Case study: Berwin Leighton Paisner - 'A Picture is Worth 76,000 Legal Words'

Berwin Leighton Paisner LLP 

A Picture is Worth 76,000 Legal Words 

Category: Outstanding Team 


A surprising innovation in perhaps an unlikely industry, this is the (success) story of a diverse marketing team helping to overcome a 100-plus-year-old communications challenge.

In 2014, law firm Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP) launched something that delighted clients, helped protect millions of pounds in revenues and, more profoundly, challenged long-standing prejudices about how lawyers communicate. We believe our innovation will change our industry.

What did we do? Simply, and in a world first, we systematically made legal advice visual.

The back-story

Imagine for a moment you are a senior executive or senior in-house lawyer within a major international company. You are faced with making pivotal decisions that will determine the future of your business, against a backdrop of an already hectic environment. You turn to your law firm to help make matters clearer, only to receive an inch-thick dossier of advice, written in impenetrable language. It’s just not helpful.

In a world conditioned to the beautiful simplicity of Apple, and also 140-character brevity, clients told us that many law firms have remained institutions renowned for complex reports filled with arcane language. Our marketing team interviewed clients, who told us: "Filter up the material stuff; 76,000 items smacks of no priorities, irrelevant and inefficient focus on the minutiae and not respecting the client’s time."

BLP’s marketing director and head of brand sat down with our firm’s chairman and managing partner and agreed that we would take a stand.

A brand imperative

Our team’s goal was to delight clients and deliver on our brand promise of being a clear, commercial and innovative legal adviser. And while client delight is an appropriate objective in and of itself, it is an absolute imperative for BLP. We compete with rivals five times larger than us and so, when we win clients, we have to keep them. High client satisfaction and loyalty are central to our business performance.

Our innovation

A small marketing team, including a 20-plus-years PowerPoint veteran, a tenacious design executive and a senior marketing communications specialist, proactively studied the legal communications on 50 major legal cases. The team read through 5000 pages of legal documentation and, in a eureka moment, identified more than a dozen ways to simplify complex points using visuals.

This had nothing to do with pixel-perfect extravagance or witty social-media activation, and everything to do with delivering no-nonsense, effective communications that helped board members spot key issues in three seconds flat.

And while delivering advice visually was original, what we believe is truly unique in the legal world was that we delivered this innovation systematically. We invested a year embedding our visual approach on our people’s PCs so that they could create effective communications in minutes without a degree in graphic design.

That may not sound like a big deal, but it had never been done before to our knowledge. And clients loved it.

Teamwork and results

This innovation saw progressive lawyers partnering with a diverse marketing team to improve the effectiveness of legal advice. Working collaboratively, the BLP marketing team earned lawyer trust and launched their visual approach in 2014 to over 200 lawyers across 12 different business units.

The team applied their visual approach to 500 high profile legal projects – touching clients that contributed millions in revenues for BLP last year. They earned a commendation from the Financial Times in the process.

Feedback was phenomenal - clients responding with high satisfaction. One commented: "I wonder whether clients will ever want full, written advice ever again?".

Impact on the brand

The core brand promise of every law firm is to deliver clear advice that helps clients. The BLP team has helped transform the way that is achieved…

Legal advice has been delivered in the same way for decades. But, in the space of 18 months, BLP pro-actively identified a new and far more effective, visual way of delivering legal advice. Applying that visual communications approach to over 500 legal cases equated to 500 new moments of client delight last year.

Beyond client delight, this initiative personified new-thinking. It challenged age-old prejudices that some non-lawyers told us they had about how lawyers communicate – namely, that they craft long, impenetrable documents that bamboozle people. The team’s innovation has made it far easier and quicker for senior executives to spot key legal issues, and consequently make better-informed business decisions. One City executive commented: "That is the first time I’ve understood a word a lawyer has said to me."

Looking ahead, we believe our innovative approach heralds the future of legal advice.