How Important are Law Firm Business Cards?

Being professional does not mean you have to be invisible. Tradition is a wonderful thing, I like classic black on ivory. But I'm also practical. I want that card to throw me a clue. I want something that helps me to remember the person that gave it to me so I can follow them on Twitter!

business-card-smallI’m usually blogging about the online world where a “calling card” is a digital footprint found in a Google search or a profile on a social networking site.

Today, however, we’re taking a side trip into the bricks and mortar world, or to be more exact, the paper and ink world. Here, there is still much to be said for the importance of the paper business card. It’s being used and it’s not to be discounted in anyway. It is still very important.

Law firm business cards with black typography, engraved or printed, on cream or white card stock immediately communicates, “I’m a lawyer.” I don’t know of any other industry that uses that style, so I feel pretty safe making that blanket statement. It’s a classic. It’s tradition.  And if you want to feel safe, e.g. anonymous, your cards should look like that too.  Like most law firm Web site copy, it’s interchangeable. They all say the same thing. It’s safe and it’s not going to help you where it counts; being memorable.

The downside of tradition.

I love the classics; movies, novels, music, fashion, cars, vacations, family dinnertime, and holidays. But when it comes to collecting business cards, I want that card to throw me a clue to help me remember who gave it to me. And if that means bucking tradition, then I’m all for it.

I’m not suggesting a business card be far out or off brand, but, there are a few things I do suggest that can help you to stand out from the crowd.

Before you read further, let me make myself clear, I’m not talking about a splash of color on the law firm name to differentiate. It’s a too popular, safe move these days. I see it all the time. If it’s not radical, it’s probably ineffective. Like the whole “we added orange to our firm name so now we’re up to date” posture. If that’s where you’re at, read no further.

I’m suggesting doing something that has strong visual and psychological impact.

The power of color.

A few years ago I directed a corporate ID do-over for a boutique, entrepreneurial 50-attorney law firm in Miami. Miami, right? Flamingo pink or Gator orange and teal? 4get it.  I did, however, choose to use a very strong yellow color block, prominently placed, on the front side of the card. Admittedly, it was a bit over the top compared to the previous BLUE and black theme, and it definitely didn’t say, “law firm.” And that, my readers, was the beauty of it.

Talk about throwing a clue, I can tell you from personal experience and attorney feedback that whenever that card was handed to someone the recipient always commented positively about the yellow block. It was noticeable, memorable and made it easy to start a conversation. Color is powerful.

That bright yellow card ALWAYS stood out. In fact, people remembered me as “the one with the bright yellow card.”

Once, unplanned of course,  I was wearing a yellow blouse and carrying a yellow handbag when I met with new people over a business lunch and handed them my card. Talk about a statement! They thought it was great branding. My firm got noticed and noted!

I get business cards from others almost every day, but it is never more apparent that color is powerful than the day after a large networking event while reviewing a stack I collected. If they all look similar, and I failed to jot a note on the back about it’s owner, it’s hard to remember who’s who.

Case in point.

I recently changed my business card. My first version had a prominent bold red block on the front. Whenever I saw someone at an event flipping through the cards they collected, my red card really stood out.

My second version has a slightly smaller red line at the bottom because I added more information on my card and needed the white space. It is much less effective. While talking with someone during a recent conference I attended, they pulled out the stack of cards they collected to see if they had gotten one from me. Unfortunately I had to say, “it’s the one with the bold red line.” Still, a quick shuffle and voila! There it was. Even the thin red line did the trick. Color is powerful.

Some firms use the backside of the card to add color. That’s okay, but not if it’s a dark color. While it makes the card stand out if it’s in the deck backwards, you can’t jot notes on it.

The importance of the name.

A person’s name on a card should be VERY LARGE. The law firm’s name should be secondary. I know … you’re trying to brand the firm not the individual, but keep that for other materials. The card is the single most important individual off line marketing piece. After all, you want the recipient to look at your name and associate it with your face FIRST. Then associate the name and the face with the firm. They shouldn’t have to pull out their glasses to read your name.

Capture your audience.

After color, name, face, and law firm, the card should include information that makes it easy to connect with you both off line and online. Phone number, street address, email address, IM address, url’s for Linkedin, Twitter, and facebook, blog url, firm Web address (last, unless there’s good stuff there). A nickname, cell phone or legal assistant’s name and direct dial are also great to include. Consider adding those on the backside of the card.


Quality is important. Engraved cards are a good investment and they make a statement of quality. Recycled paper makes a statement. A logo mark is a nice addition. Paper weight is important, but too thick can take up too much space in a cardholder or wallet if you’re planning to take them to a networking event. Too thin? The edges fray and turn. Full color is modern. Don’t scrimp.

Bottom line

Being professional does not mean you have to be invisible. Tradition is a wonderful thing, I like classic black on ivory.  But I’m also practical. I want that card to throw me a clue. I want something that helps me to remember the person that gave it to me and enough information so I can follow them on Twitter!

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