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What’s in a Name? $19 Million!

New Year’s Eve was Tavern on the Green’s last night for dinner under its current ownership. Now, after a fight for ownership rights of the brand, a Manhattan federal judge will decide who gets to keep the name Tavern on the Green, valued at $19 million. That makes the brand worth 50% of annual gross receipts of $38 million. 1 2

While a name like Tavern on the Green has tremendous value as a brand that draws people to the restaurant, lawyers are in a different situation with two distinct differences.

First, a lawyer’s name cannot be sold with the law practice because of the prohibition, in most states, of using another lawyer’s name who is not practicing in the law firm. If a lawyer’s name is branded, it becomes a brand with substantial value that cannot be realized upon the sale of the law practice.

Second, unlike restaurants, lawyers utilize direct response advertising, so branding should focus upon effective methods of increasing direct response results. Since branding a lawyer’s name does not increase the effectiveness of direct response, an alternative mechanism that increases direct response effectiveness should be branded.

A vanity phone number solves both problems. A vanity phone number advertised together with the law firm name accomplishes branding of both the vanity phone number and the lawyer’s name, but the vanity phone number becomes the primary brand.

When a law practice is sold to another lawyer, the public is not aware of the new attorney’s name which has not yet become a brand, but is aware of the vanity phone number which continues on as a brand. Since a vanity phone number can be transferred with the sale of a law practice to a new attorney, the value of the vanity phone number branding can be realized if the lawyer either owns the vanity phone number or has the right to transfer the territory to another attorney.

As can be seen with Tavern on the Green, branding is extremely valuable. A law practice earning legal fees of $10 million annually could realize an additional $5 million just for the brand, upon the sale of the law practice.

Finally, branding a vanity phone number solves the issue of finding an effective means of increasing direct response. Whatever is branded in advertising is what the public remembers. The question is what do you want the public to remember? Do you want people to remember your name or how to call you?


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