Why We Changed Our Name
In 2016, Rappahannock Legal Services (RLS) changed its name to Legal Aid Works®. This is the second name change for this organization. Legal Aid Works’ original name in 1973 was the Fredericksburg Area Legal Aid Society. However, within the first decade of its existence, expansion into two other regions (with offices opening on the Northern Neck in Warsaw in 1979 and in Culpeper in 1980) made that name a poor description of the service area.
The name Rappahannock was chosen in the early 1980s, in part, because the Rappahannock River touched most of the seventeen counties we serve. The term “Legal Services” was felt at the time to connote a clear sense of professionalism and comprehensive assistance that “Legal Aid” might not have conveyed. Nonetheless, the term “Legal Aid” was often used as a shorthand term to describe our organization and what it does.
Over the past four years, Rappahannock Legal Services’ board members and others suggested that the name of our organization and its acronym (RLS) do not quickly capture the true essence of what we do. As we strive for more name recognition and awareness of our mission in the community, we need a name that clearly describes our mission. Some board members have remarked that “legal services” sounded too generic, too much like the pre-paid legal services offered by companies as an employee benefit (like providing a will for free).
For our clients, the term, “Legal Services” is not a clear indication of what we do. For our donors, that phrase keeps our mission obscure. “Rappahannock Legal Services” is long, it is complicated to say, and it relates to a geographic feature that, while a beautiful and scenic river, is not of abiding interest or connection to our core mission.
The term “legal aid” is widely used throughout the legal community and in laypersons’ terms to imply that the help we give is free to indigent persons. “Legal Aid” also describes our “brand” of equal justice, fairness, and helping the “little guy” get a level playing field. Members of the RLS strategic planning committee felt that, at the very least, a name change to Rappahannock Legal Aid (RLA) would help with our identity.
Then a discussion ensued about whether to alter the “Rappahannock” part of RLS’ name. Many other nonprofits in this region use that as part of their name, and we can sometimes be lost in the shuffle (Goodwill, Big Brothers Big Sisters, United Way and many others all use that name). It is true that almost all of the seventeen counties we serve are bordered by or are near the Rappahannock River, but the geographic name is not particularly useful, nor does it resonate with our mission of equal justice. The committee members then realized that if Rappahannock were not in the name, we would have to come up with something else to add to the “Legal Aid” part.
Our Board of Directors approved the new name of LEGAL AID WORKS®. The initials (LAW) are an echo of our mission and telegraph succinctly what we do. It is simple, short, and positive in tone. It does not specify any geographic region or compass point. We also like the multiple meanings underlying it (e.g., legal aid really works for our clients and is an effective tool to combat poverty; legal aid employees work extremely hard for our clients; legal aid is like a factory cranking out justice, etc.).
We believe the launch of our new name in 2016 will result in significant attention, a greater understanding of our work and a positive boost for our presence in the community.
THE SPIFFY NEW LOOK
In addition to input about the new name from our staff, board and community stakeholders, we had the help of a wonderful design firm which created the logo for our new name, as well as a total redesign of our website. The creative team at Higashi Glaser Design was a joy to work with, and we are excited about the way the design matches our mission and vision. We are carrying that creative new look to our brochures, letterhead and business cards, all reimagined by the Higashi Glaser design wizards.
Thank you, Sandra Higashi and Byron Glaser!