The term “personal branding” has been a trending catchphrase for quite a while. Google the term and more than 275,000,000 results appear.
But, personal branding is not new; it has been around for quite a while. In a 1997 Fast Company article, entitled “The Brand Called You” it was Tom Peters, a branding and business guru who first coined the term. Now, more than twenty years later the importance of building your own personal brand cannot be understated.
And, we now have an easy way to do it – the internet.
In 2014, Findlaw.com, a legal information site owned by Thompson Reuters, performed a survey which showed that the Internet is now the most popular way to research an attorney. Even if you are referred to a client by their good friend, the first place they will go to find out about you is the world wide web.
The internet can make or break your practice if you do not keep up with all of the changes. While you don’t have to participate in social media, or any other online activities, in certain countries, specifically the United States, you are required by ethics rules to become technologically savvy.
In addition, if you don’t participate, it also says something about you. It has been shown that people will not trust you unless there is a good internet history to tell them who you are.
The definition of Personal Legal Branding
For our purposes, personal legal branding is defined as the process of creating a recognizable name for yourself and your practice. A personal brand is a promise. It is the promise that you have the abilities you convey; it is the promise that you are acting in the best interest of your clients and colleagues.
However, another great definition is one attributed to Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon.com, who has been quoted as saying:
“Personal Brand is what people say about you when you leave the room.”
Prior to the internet, this was called your reputation. And, it was only localized to your friends, family, colleagues, and clients. However, the ubiquitous nature of the internet has made your reputation, or personal brand, available for everyone to see.
Even when you don’t choose to partake in internet activities, like blogging, social media, videos, etc., your brand will reflect that as well. In 2018, it truly says something about your brand when you aren’t on the internet or there is little for others to find out about you.
What we are discussing is a strategic process – it is proactively taking control of how people perceive you and managing those perceptions to help you achieve your goals.
Why You Need A Personal Legal Brand
A personal brand for attorneys is no longer a luxury. It is a necessity. You are one lawyer in a sea of millions of attorneys worldwide. You need to find a way to distinguish yourself from every other attorney.
Here are 10 reasons why you need to develop and control your personal legal brand:
People do not hire law firms, they hire lawyers While having a law firm that has a great reputation and recognition makes branding yourself from scratch easier, people are hiring you and your expertise.
You control your own future It was always assumed that the legal industry was recession proof. Lawyers always seemed to have job security. However, if you think about how many law firms have gone bankrupt, been dissolved or merged, you will understand that no longer is your legal job guaranteed. Creating your own brand insulates you from any type of negative issues that may occur within the firm. Additionally, while in the past, many attorneys landed at one firm after they graduated from law school and stayed there until their retirement, climbing up the law firm ladder from associate to partner, that track no longer is ensured. Whether you want to stay in the firm you are currently in, whether you want to get a new job, whether you want to start your own firm, your personal legal brand will take you where you want to go.
Helps confer “top of mind” status When created correctly, a personal legal brand can help you become the most well-known attorney in your practice area/niche. You want to be the first person that people think of when the issue you can assist them with arises.
Increases your authority Along with that top of mind status, you are also creating a reputation as someone who is knowledgeable in your personal brand’s area of practice. You become known as the go-to-authority in your subject matter or practice niche and people will listen to you.
Attracts others to you When you create a personal brand that is authentic, you can easily attract others to you. They will read your content, attend your presentations, listen to what you have to say. You create a level of trust that the information and advice you are providing is worth listening to and following.
Effortlessly build trust You probably have heard the old adage “people do business with people they know, like and trust.” A great personal brand allows people to see the real you. Your brand, when developed correctly, allows people to see why you do what you do. Potential clients and referral sources are attracted to strong brands that convey an emotional connection. This engenders trust in your abilities to help them with their legal issues. They will become loyal to you and trust that you will help them, and help the people they refer to you.
Earn respect and recognition Attorneys with their own personal legal brands earn the respect and recognition of their peers, and of the public. You gain influence and people will listen to what you have to say. Your brand, as long as the promises your brand conveys are kept, will help you earn professional recognition.
Easily attract more opportunities A well-crafted and carefully conveyed personal legal brand allows the right opportunities to find you. These opportunities can be more than just new clients; they can be other marketing opportunities like being offered speaking engagements or the ability to publish articles.
Increase earning potential The more potential clients and referral sources trust your brand, the more clients and referrals you will receive. Your earning potential can grow exponentially because as you become known as the go-to-authority in your niche the more you can charge.
You don’t have a choice If you don’t define and develop your own personal legal brand, others will do it for you. And, you may not like what they have to say about your brand.
If the reasons above have convinced you that creating a personal legal brand is important to your career, there are a few preliminary actions you should do to begin building and managing your brand. Think of creating your brand as a series of five steps
The Five Steps to Creating Your Personal Legal Brand
The first step is determining who you are, what your personality is, what do you want to portray to the outside world. It needs to be authentic. No matter how good of an actor you may be, you will eventually reveal your real self and if it isn’t the same as what you have been portraying, you will be found out and your brand will be damaged.
The second step is determining what you do. You must be clear as to what type of lawyer you are, how you serve your clients and what makes you different from the millions of other attorneys out there. This is more than just saying that you concentrate in a certain practice area, although that is important. It is determining what you are going to do (and of course, not do) to satisfy a client or referral source.
The third step is determining your ideal clients and audience to develop your brand. You cannot be all things to all people. Begin by creating a list of criteria that define your ideal client. This is also called niche marketing or target marketing. When you create a list of ideal clients it becomes much easier to create your personal legal brand because:
You can determine the language (each industry or niche has their own language) they use so that you can speak to them directly,
You have the ability to find out where they congregate both on and off-line.
The fourth step is using online platforms and other marketing tools. There are hundreds of business development tactics and thousands of websites you can use to create and maintain your personal legal brand. (This will be the subject of another article in the future.)
The fifth and final step is managing your brand. This means consistently and constantly keeping it in front of those ideal clients. Your brand must continuously be placed in front of your ideal clients and target audiences. Out of sight is out of mind. Speaking, writing, social media, newsletters, are just some of the ways you can use to be visible.
The good and bad news when creating your personal legal brand
The good news is that you can build or change your personal brand any time you want. As long as your personal legal brand is authentic to your personality, you have the ability to add new ideal clients or niche markets at any time.
However, there is bad news and it is something you truly need to know: your brand can change instantly if you are not in control. And you need to be in constant control. All it takes is one bad review by someone who is unhappy with you, your services or the outcomes, or one bad online tweet or post and if you have not taken control of your brand, it can be destroyed instantaneously.
About the Author
Jaimie B. Field has been involved in the legal industry since the age of twelve. She worked at her grandfather’s law firm in NYC and her father’s firm in New Jersey during breaks from school. It was because of that experience that she wanted to attend law school and become an attorney.
She enjoyed her years at Temple University School of Law in Philadelphia and was lucky to obtain a job upon graduation as an in-house associate for a start-up entertainment company owned by the Jackson Family. As it was a brand new company, there were very few people on staff, so she began being called upon to perform tasks other than those related to law, including business development, marketing and public relations. It was there she discovered a passion and natural talent for that aspect of her job.
Thus began a 25 year odyssey to learn and apply all aspects of marketing to help companies grow.
Even though Jaimie was fully entrenched in the marketing arena, she had never gotten far away from the law. Companies she worked with would enlist her help with projects which utilized the skills and knowledge she learned in law school.
Seeing a business opportunity, Jaimie opened Marketing Field, LLC in 2002. It would become a marketing and business development consultancy devoted solely to law firms to help them grow by finding ethical solutions to getting new clients and marketing their firms.
In 2008, Marketing Field’s focus shifted. In addition to marketing, Jaimie had been training and coaching her clients to become Rainmakers, growing their books of business. Now, as THE-RAIN-MAKER she spends all of her time teaching attorneys to become rainmakers. She truly believes that anyone who has the ambition and drive can use their individual personalities to create the law practice they want with the right teacher. As her tagline says:
Rainmakers are not Born, They are Taught.
Her seminars are always entertaining and informative and she has found a way to motivate attorneys when they can’t seem to motivate themselves. She works one-on-one with lawyers, provides live and telephonic group training, works within law firm settings to provide bespoke training to the attorneys which meshes with the culture of the firm and provides workshops and on-site Rainmaking Seminars with Ethics CLES.