Chicago Law Firm Rebuilds Employer Brand and Website
By Bill Skowronski
Friday, September 29, 2023
When Chicago-based law firm Sinars Slowikowski Tomaska came to Red Caffeine for a one-day workshop, its leadership team wanted to convey how different the firm is–for clients and employees. They needed to do so to attract the top talent the firm needed to grow nationwide.
An Undifferentiated Sea of Sameness
While every company has a story, few capture and document it effectively. The founding partners of SST uniquely built the kind of firm they would want to work for. It is distinctly people-centric and flexible. It’s focused on growth opportunities, collaboration, and transparency. It doesn’t limit where people can work or how they move through their careers.
SST offers more opportunities for lawyers to become the best they can be, more resources, and more than just a job. They challenge attorneys to expect more–from themselves and their careers.
That flies in the face of traditional law firms that only recruit from Ivy League schools and require attorneys to endure years of professional abuse before qualifying for a promotion. Senior partners don’t yell at associates or criticize them in front of their colleagues. And there’s no glass ceiling. It’s not your grandfather’s law firm.
Many traditional firms lean on their history and reputation in the courthouse. However, without a strong employer brand, they see a disconnect between expectations and reality. They hear complaints of poor internal accountability. They struggle to develop and maximize internal talent or delegate responsibilities, leading to burnout among leadership. They lose opportunities to work “on the business” thanks to growing complacency, culture erosion, fighting, and turnover. Their work environment is considered toxic, and their employer brand is weak. These companies feel a widening gap and frustration between where the company is and where it wants to be.
SST worked hard to be a different kind of law firm, so attracting, developing, and retaining the best attorneys possible was extremely important. On the way to its human capital growth goals, the firm’s leaders also wanted to ensure staff could see progression paths for internal growth and promotion. The firm wanted to be seen as the leader who can adapt quickly. They wanted to be known for helping young lawyers grow and be recognized for treating people better than other firms. SST wanted to attract attorneys with a genuine interest in litigation in a collaborative environment where people had space to find their passion and were inspired to pursue it. They felt it was a different kind of law firm. But, nothing that faced the public was telling that story.
The Application Process
Adding to its employer brand awareness challenges, SST also had difficulty drawing top talent into and through the application process. Resumes were manually collected from LinkedIn or often during initial screening calls. Job descriptions were written, published across multiple sites, and sometimes rewritten, creating a version control nightmare. It was a very manual and laborious process. SST wanted it to be easier–better, even.
For SST to attract the top talent, the firm needed a compelling employer brand story that it could tell on an engaging platform and a streamlined acquisition process to ensure no one slipped through the cracks.
Red Caffeine worked closely with SST to define its growth goals, document human capital challenges, identify white space opportunities to differentiate from competitors and tell its story online where candidates could easily move through the application process.
Phase 1: Conduct Research to Find Opportunities for Differentiation
After digging into SST’s growth goals and challenges in our initial workshop, we analyzed six similar law firms. We uncovered several important trends related to talent acquisition in the legal field. We were able to determine the following:
- Each firm in the comparison set excelled in certain areas, and many highlighted one to three industry trends.
- No firm leveraged its employer brand to address all of the trends in a candidate-centric way.
- The legal field is a largely undifferentiated sea of sameness. The same words and phrases are used across channels by multiple firms.
- Most firms do not use their Careers section to tell candidates a compelling story or favorably position themselves.
- No firm is distinguishing between its market brand and its employer brand.
We also interviewed nearly 20 SST employees and surveyed another 20 to determine what lawyers look for in their job search, how well SST met those expectations, and what factors might cause attorneys to leave their firm one day.
Phase 2: Crafting a Brand Story that Encourages Attorneys to Expect More
SST’s founding partners saw an opportunity to build a different kind of law firm, so they built it themselves. Today, attorneys who want to lead innovative work have a place at SST. This quickly growing national litigation firm provides a collaborative culture known for treating people better, professional development, and a transparent path to partner without the old-school hurdles of a traditional law firm.
At SST, attorneys find more opportunities to become the best lawyer they can be, more resources, and more than just a job. At SST, they expect more.
That language, particularly the tagline “expect more,” became the backbone for how SST now communicates with job candidates and keeps itself internally accountable. It sets a standard that other firms can’t match and tells a clear brand narrative that no one else can own.
Phase 3: Create a Brand New Online Experience:
With fresh and modern visual branding and a clear messaging roadmap, we created an online experience that accurately reflects SST’s unique culture and communicates its mission, vision, and values while cementing the firm’s credibility as a leading litigation defense firm and an employer of choice.
The new SST website welcomes visitors with bold messaging and engaging full-screen images of the people who make the firm so special. There is no stock photography. All photos were professionally shot over several days. The images tap into the natural light and decor that makes SST’s Downtown Chicago office so appealing. And, while some shots were staged and others captured organic interactions, all feel warm and organic.
The imagery and messaging distinguish SST’s employer brand position. It humanizes and differentiates the firm, building on its people-first ethos.
The sitemap now includes an Areas of Practice page that cleanly lays out all 15 types of cases in which the firm specializes.
The site also includes an About page, chronicling the firm’s evolution and expansion throughout its history.
Finally, the new site now features each of its five nationwide locations with local photography and descriptions of nearby attractions.
Every SST attorney is now easily discoverable on its Our Team page. Users can search by name or area of practice and also download each attorney’s profile as a PDF.
Streamline the Recruiting Process - All Roads Lead to the Website
By integrating technology with tools like Paylocity, SST can more easily manage the talent acquisition process.
Job seekers can find openings and view job descriptions on LinkedIn or other hiring sites. However, they can only apply for jobs through the SST website—which means SST has a single point where all candidates, resumes, applications, and statuses are collected.
With the Paylocity integration, SST can now add job descriptions and save them for a later date, edit them without needing to track version control across multiple platforms or remove job openings altogether with the click of a button. They don’t have to write and post job descriptions across a dozen sites or juggle incoming candidates. They can own the process and control the experience within their website.
Now, that experience highlights SST’s focus on work/life balance, meaningful work, diversity, equity, inclusion, professional development, and transparent career paths.
Internally, the SST employer brand took shape in a new set of brand standards. Those included a new tagline, a new logo (marked with a touch of orange to warm up and differentiate the brand), an elevator pitch, boilerplate, logo standards, color standards, brand voice and tone guidelines, and common style rules.
Publicly, the SST brand story came to life on its dynamic and engaging new website. Behind the scenes, the talent acquisition process is now streamlined, attracting hundreds of engaged applicants.
Overall, SST is now telling the story it wants others to hear and building a strong employer brand that will draw in top candidates who can continue to tell that story for years.