The Firms

May 20, 2010 4:42 PM

What's in a Name? Cooley Decides Less is More

Posted by Drew Combs

What's in a name? For Cooley, the answer is about two-thirds shorter than it was two months ago, when the firm whittled its name down from Cooley Godward Kronish. Cooley LLP registered its new name with the Division of Corporations of New York’s Department of State in March.

At the urging of branding experts or for the sake of simplicity, a number of law firms have shortened their names (and in some cases jettisoned ampersands), either officially or for marketing purposes. Besides Cooley, just three Am Law 100 firms officially use just a single surname: Washington, D.C.-based Howrey, which in May 2005 shortened its name from Howrey Simon Arnold & White; Dechert; and Venable. Since 2005, Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr has used the more syllable-efficient moniker WilmerHale in daily use and marketing materials, while retaining its full name in legal practice.

In recent weeks, Cooley has been in the process of updating its Web site and stationary to reflect the change, according to firm spokesperson Ashley Kanigher. “We view the change as business as usual because now our name will fit with what we have been known as in the marketplace,” Kanigher adds.

According to Paula Black, a Coconut Grove, FL-based branding and marketing expert, Cooley’s dilemma is commonplace in the legal industry. “Chances are that a firm’s street name has been reduced to two or one names, so there is no reason to cling to three or four of five names,” Black says. “The shorter name makes it easier for clients to remember the firm and better allows the firm to brand itself. You can’t brand something unless you can remember it."

Over the course of its more than 80-year history, Cooley’s official firm name has included as many as six surnames. It was long known simply as Cooley Godward, but changed its name to Cooley Godward Kronish as a result of a 2006 merger with New York-based Kronish Lieb Weiner & Hellman.

Of course, there are losers in this firm naming lottery. In the case of Cooley, the new name sidelines the surnames of William Godward, a retired San Francisco-based partner still affiliated with the 650-attorney firm, and Herbert Kronish, a founding partner at Kronish Lieb Weiner & Hellman, who died in December 2007 and was known for his philanthropy. But Godward's name will still have an official life of sorts at the firm. In 1991, Cooley named an annual award after him, given to someone in each office who “has shown stellar effort in sustaining the human values of the firm, and in turn, preserving our culture,” according to the firm’s Web site.

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