Optimize Office Signage to Advance in the Firm


These days, branding is everything—all the way down to what sign you have on your desk and outside your office. Or what sign you can hang on someone else. If through pure hard work you are still having trouble advancing in the firm, consider optimizing your office signage to increase your brand value to the firm. Here’s how.


Doctorize Your Title. I don’t know why lawyers call themselves “Mr.” or “Ms.” We graduated with a Juris Doctorate, after spending three hellish years permanently changing our brain patterns. The other doctors out there? They either spent a few years schlepping around hospitals or fifteen years writing a dissertation. We got it done. So, it’s time to take back the doctorate degree and use it to your advantage. Put it on your business card. Have your office sign and nameplate modified to include “Dr.” in your title, like the one that sits on my desk. And if another associate calls you by your first name, remind them, “that’s Dr. Peters to you, pal.”

Enhance Your Office Signage. One way to increase your positive law firm reputation is to hang signage credentials outside your office. With a modest investment at Office Depot and a few pieces of velcro, you can increase your prestige. Consider this sign, which currently hangs outside my office:

Don’t worry. Most people won’t notice and, if they do, they’ll simply think you got the award some time ago and won’t question it.

Strategic Offensive Signage. While you can only do so much to increase your law office signage, there are other options available to hang demeaning titles on your competition, potentially knocking them down a notch in the pecking order. Consider starting with something simple, like this:

Other suggestions could be “Lunch Helper,” “Assistant Mailroom Specialist,” or simply “Coat Closet.” Honestly, a few well-placed phrases, two dabs of glue, and you are good to go. If you need something a bit more powerful, privacy signs are a good option. With the gunner associate always closing his door to make it look like he’s serious, hang one of these on his knob:

Office signage is an oft-overlooked part of your law firm brand. In an increasingly competitive job market, though, ignore office signage at your risk. But with a modest investment and some creativity, you can continue to stand out as a star in firm. Let us know how well it works for you or if you have signs that you recommend for associates.

C. Hank Peters ("Chank") is an attorney whose background includes a rural, small-town, solo practice in Minnesota. He uses his practice experience from the late 1970s to advise attorneys who want to establish a lean and client-focused legal practice. He is one of a few legal marketing attorneys online and remains the inspiration for the website Big Legal Brain.

11 Comments

  1. Strenuous Objector

    June 9, 2011 at 10:00 am

    We don’t call ourselves Dr. because the average idiot has no idea what it really means, assumes you know how to do a triple bypass, and then sues when you can’t cure them of their herpes. Attorney at Law just sounds cooler in my book anyway. Also, I like Esq. but it is known to be abused by douchebags.

  2. DSK

    June 9, 2011 at 12:24 pm

    Well, here is my take on why we do not use the Dr. title. In the rest of the world, lawyers do not sit through 4 years of college before law school – they obtain their LL.B. (Bachelor of Laws), then, if they would like, an LL.M. (Master of Laws), then if they are really stuck up (LOL) an S.J.D. (Doctor of Laws). Here in the USA – we needed to come up with a degree to bestow on law school grads, hence the J.D. – however, once a student has a J.D. they too have the option of seeking their LL.M. and then an S.J.D.
    Therefore, in actuality, we are not doctors of laws in the USA until we receive an LL.M. and then an S.J.D.

  3. D. C. Toedt

    June 9, 2011 at 2:50 pm

    “Doctor” derives from the Latin word for “teacher” – http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=doctor.

    In the UK, (male) surgeons make it a point of pride to be called “Mister” as opposed to “Doctor.” http://www.rcseng.ac.uk/patient_information/faqs/surgeons.html#dr

  4. Guano Dubango

    June 9, 2011 at 2:50 pm

    My assistant will now want to have such a sign! She already tells me she is privileged because I do all of my own typing. In my country, we had to learn typing before we were permitted to compete gymnasium (what you call high-school). Now that I am a typing black-belt, all of the assistants want to be my assistant.

  5. mean partner

    June 9, 2011 at 9:07 pm

    Guano, that slamming you heard was Alama and “Ellen” leaving, since they will never date anyone that has to do his own typing.

    You just lost life points too, since without a secretary to do your typing, you have no one to harass, annoy, fondle, do nooners with, and are dependent upon lazy, indolent, overweight assistants. between lunches spent stuffing themselves with starch, they will gossip and avoid you, since they know you have no power, and no balls. They know you won’t make them do anything.

    One of the things we learn at the Western Imperialists Finishing School, is not to ever learn to type. Its better to fondle a secretary isntead (unless its a man).

    The British forced typing on colonies to distract the intellegensia into wearing silly glasses, dressing well and to write boring books that no one ever read from revolutions.

    Assistants are disgruntled people with a chip on their shoulder. No docile enough to be a secretary: not smart enough to be anything else.

    Now, while other partners are meeting clients, fondling their secretaries and impressing clients, you’ll be typing.

    Dump the starch repositories: Hire a secretary and make her your assistant. Don’t work her too hard. Make sure she looks professionally hot. That is a sign everyone understands.

    Do you think Matthew Richardson (“Lawyer to some, scumbag to all”) is doing his own typing?

    • Laura

      June 10, 2011 at 12:41 pm

      I am not sure about Guano’s bona fides, but he does not appear to me to be a sexist. You, sir, are not a Guano. You are the type of fellow that women should be very wary of, lest they lose their maidenhood by associating with you.

  6. MagicCircleJerk

    June 10, 2011 at 1:23 pm

    Given that each secretary is assigned to 4-5 attys these days, those could be some big signs.

  7. mean partner

    June 10, 2011 at 2:36 pm

    the trick is to make everyone else type their own stuff and only give it to the secretary for formatting. Because she is too busy typing MY stuff from scratch. I also buy her wine and small gifts to endear her to me and make the others seem as if they are the mean people.

  8. Jim

    June 10, 2011 at 2:40 pm

    to hell with it.. i want to be a doctor

    • Bill

      June 10, 2011 at 9:46 pm

      Nice going, fellas, now there will be one less doosh in law school.

  9. Adam

    October 17, 2012 at 3:32 pm

    I love the principle of the idea, but most clients are probably confused enough as it is. Probably don’t want to put one more thing out there…

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