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Expert Level Unlocked: Becoming The Go-To Lawyer

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Achieving Expert Status as an Attorney 

As a practicing lawyer in a very competitive location in a highly competitive practice area, it was crucial to find a way to differentiate myself from the pack. How can a younger lawyer develop a unique competitive advantage in an already saturated market?  What makes one lawyer capable of charging and receiving a significantly higher hourly rate than another? How do I become viewed as a trusted advisor to my clients?

Having not only your legal industry peers but also the public at large view you as a trusted source of beneficial and helpful information will prove invaluable to penetrating the marketplace. But getting yourself and your brand to this point requires a significant investment of time and is not a good choice for the impatient at heart. Most lawyers are not satisfied by a long-term approach like this because we want immediate results and cold hard cash. If we can convince ourselves to take a longer view of what return on investment really means by investing in thought leadership, not only will clients take notice, but so will other lawyers. In this age of collaboration, that’s a potential moneymaker.

Thought Leadership in the Legal Industry

Thought leaders influence an industry by producing informative, relevant content that is presented in a point of view drawn from their own experience. They’re interested in educating others and spreading their knowledge, not just in making a name for themselves in order to make more money.

Unless you work in BigLaw, have access to an unlimited budget, and can take significant time away from billing, you likely won’t have the time or money to pursue a significant number of tactics to build buzz around your brand. Most small firms and solo practitioners should choose a few core strategic elements to focus on.

Methods of Achieving Legal Industry Influence

1. Be an Industry and Community Figurehead

Volunteering your time on the board, a committee, or as a leader of a legal industry professional association or within your personal community provides a platform from which you can reach out to others. For plaintiffs’ lawyers, this can come via a local, state, or national trial lawyers association. For BigLaw attorneys, joining and/or sponsoring events within an industry group for your desired target market will increase positive exposure for the firm and in turn provide you with a platform to succeed.

Great community-focused groups to get involved with include the United Way, your family’s religious institution, a veterans’ group, and causes devoted to curing an illness.

2. Be the Voice of Expertise

Before anyone could hop online and blog or megaphone their words on social media, thought leadership was focused almost exclusively on live speaking events and industry publications.

Now that so many of us prefer to receive information in digital format, speaking has morphed into podcasting, webcasting, videoconferencing, and radio interviews.

Likewise, publications in the legal world used to mean getting a bar association or other industry group to let you author something akin to a law journal article – these would only reach lawyers and would likely be pretty dry. Now, publishing happens online in an instant. Anyone can write a blog post or make a video and disseminate it on the Internet. Blog posts alone won’t cut it – web readers are savvier than ever and expect to see various forms of premium content, including whitepapers, checklists, case studies, and more. Your audience will not only learn more, but you’ll earn a reputation for being the go-to source for quality information.

3. Get Disruptive

One surefire way to get attention is to break the mold and be disruptive to the way things are historically done. Doing and talking about the same thing as everyone else won’t get you very far. In order to stand out you need to be creative. Some of the most talked about companies in the legal stratosphere are “lawtech disrupters” like LegalZoom, Docracy, Lex Machina, MyCase, and Fastcase. But how can a lawyer or law firm be as disruptive as a massive software company? Glad you asked. 

Offer something different, including new information and disruptive ideas that stir things up, such as virtual case collaboration. Since almost everything a lawyer could possibly need for a case can live online/in the cloud, we have the ability to work together to improve the quality of our client representation in ways never previously possible. We can be more efficient and easier for our clients to access should they need us. Making that type of disruptive idea – sharing a case to get the best result for the client instead of keeping the entire fee for yourself – will turn heads, gain notice, and garner attendance when you speak and produce offers of publication opportunities.

What Have You Done To Build Your Influence?

Give me your best tips!

Sidebar stacey e burke About Stacey Burke

Stacey E. Burke is both an experienced trial lawyer and law firm business consultant. She works with lawyers and law firms around the world to improve their business development, marketing, and infrastructures.

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