Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Sign of the times

In marketing, having an easily recognised logo or style which encapsulates the brand is half the battle. Heinz baked beans have their distinctive label design, Kellogg’s cornflakes have the green cockerel and legal aid used to have its two figures at a table. The last government went through a rebranding exercise after the Access to Justice Act (1999) when the legal aid brand was junked in favour of the Criminal Defence Service (CDS) and the Community Legal Service (CLS). This rebranding was an expensive flop and we argue that the current government should move decisively to bring back the old brand.

Other countries such as Canada still use the legal aid logo and it seems solicitors here have been reluctant to drop it. The picture, taken last week, shows the office door of a firm in Cornwall. Maybe it has not got around to changing the sign, or perhaps it took the view that it was best to ignore the chopping and changing around legal aid branding and stick to what the public understands. If the latter was its motivation, it makes sense. Changing a well-recognised brand is expensive and can lead to confusion among customers. For many people seeking legal help it can feel intimidating walking into a solicitor's office. With the legal aid logo, at least they have the reassurance that a solicitor provides this public service, as plenty do not.

Of course, the term 'legal aid' is still widely used to describe the services provided by the CDS and the CLS. Both these services got branding and associated logos, which have never caught on. As well as being cheap (the logo is already designed!), readopting the legal aid brand would help with legal aid’s profile in what are difficult times. A further reduction in the number of high street firms is likely (see 'Justice committee slams government's legal aid plans'), which means a strong marketing strategy is essential as the public needs to know that services are still available. It would also, perhaps, show some indication from the government that it is not just content to allow legal aid to wither away as a public service.

Picture: LAG

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