There isn’t a lot of “do it yourself” in the world of lawyering.
- You do your own online research, but you have to pay Westlaw or LexisNexis for the privilege.
- You sign off on most of the transactional work coming in and out of your office, but you’d be drowning without a paralegal to prep it.
- You decide what goes on your business cards, but if you want them to look legitimate, you’ll need a printing company to ship them to your door.
All these things are imperative to being in business, and they all cost money.
There is at least one easy-peasy “Esq. DIY” out there, though: your letterhead.
If you’re like a lot of firms, letterhead is an unnecessary expense that’s been in your budget for years.
Assuming you already have a logo (and we’ll take up at that issue in just a moment), there is absolutely no reason for paying someone else to design, print, or ship your law firm letterhead. It’s an old-fashioned idea from the days when printers still needed perforated paper.
The reality is that the everyday technology already sitting on your desk is more than sufficient for knocking your attorney letterhead out of the park. By doing it yourself, you can put those resources elsewhere — and in today’s article, we’re going to explain how. But first: why.
Why Having Good Attorney Letterhead Matters
The issue of first impressions is hardly, well, “an issue of first impressions.”
You’ve heard other people talk about how important your firm’s first blush is before, so we won’t parrot them.
Consider, though, how many people will form their first impression of your law firm based entirely on your letterhead:
- The opposing counsel in a contentious case where negotiation will mean everything
- The mediator who’s worked with the other side before, but never with you
- The demand letter recipient, who might cater to your client’s wishes if they perceive that there’s a “serious lawyer” on the other side
- The prospective client who opens an envelope from your direct mail campaign
- The general public in any case where correspondence might become public record (or if you’re engaging in a little PR).
Attorney letterhead needs to look modern and professional — impressive, yes, but not antiquated or austere.
It needs to contain all the essential information but none of the “extra stuff” that might serve only to get responses sent to the wrong place. (No one wants to tell a client that the answer to their demand letter went to your other office in another city!)
Even more importantly, letterhead needs to comply with all of the state bar’s ethics rules, which always seem to have more to say about letterhead than you might expect.
The Only Letterhead Element You Should Pay for Is the Logo
“If letterhead is so important,” you might ask, “isn’t that something I should pay to get right?”
Like anyone who spends a decent amount of time around attorneys, we’ll answer that question with a question:
“If you can get it right yourself, why should you pay for it?”
Mind you, we don’t always advise doing it on your own. In fact, we recently explained why attorneys shouldn’t write their own content and how hiring someone to manage your PPC campaigns can reduce your proximity to web users.
So there are some things you should entrust to the professionals. Incidentally, your law firm logo is one of those.
The logo is your letterhead’s calling card. It packs the biggest visual punch, and that makes it the very essence of the first impression. It’s the part you really want to get right. And the truth? You won’t do it as well as someone who designs graphics and logos for a living.
If you’re redesigning your website (a service we happen to offer, by the way), a new law firm logo can be part of that.
But if you’re simply looking for a little inspiration in the meantime, we recently shared three awesome design tips for law firm logos (along with more than 50 of our favorite examples).
Either way, be sure you get a great logo to build your brand with and then enter the DIY phase of letterhead-ing. Simply make your logo the letterhead’s centerpiece… or left-align piece, as might be the case (more on that below.)
Help with Headers: How to Make Your Own Attorney Letterhead in Microsoft Word
The header is a special space at the very top of a Microsoft Word document reserved for introductory information, and it’s the perfect place for a lawyer’s letterhead.
You probably already know the gist of how headers work, but in case you need a quick refresher:
- The header will appear at the top of every page in your document unless you set it not to.
- It will look exactly the same on each page, and that happens automatically. (No need to update from one page to the next.)
- Except for when you’re making changes to it, the header will remain faded from view. This helps you avoid making accidental changes to the header while working on the body of the document.
You don’t have to use headers to make attorney letterhead, but that’s the approach we recommend, and it’s the one we’ll use below.
- Open a blank, new Microsoft Word document.
- Double-click at the very top of the white word processing space. This will open the header editor. Alternatively, choose View > Header and Footer. (Some versions of Word have it under Insert > Header > Blank.)
- Type the info you want in your header. At a minimum that should include:
- Your name
- Your title
- The firm’s logo
- The firm’s phone and fax number
- Your email address
- The firm’s mailing address
- If there’s more than one address, type “Reply to:” in front of the appropriate address for return mail
- Any other information required by your state’s ethics rules (such as the states in which you are licensed to practice law, for example)
- Choose font styles, sizes, spacing, and alignment to your liking— or simply download, copy, and paste one of the handy-dandy templates we’ll share below!
- Adjust your margins and settings. Double-click on your header. In the most recent versions of Word, a tab will open at the top of your window. Here, you can tweak the appearance of both the header and the footer. Just be sure not to hug the top of the document, as some printers can’t reach the very top of a page. When in doubt, stick with the default settings.
Five Quick & Easy Letterhead Templates for Attorneys
Is Plug & Play more your style? If so, look no further. For the no-fuss firm professional who wants new letterhead lickety-split, check out these five fantastic templates. They’re all straightforward, made specifically for Word, and are ready to go in mere minutes:
- No Fuss, No Frills. But hey, it gets the job done! Simply plug in your firm’s name… or better yet, replace “FRANKLIN & ASSOCIATES” with your graphic logo. Download the template from BusinessTemplates.biz.
- The Stripe of Scales. It’s a classic, time-honored approach: your info in the top-right, with a bold stripe running down the left-hand side. In the corner: the iconic scales of justice. Keep in mind: this one will use more ink (so be sure your printer is up to the task) and will require you to shrink the margins of your body text (so you’ll end up printing more pages). But it makes quite the visual impression! Download it from Free Letterhead Templates.
- Small but Stylish. Take less space but still make a splash! This stylish attorney letterhead pairs an attractive color scheme with a handsome gray border. It comes directly from Microsoft Office.
- Timeless Design. This all-purpose letterhead is suitable for any business pursuit, including the practice of law. Minimalism is all the rage these days, and this template follows suit. Get it from Microsoft.
- A Pop of Color. This Microsoft-created letterhead uses both the header and the footer for a winning design. It’s pre-formatted with red text highlights, but you can easily change the color to complement your law firm’s logo. Among these five templates, this might be our favorite for attorneys, but you’ll want to be mindful of spacing here. The design leaves less room for body text, so you might use this for the first page only. Download it here.
Remember: letterhead can be “letterside” or “letterfoot!” Feel free to make use of the footer and the left-side margin (as in Example #5 above) to create a visual style that fits your brand.
And one final tip: get a good printer and paper. Heavy-stock paper will make your letterhead look better, and a higher-end printer will give it that extra shine.
Most correspondence is done electronically these days, meaning you can stretch the cost of stationery a lot further, so go ahead and upgrade to higher-quality paper.
Need Help Managing Your Law Firm Marketing? Hire Black Fin.
Deciding on attorney letterhead is probably the simplest marketing task a law firm will ever face, and even that takes more time and attention than you probably care for.
We get it. Lawyers are supposed to be lawyers, not marketers, and yet marketing is essential for building a business and then growing your practice. Black Fin can help.
We’re a team of legal market experts, and we’ve devoted our entire business exclusively to attorney marketing. In fact, we’ve spent years at the top spot on Google for Attorney SEO, and just recently, Inc.com recognized us as one of the fastest-growing, privately owned companies in America.
Whether it’s web design, a new logo, SEO, PPC advertising, or just a general desire to get bigger cases and better clients, Black Fin has proven strategies and a record of success. Contact us today to learn how we can get you where you want to be.