peerpoint may be the first large-scale effort in this direction, and I am following its progress avidly and frankly rooting for its success. But even if it succeeds, would I wager on others? Only with someone else’s money.



Related Articles

Email Delivery

Get Our Latest Articles Delivered to your inbox +

Sign-up for email

Be the first to learn of Adam Smith, Esq. invitation-only events, surveys, and reports.

Get Our Latest Articles Delivered to Your Inbox

Like having coffee with Adam Smith, Esq. in the morning (coffee not included).

Oops, we need this information
Oops, we need this information
Oops, we need this information

Thanks and a hearty virtual handshake from the team at Adam Smith, Esq.; we’re glad you opted to hear from us.

What you can expect from us:

  • an email whenever we publish a new article;
  • respect and affection for our loyal readers. This means we’ll exercise the strictest discretion with your contact info; we will never release it outside our firm under any circumstances, not for love and not for money. And we ourselves will email you about a new article and only about a new article.

Welcome onboard! If you like what you read, tell your friends, and if you don’t, tell us.

PS: You know where to find us so we invite you to make this a two-way conversation; if you have an idea or suggestion for something you’d like us to discuss, drop it in our inbox. No promises that we’ll write about it, but we will faithfully promise to read your thoughts carefully.