Skip to main content

What if you wanted to be “The Kimpton Hotels of law firms”?

Some years ago I gave a “Branding, Differentiation, and Firm Culture” presentation in Seattle and the law firm put me up at the Monaco Hotel. I love all the quirky Kimpton family hotels. The rooms are all unique and different, with funky furniture and furnishings. At a Monaco, it’s all the little eccentricities that differentiate them and set the tone for your stay.

For example, at a typical Hilton, Hyatt, or Marriott, the robes hanging in the closets (if any) are plain white.  At a Monaco, they’re leopard print or zebra striped. Simply donning a robe makes you smile.  And I’m not really a “robe” guy.

My favorite part, however, is – if you ask they’ll bring you a pet goldfish in a nice big bowl to keep you company.  Frankly, I travel regularly and don’t get all that lonely.  But I always request a goldfish anyway.  When the bellman brought it to my room, he set it down along with a tiny table-card informing me that the fish’s name was Jason, a sweet touch.

You can’t stay at a Monaco Hotel and be crabby. 

The little quirks put you in a good mood and on your best behavior. The staff is beautifully trained. The accommodations are appropriate for a business traveler, but the innovative touches make it more warm and personal.  When I spoke to the law firm, we discussed culture and differentiation.

“All law firms look alike,” the managing partner declared.

I assured him that they didn’t have to. 

It’s up to the firm to decide who they want to be, and how they want their people to behave–precisely what they value and how to execute on it. Then the partners must model that behavior without exception.

As it turns out, the managing partner also enjoyed staying at Monaco Hotels. I asked him, “What would you do differently if you decided that you wanted to become the ‘Monaco Hotel’ of law firms?”  If you wanted to infuse more style and personality into your environment?

You can be different.

It’s simply a matter of choice and leadership.

It starts with understanding who you are. And want to be.

The Gilbert LLP firm (“The Harley-Davidson of big law firms”) has racing-red Ducati motorcycles in its lobby instead of sculpture, and autographed electric guitars and album covers instead of framed artwork.  It’s a conscious decision. They know precisely who they are and how they want to be perceived. Then they ensured that visitors understood that story as soon as you walk into their lobby.

What would “being different” look like at your firm? 

How would you dress? What would hang on your walls? What little robes or goldfish-like touches could you create that would be appropriate for a law firm, but still get people talking and feeling like they were part of something unique?

How could you make your environment more comfortable and inviting for your clients?  What training would be required? Would you need to hire more or different people?

It’s not that you can’t be different. It’s just that you haven’t yet chosen to be. 
But wouldn’t it make the firm a more interesting place to work?

All images (C) Copyright 2016 Kimpton Hotels

I was working in Boise, Idaho and stayed in the Hotel 43.  When you enter your room, you are greeted with a little stuffed bear on the bed wearing a Hotel 43 terrycloth robe.

It’s just a little thing, but after a long day of traveling, it really helps set the hotel apart from the typical business hotels. Can you imagine a Hilton or Hyatt doing something like this? No, you probably can’t.

It doesn’t take much to stand out, but you first have to know precisely who you are and what your message is.  Once you do, finding ways to convey that sensibility to the marketplace is relatively easy.

How can your law firm use this same type of idea?
I don’t mean tiny plush lawyers in terry robes.