By Traci Ray
Like superheroes, attorneys have the unique opportunity to lead double lives. Lawyers by day, we must adopt a second persona by night – that of the elusive, stealthy Brand Manager. This covert operation can be quite dangerous, with limited time, energy and resources proving to be constant villains. But, with goals and a plan of attack, these two lawyer alter-egos can be united, leading to a successful and rewarding practice. No superhero would be successful without first gathering the proper arsenal—imagine Batman without the Batmobile or Captain America without his shield. Arm yourself with these weapons as you take on—and take out—the marketing challenges that you face every day:
- Invest in Yourself
Before dreaming up a plan to take over the world, you must first hone your craft. Remember Spiderman soaring through New York, first learning to use his web, assessing his abilities and perfecting them? You too want the most elite product on the market, so invest in “Research & Development” – your knowledge! Use every assignment as an opportunity to grow and develop, not just to bill. Focusing on other daily goals in addition to billing is beneficial to your sanity and professional development. Try to find lessons and key takeaways in each job assignment, and study the strategies and skills of your colleagues and foes. By working with as many different attorneys as possible, you can identify and adopt their most effective approaches or strategies and add these elements to your lawyer identity. Just as the S.H.I.E.L.D called together the Avengers, every lawyer—like every superhero—brings a different style and set of skills to the table. Our legal acumen and reputations are of the upmost importance, so put in the time necessary to hone your assets to become the best and brightest attorney.
- Find Your Niche
Once you feel confident in f your skills, and have perspective on the legal issues you find most interesting, chose one to build into your expertise. Set Google alerts on this specific area of the law so that articles and news on the latest trends will automatically arrive in your inbox. Attend CLEs on the niche topic so you learn not just the substance of the law but who else is working in the practice area. Read all the guidelines and opinions, and work within your firm to ensure you are assigned to the matters dealing with this particular law or regulation. Remember, marketing internally, as well as externally, is always a must. Let your firm know about your emerging interest, and become a resource to them in addition to the firm’s clients.
- Become the Mastermind
Upon identifying your niche area, and gaining as much intelligence as you can, start promoting yourself as an expert in this area. Like Ironman’s technological brilliance or the Hulk’s unmatched physical strength, being known as the best at what you do will prompt people to seek out the right person for the job: You! Add your specialty to your bio. Make a presentation about it to your clients. Write about how this issue is fascinating and post a link to your publication on LinkedIn to share with your network. Grow a reputation in the legal community by presenting at CLEs. The possibilities are endless.
Focus on one niche area, or expertise, at a time. With this focus, you will spend less time preparing each speech and column, and more time getting out there and becoming the go-to for that specific practice area. The less time you are trying to figure out how and what to market, the more time you are marketing and establishing yourself.
- Grow Your Practice
Choosing one niche area at a time allows for complete submersion for your brain, energy and time. Usually after six to eight months of applying your superhero-honed skills for total niche domination, you are ready to tackle another area of expertise. The idea is two-fold: You will add to your skills repertoire with each new expertise, and you will be able to juggle a couple of niche areas per year to get the most out of each tour. As your practice matures, you will add niche after niche, making your skill set varied, sophisticated and cumulative. Additionally, the marketing checklist for each practice area is pretty similar, so even though your topics will change, the method will remain the same.
- Have Fun
There is no right or wrong way to grow your practice and skills. You should, however, combine your learning and business development so that they are complementary, not competing. Just like Batman supports Bruce Wayne’s philanthropic efforts to clean up Gotham, your Brand Manager alter ego is intended to help you realize your goals. When your goals for growth are intertwined with your current practice, you can rest assured that you are making the most of your time—which is one commodity most lawyers have in too short supply. When goals align with a clear path to a destination, the journey is generally more enjoyable. Take a cue from Tony Stark: even without his suit of armor he is still a genius, billionaire, and philanthropist. Be a lawyer with a winning strategy, and have some fun in achieving success –personally and professionally.
Remember, practicing and marketing go hand-in-hand. Build your skills, become a brand, and watch as your ability to weave marketing into your practice becomes easier, and even entertaining. Go ahead, make your day, your year, and your career: Be a lawyer who rules the mean marketing streets and always comes out on top.
About the Author
Traci Ray is the executive director at Barran Liebman LLP and president of the Multnomah Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Section.