Law firms are becoming increasingly aware each year of the importance of both digital marketing and business development. Many are allocating an increasingly diverse budget to a variety of expenditures, largely all of which are designed to raise the profile of the firm itself. Law firms do not generally promote their lawyers individually or allocate marketing resources for personal branding unless these items contribute to the firm’s overall bottom line.
Why is personal branding important? As a lawyer, you need to ask yourself if you will stay with the same firm forever. Will you have to leave to find a partnership opportunity? Is there a relocation in your future? What if you decide to change practice areas? What happens if your law firm downsizes or dissolves entirely? So many life choices await all of us – how can we possibly know our long-term career destiny?
Since we cannot be career psychics, we need to build our own identity both online and offline. We need our own name recognition, not just “that lawyer who works for XYZ law firm.” By building your professional brand online and offline, you still build business for your current firm; and, you also establish a name for yourself, vastly increasing your network and opening the door to future opportunities.
How to Develop Your Individual Lawyer Brand
Become a thought leader and industry expert in your practice area of choice
Take time to ask yourself what you want to be known for. Aim to be the go-to person for that practice area or case type, and then spend time developing your personal brand around it. You can get started by writing. Whether you're able to have your work published in an industry magazine or a book, publicly share your thoughts in your own name. This will not only help develop your communication skills, but it will also position you as expert. The Internet, including social media, blogging, and websites, has made it easier than ever for your voice be heard, something not enough lawyers make time for and utilize.
Build out your digital identity yourself and/or have all of the login credentials
When you search your own name online, what organic search results do you see? If you are like most lawyers, the first three pages of your organic search results will include legal and business directory listings such as Super Lawyers, Avvo, HG, Manta, and more. While some larger firms with a marketing department may collectively handle the claiming of these listings for you, it is prudent to ask for all login credentials yourself. If you have no one in house to help, claim them yourself and build them out to increase your ratings/rankings. Most such listings are free or charge a nominal fee. Once you build out your listings, you will find that being listed, along with your photo and built-out legal resume, is only the threshold of what you can do with each individual directory. Once a profile is built out, a lawyer can use his or her listing persona to answer questions, pay for placement of his or her profile in a premium spot in search results on the directory website, write informational articles that link back to the lawyer listing and also the lawyer’s own website, and so on. Each listing will build on itself to create a deep and rich online persona that will rise in the organic, natural search results for free since Google knows the lawyer listing sites are legitimate and people use them often.
Get name recognition for cases you work on
As a young lawyer, one often drafts pleadings, responds to discovery, or handles the vast majority of legal research and writing on cases; but these newbies do not always get credit for their work by being listed on pleadings. When you are not listed in the signature block of lawyers on the pleadings in a case, you forfeit your potential exposure when it comes to a groundbreaking or other victorious conclusion.
Remain top-of-mind with your existing contacts
Keep in touch in some way at least once a month with the most valuable members of your professional network. While it can be time consuming, just like your personal relationships, professional relationships take work, too. Communication is key to nurturing valuable relationships. Some ideas for touching base can include sporting events, lunch, sending an email asking how trial is going, and more.
Build your network
Lawyers should constantly look for ways to grow both their personal and professional networks with people who can help build their brand. Set time aside for business development, attend industry events, take colleagues to lunch, and send handwritten notes and thank you cards.
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