Personal Branding for Lawyers

September 2020

Lawyers need to be on top of their game by knowing the law inside and out. From precedent cases and industry standards to temperaments of judges and variations in jurisdictions, practicing law has its intricacies. Similarly to other positions in the professional service field, the legal sector requires an elevated approach in branding and marketing. Typically clients seek an attorney during a time of immediate need by way of referral or quick Google search. Being digital is no longer optional, but required to extend your reach as a practicing attorney.

Attorneys range in experience and industry expertise which makes the industry incredibly competitive. To distinguish yourself from the crowd, defining your personal brand is needed for every attorney. For branding and marketing in the legal space, I've created these verticals: 

As once a lawyer who changed to legal marketer who converted to branding strategist, I've had a unique trajectory that has brought a unique perspective in the industry. Through my experience working with attorneys individually and in mid-size firms, I've seen the rise and fall of personal branding. For some attorneys, there's the assumption that one of the perks of being hired at a firm is having a marketing director (or team) who will make their profile standout. They'll be able to get the leads through their (limited) digital presence and the case flow will remain consistent throughout the year. Others, including first time attorneys who embark on starting their own practice, are quickly brought to the realization that everything from the business, financials, marketing, and branding is now under their realm - in addition to all the knowledge-based requirements lawyers are expected to complete.

So when it comes to personal branding, let's break down what's needed to grow a successful business - and brand - as an attorney.

If you're starting your practice, start as an expert, not as a generalist.

Yes, this may go against what you've heard from some law school professors. There's a notion that you don't want to limit the case load that comes in when you're first building your client list. You may even consider that you can take every kind of case in the spectrum of your law school fundamentals classes (ie: Litigation 101). In addition to working with lawyers, I've worked with startup founders in building their company brands. 

There's a concept of unique valuable proposition - what makes you competitive with something that no one else is bringing to the table. This seems like an overwhelming task when establishing your practice but consider this aspect. In a sea of divorce attorneys, what will make you unique? Do you partner with a well-established therapist who provides a one-hour consulting session every month until the divorce proceedings are complete? Perhaps you team up with a local nanny who watches your client's children while they meet with you for a session. Think creatively. Think out of the box. Start as an expert - not as a generalist.

"Riches are in niches." 

- Shannon Simpson Jones and Yadira Harrison, Co-founders, Verb

Bring purpose to your practice.

One of the key pillars in effective branding is bringing purpose to your business. What is your WHY? Why do you do what you do? Tan Kien Eng, CEO of Publicis One Malaysia and Leo Burnett Malaysia noted that although there's a closure in brick-and-mortar businesses, there's still a core need for human interaction. This way, the client or consumer has a better context to a company's story. Although you may consider going digital with your online presence, remember to maintain the fundamentals in bringing purpose and human interaction to your practice. What differs in the legal field is the level of intimacy that attorneys have with their clients. Ranging from heated divorces to harassment cases, attorneys are known as councilors and rightly so. Attorneys bring their best foot forward in being a knowledgeable expert in their field. They require a level of compassion, empathy, and passion. Bringing purpose to your practice will bring a heightened level of differentiation.

"Everybody has digital technology, everybody has access to capital — and so now the differentiation is the brand."

- Keith Johnston, Research Director, Forrester

Be open and transparent.

We're not implying to give away all of your information from your social security number to your marital status, but effective branding for attorneys includes a level of openness and transparency. This lies true on three levels. Be open and transparent with:

  1. Your Clients: Express any doubts or obstacles that may lie ahead. Always give yourself a buffer for an instances where something "could go wrong." This start-up mentality will be appreciated by your clients and will share a glimpse into your experience and reach within your level of expertise.
  2. Your Employees: Be transparent and inclusive with your employees. If you have a paralegal who is working continually on a case with you, share your thoughts on the progress with them. This will give greater context and meaning to the work that they are completing to support your role.
  3. Your Network: Your network, both personal and professional, should be aware of your level of expertise. New clients can come from a variety of sources including word-of-mouth referrals. If you have a knack for an area of law, make sure your network is aware through your social media taglines and material that you post.
"When everyone notices how present you are, how thoughtful you are, how good you are at remembering details, or whatever your personal strength is, they'll start thinking of you as uniquely impressive. When you back that up with good work, a focused expertise and a clean, consistent message, you'll be well on your way to building a powerful brand."

- Lewis Howes, former pro athlete, lifestyle entrepreneur and NYT-bestselling author

Excelling as an attorney requires you to juggle multiple hats. Although there's continual legwork on defining your practice by your personal brand, don't try to delineate the two. 2019 is the year of developing your business by your personal brand. As a councilor, advocate and trusted advisor, your personal brand will likely attract more of your target audience (and caseload!) If you need help building your brand from the ground up including defining your mission, vision, style guide, launching a website, and designing a memorable brand, get in touch! With a background in legal and a Juris doctorate degree, I understand the industry and effort it takes to maintain visibility as a reputable attorney. This makes me uniquely qualified to work with attorneys in launching their brands as solo practicing attorneys or as members of a larger firm. If you stay on top of the law, I'll help you stay on top of your brand!

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