In my line of work, branding is not a priority when you are starting out. Some legal firms do have the capability and the vision to start out strong building the reputation of the brand until no one really knows or even cares who owns the firm as long as they are serviced by the firm. Some lawyers don't even need for people to know their firm as they are the brand. In Malaysia, one of the legal firm which managed to attain the 'brand' status is the legal firm of Zaid Ibrahim & Co. who's founding partner already left the firm but their business is still growing year after year. Their growth is not just locally but have reached the shore of the middle east as they have a strong Islamic finance division, among others. Internationally, Norton Rose is one of the most recognisable legal firm. Both are just examples in a world full with lawyers and legal firm.
So, is brand as important to legal firm as any other company like McDonald's and Coca Cola? It seems that it depends on what is the product that you are selling. And your target customers. Which means basically the answer is yes to the question. You do need branding. Even a small sized firm like mine which concentrate on real estate, which is losing it's lustre as the economic slowdown hits the Malaysian shore. People usually trust the brand they have a loyalty to. People expect McDonald's in China to have the same Big Mac or Quarter Pounder that they can get in the United States. And the same Diet Coke. That was why these well known brand will try to assert themselves in places which are considered sacred but of high traffic and visibility. This happened to Starbucks before they finally relented and packed-up after they realised that having a branch within the Forbidden City wall was not a good idea (though they still have other branches around Beijing and other part of China)
When a legal firm or a lawyer is branded to be the best brand that one can have, people expected a few assurance from them. People expect they will win a case when so and so is representing them in a murder trial. At least they may not be hanged for bringing a tonne of cocaine. They might just be jailed for the rest of their life and there is always the possibility of being released if they are on good behaviour whilst they are in jail. Just having the best lawyer representing you already elevate your status to a different degree. Other than people respect you because you have the money to hire these lawyers, people also will say you are guilty as hell as you need the best lawyer to get you off (some lawyer jokes there for you)
As for my firm, we have been selling ourselves as a medium size legal firm which is actually a small sized one which can turnaround a property files from the property purchase agreement to the loan agreement to any type of solutions which you may need with regards with property. From the cheapest houses which are low costs, as it is known here to the high end type where the real owner rarely made an appearance. From one file to bulk files which you need to settle within 14 days. We are ready for it. But, in these coming years where there might or might not be a property sale slowdown, we have line up ourselves to be more. Like Islamic finance and intellectual property. Survival of the fittest is always the key to good business.