Your Personal Legal Brand (Part II): How to Create and Maintain Your Brand
A few months ago, Legal Business World published an article I wrote entitled “Your Personal Legal Brand: Why You Need One and How To Begin Creating”. In it, I began by detailing the 10 reasons why you need to create your own personal legal brand and finished with the 5 general steps to creating that personal legal brand. It is the last part of the article that is going to be expanded upon in this piece.
Again, for our purposes, we will define personal legal branding as the process of creating a recognizable name for yourself and your practice. And the five steps to creating your personal legal brand should be followed in order to help you achieve your goals.
Step 1: Determine Who You Are
Who are you?
Your identity is made up of a mass of qualities that are more than just being a lawyer. You may be a mother or father; you may be married or single; you may have blond hair or no hair; you may be short or tall; you may be an introvert or an extravert. All of these are just the characteristics that go into creating a person who is uniquely you.
Like snowflakes or fingerprints, no two people are alike. Even identical twins are different – although often thought that they were exactly alike, they do not have identical DNA and have different fingerprints.
So even if you are a personal injury attorney, there is no other personal injury attorney exactly like you.
Determining who you are in the context of creating your legal brand allows you to distinguish yourself from the other attorneys practicing. What is the personality or persona that you want to portray to the world? It’s not about faking it; it’s going to be about being authentic to your true self, but it’s also about deciding the “face” you want to show to the legal buying public.
Nowadays, we live in a world where people are revealing “TMI – too much information”. Many people are living their lives on the internet (think Kardashian). However, you are a professional with a number of ethics rules that you must heed. And, you must understand that your personal and professional lives cannot be bifurcated; they have become one and the same because of the internet.
When you are determining who you are for your personal legal brand – or maybe I should say your personal AND legal brand – you have to decide what you will and will not share with the world.
As a Rainmaking Trainer and Coach, I do believe that you should share yourself with your potential clients and referrals sources, but you don’t have to share everything. You want people to get to know who you are, in addition to what you know, so provide them information which is appropriate for your legal brand.
There is an old adage you may have heard: “People do business with people they know, like, and trust.” Let them get to know you – but think before you post.
Step 2: Determine What You Do
“I am a lawyer”
Is this how you respond when people ask you what you do for a living?
Well, you and over 2 million people in the world (I have been trying to find the exact number of worldwide attorneys but cannot find a resource – if you have one please contact me) can say the same thing. So, you narrow it down by your practice area. But, even then, there are possibly hundreds, or thousands, or tens of thousands of attorneys who practice in the same area.
Like determining who you are, you have to determine what you will do and won’t do for your clients. What makes you different from the other attorneys out there? Think outside the box for a way to differentiate yourself from the other attorneys who are practicing law in the world.
Once you have determined your difference, set your sights on becoming a subject matter expert and find a way to let others know that you are the go-to-authority.
Step 3: Determine Your Ideal Clients
After you have established who you are, and what you do, you must determine your ideal clients. This is one of the first exercises I insist that my coaching clients perform when we begin working together.
In every Rainmaking Training and/or Seminar I conduct, I try to impress upon the attorneys with whom I am speaking that they cannot be all things to all people. In addition to the massive quantity of attorneys across the world from whom you must distinguish yourself and your practice, applicable laws change practically every day. Imagine, if you could, trying to keep up with all of the different laws that make up a practice. Imagine being a criminal lawyer, an admiralty lawyer, AND a matrimonial (divorce/custody) lawyer all at the same time and having to know the answers to all of your clients’ issues.
Now, before you say it can be done, and I never said it couldn’t be done, answer this question: if you were having a heart attack, would you rather go to a doctor who is a general practitioner or a Cardiologist? Your clients and potential clients feel the same way. They want to know that the attorney they hire has extensive knowledge into the problems that are keeping them up at night.
The most successful attorneys are those who have positioned themselves as possessing expertise and specialized knowledge. But in addition to creating a brand as the go-to-authority in their practice area, they have also created criteria that describe the clients with whom they would work. This is called niche marketing or target marketing.
Every attorney in the world would like to be “a big fish in a big pond”, but you need to grow into that position. Start by being a “big fish in a small pond” by creating a list of characteristics you want your clients to fit. Then, just as you became a subject matter expert in your practice area, become an authority on what makes your clients tick. What makes them happy? What makes them sad? How do they like to be treated?
The characteristics you choose for your ideal clients can be based on any criteria and the following list is certainly not exhaustive of the options you can make part of your ideal client description:
Do you want to represent children? The elderly? You can choose a particular age range and try to fit it into your practice area.
Where are your ideal clients located? Are they local? Statewide? Country-wide? Are they overseas, for example, expats?
What industry are they in? For example, if you are an employment attorney you could represent employees/employers in the tech industry; or how about the restaurant business.
What do you like to do during your time off? Are you an avid reader? Then how about representing authors or publishers? I know an attorney who has turned his hobby for craft brewing into a thriving career representing other craft brewers in his state in their business dealings.
Male, Female, Non-binary – it doesn’t matter; you can choose to represent clients based solely on their gender. In fact, this has worked very well for a United States national “boutique” firm of matrimonial & child custody lawyers that only represents the men in the equation.
Do you speak a second language? Are you well connected in the ethnic group with which you identify? A client of mine is conservative in his religious beliefs and very involved in his house of worship. I have suggested to him that he use that to his advantage by becoming the lawyer to those people who are part of his religion and who fit into his practice area. Another client speaks fluent Tagalog. To her, I suggested that she find organizations which are Filipino based.
When you have become well known in your target market then you can expand outward to dovetailing niches, if you so choose.
Step 4: Using Rainmaking and Marketing Tactics to Build and Promote your Personal Legal Brand
With your list of characteristics that describe your ideal client (and yes, you should write it down), you can now figure out where your ideal client is congregating or hanging out. Whether it is online or in person, your ideal clients will join associations, belong to neighborhood groups, and generally associate with each other. They will read the same magazines, blogs, websites. They will watch the same videos.
In addition, they may have their own “language”. And I am not just talking about a language other than your native tongue. I am describing the language of the industry or niche. Remember, you, as an attorney have your own language – also known as “legalese” – which uses Latin phrases to describe various legal terms. You have to learn that language and begin to communicate with your ideal clients in their chosen dialogue and dialect.
Unfortunately, the parameters of this article preclude me from providing specific steps on how to use the plethora of business development and marketing tactics you can use to build and promote your personal legal brand. However, here is a non-exhaustive list of ideas, in no particular order,that you can use:
Hobby Groups/Sports Leagues
Writing for Industry or Hobby Based Publications
Cross Selling Systems Within Your Firm
Guest blogging or posting
Audio business card which is also known as your “elevator speech”
And this is just a short list. There are literally hundreds of ways to promote yourself and your personal legal brand.
Step 5: Maintain and Manage your Personal Legal Brand
This final step is about maintaining and managing your personal legal brand. As I wrote in the first article on personal legal branding, your brand must continuously be placed in front of your ideal clients and target audiences. Out of sight is out of mind. You must remain visible, with the message YOU want to get out, as often as possible. It is about being omnipresent within your target or niche market. They need to see your name and information about your practice all of the time. However, you need to be in charge of this.
As long as you are in control of your brand, you can weather some of the hits you will inevitably take from some “troll” out there. Internet trolls have existed since day one of the world-wide-web; they will always be around. Someday you may wind up with a negative review of your legal services. But, you do not have to let it affect your personal legal brand. If you are in control, then you have the ability to address the criticism (as long as you do not violate the ethics rules of your state or country) in a manner that preserves your personal legal brand, but this is for another article at a later date.
I will end this article the exact same way I ended the last one. No, it is not out of laziness but out of a sincere desire to hammer this home:
The good and bad news when creating, maintaining, and managing your personal legal brand
The good news is that you can build or change your personal legal brand any time you want. As long as your personal legal brand is authentic to your personality, you have the ability to add new descriptions of your ideal clients and 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. All it takes is one bad review by someone who is unhappy with you, your services or the outcomes, or one bad online post or tweet by you and if you have not taken control of your brand, it can be destroyed instantaneously.
Regardless of whether you are a solo attorney or a member of a giant firm, regardless of whether you work in-house or in private practice, you are the person who must be in control.
Read Part 1 here
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.