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Bar News - September 16, 2015

McLane Firm Repositions Brand Amidst Bay State Growth





As of Sept. 13, New Hampshire’s largest private law firm officially changed its name to McLane Middleton, a move partially aimed at positioning the firm for continued growth in Massachusetts, where it currently does about 25 percent of its business.

In New Hampshire, “McLane” was easily recognized as the name of a law firm, but the shortened name for the McLane, Graf, Raulerson & Middleton wasn’t working in Massachusetts, firm leaders said.

In the Bay State and generally, the firm referred to itself as “the McLane Law Firm,” to avoid confusion with companies in other industries with the same name. These days, however, large law firms generally shorten their original long names to two names and do not use “law firm” as part of the brand, said CEO and Executive Director Cathy Schmidt.

Of the firm’s 90 attorneys, 20 are based at its Woburn, Mass., office, which opened seven years ago and where the firm has built a sizable trusts and estates practice. Last year, business in the Woburn office was up 15 percent over the previous year, Schmidt said. The firm projects continued growth in Massachusetts, said Dick Samuels, managing director, but there are no plans to match its New Hampshire business. “One thing that lets us operate better in Massachusetts is that we are big here,” Samuels said, explaining that the firm’s cost structure offers an advantage in the Massachusetts market.

The change to McLane Middleton is not the result of a merger or change in management. The firm conducted a yearlong “brand discovery” process with marketing agency Wedu in an effort to bolster its “brand equity,” particularly in Massachusetts, said McLane Middleton Marketing Director Susan de Mari. The process involved surveying more than 600 clients, employees and others about their perspectives of the firm, conducting qualitative interviews, and performing a competitor analysis.

“I think we’ve been shortened to McLane for so long that it’s not so much getting rid of names as it is adding Middleton back into the name,” said de Mari of the result. Samuels said removing Graf and Raulerson from the name in no way diminishes the contributions of Robert Raulerson and Kenneth Graf, both of whom died in 1994.

The firm’s name change coincides with the launch of its new website and a new logo that trades in the firm’s signature maroon color for blue and gray. An icon created as part of the logo was eventually scrapped, officials at the firm said.

New Hampshire’s three largest private law firms all have offices in Massachusetts, two of them in Boston – Sheehan Phinney Bass + Green and Devine Millimet, which acquired Nelson Kinder’s Boston office following the merger in July and closed its former Andover office.

Over the next three years, McLane Middleton leaders say they plan on developing the same practice areas as most similarly situated firms across the country – high tech and advanced manufacturing, intellectual property, health care, and energy – in addition to the firm’s niche in “school law,” by increasing the number of independent preparatory schools it represents across the country and internationally.

“Moving into Massachusetts has helped grow that more,” Samuels said, “and that’s a strategic focus for us as well.”

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