Earlier this year, I met a man who told me that it was “very necessary” for my son to have an English name, but he could not give me a reason why. For someone who has lived her entire life (within and outside Nigeria) without an English name, and with no problems associated with that fact, it would take a lot to convince me that it is “very necessary” to have an English name.
When I was growing up, I desperately wanted to have an English name. I did not think that it was fair that almost everyone I knew had an English name. My grandfather who had three very English names himself – Roland, James, Erasmus and who had given English middle names to all his children, suddenly told me that an English name was necessary,
I imagine that the same considerations go into naming a law firm as with naming a child. A lot of thought goes into the process because this name will carry on for many years, and will tell a story to the world.
Traditionally, law firms usually take on the given legal names of the founding partners. But these days, people are more adventurous in deciding the name for their law firms. Using one’s name is arguably the easy route, but what if you have a name like “Trick Turner”? I don’t know if that is someone’s real name or not, but a profile with that name requested to connect with me on Linkedin, and red signals started blaring in my head. What would be the first impression people get when they hear the name “Trick Turner & Associates”? I know what my first impression is, and it is not a very positive one.
Another instance where given legal names may not work would be in a partnership. What happens when Mustapha & Ayo fall out and only Mustapha is left? Or, what happens when there are six partners all of whom have names with at least six syllables. In that case, normal daily use would force the shortening of the name, and whose name would be left out? For those with common names, it might be better to go the non-traditional route to avoid mistaken identities.
Some people feel that their companies cannot have global appeal if they use their traditional names – they fear that the names will be too difficult to remember or pronounce. I don’t agree with this after all we have all come to learn how to pronounce “Schlumberger”, for instance, so if Shokolokobangoshay & Co., offered good legal service and built up their brand, in no time the world would learn how to say Shokolokobangoshay.
For those lawyers who are just starting out, if you choose to go the non-traditional route, here are a few things to consider when naming your law firm:
The rules – every profession has rules, but none quite as intrusive as the legal profession. The legal profession has a long list of rules of professional ethics, with the overall purpose of maintaining a certain prestige in the profession. Practitioners cannot do anything that brings disrepute to the profession. I believe that would include giving a law firm a name that would bring ridicule to the profession.
Reputation – this is acquired over time, but the name of a law firm can sound powerful and connote years of experience even when the practitioner is a greenhorn.
Message – you might want to send a message about your skills, practice area or ideology with the name of your law firm. Some key words that send that message could form the name of your practice. For instance, using the names Tech Law Partners, or Lex Primus (Law First) or Lagos Maritime Law Partners, etc.
Scaling up – the name of your law firm will go on letterheads, call cards, signage, etc., and you may even want to set up a website and create email addresses. It is a good idea to search the internet to see if there is another firm or company in the world using the same name or one similar to that which you have chosen. You don’t want potential clients confusing you for some other people somewhere in the world. Furthermore, a name that translates easily into a url address is helpful – one that is not too long so that it does not have to be mercilessly abbreviated to get a manageable url address. For instance www.techlaw.com is an intuitive abbreviation for Tech Law Partners, short and easy to remember. What if you had a law firm with the name “Wide Winning Briefs and Associates”? Using the whole name for the url might be too long, imagine what it would look like on paper. How much space would that take up on a call card? Would you use the first letter abbreviation (WWBA)? What if some other company had that url address? So, “WiWiBA”? Hmmm.
Whatever you choose to name your law firm, remember that the name must have longevity, evoke confidence, and be able to adapt to change. What you want is a name that you will be happy with for as many years as you choose to practice. It is not a bad idea when you have narrowed down your choice to four or five names to test them out with your friends and family and get their thoughts on the name.