In her book Personal Branding in One Hour for Lawyers, author Katy Goshtasbi tells attorneys how they can highlight their unique talents and stand out from their fellow practitioners. She notes that these distinctions lead to more jobs, promotions, clients, and referrals for these attorneys. If you are a new law school graduate or a young attorney trying to promote yourself, your goal should be brand yourself not only outside the firm to attract clients, but also inside the firm to attract work from other lawyers.
Having served several years as managing partner of my firm, the word “branding” has taken on many forms. The first time I brought the term up at one of our partner lunch meetings, many of my partners blankly stared at me as if I were speaking a foreign language. Shortly thereafter we decided to hire a marketing consultant to change our firm logo, develop a new website and delve into the social media world for the first time. This was our first attempt to brand our firm.
Although I had been practicing several years, I dug deep and decided that I also needed to brand myself. I was born and raised in my community, and had always practiced at the same firm, but found myself answering the question over and over from family and friends: “What type of law do you practice?” I finally figured out that it was my fault that they did not know the answer. If my family and friends didn’t know what type of law that I practice, then prospective clients had no idea.
I quickly learned that I needed to be familiar with how to market my practice, and the technology required to do so. It became immediately important that to develop “my brand,” I needed to understand search engine optimization. This required familiarity with marketing through Google, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Reach More People Through Social Media
For the last several years, I have made a concerted effort to use tools such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to connect with prospective clients and increase word-of-mouth referrals. I also familiarized myself with search engine optimization and how it impacts searches made by prospective clients. As a plaintiff’s personal injury lawyer in a primarily insurance defense and corporate law firm, social media has allowed me to reach a group of old friends and potential clients who otherwise would not have known that my practice centered around representing consumers in medical malpractice, pharmaceutical, and medical device cases. It also allowed me to reach out to a group of lawyers to inform them of my areas of practice. Finally, I no longer need to answer that question, “What type of law do you practice?”
If you are an attorney who hasn’t turned to social media as part of your business development, consider the following. As of September 2017, market leader Facebook was the first social network to surpass 1 billion registered accounts, and currently has 2.06 billion monthly active users. LinkedIn boasts 467 million accounts, with 106 million of those active users. As of the third quarter of 2017, Twitter averaged 330 million monthly active users.
Having social media accounts isn’t enough. To be effective, you must be active, as with any other type of business development. According to a recent survey of the ABA Legal Technology Resource Center, more than 70% of respondents reported that they use social media for career development and networking. The problem, however, is that when asked whether using social media produced actual clients, more than 21% didn’t know the answer. The reason for this may be that, according to the survey, only 16% of lawyers participate regularly in social media, and the longer a lawyer has practiced, the less likely they will use social media. As with other forms of business development, effort results in clients. Not taking the time from your busy practice to market your brand and skills results in clients heading elsewhere.
In my 27 years of practice, I have concluded that the best business development centers around the tremendous relationships I’ve been fortunate to be a part of during that time. In-person meetings or telephone conversations once developed those relationships. Now, most of the time I spend with current, former, and potential clients is through social media. With computers and mobile devices, these sources of business are literally at my fingertips. I can “like” a family picture they post on Facebook, or I can comment on a milestone anniversary they are celebrating or an accomplishment of their child. Think about when others “like” one of your Facebook posts or make a comment that makes you feel good. Don’t you want to do business with these folks, no matter their trade? I know that I do.
How does developing this niche and brand translate into clients? Various studies indicate that clients hire specialists, instead of general practitioners. Think about how you search on the internet. If you were looking for medical help, you search for the area of expertise of a physician. If it’s a heart issue, you want a cardiologist—not a neurosurgeon. People look for attorneys in much the same way. They want someone with experience in their type of case.
Do Your Homework
For younger lawyers who are still trying to develop that niche, also focus on getting work from others within your office. John Remsen runs the Managing Partner Forum in Atlanta, Georgia. He has a top 10 marketing tip list for young attorneys, chock full of helpful advice.
That list includes two great tips for in-house marketing. First, find out what your firm is doing in terms of marketing and business development, and get involved. If you’re a strong writer, volunteer to research and write articles for your practice group newsletter. If your practice group doesn’t have a newsletter, maybe you should start one. It would be a great source of data to include in your social media feeds to also help brand yourself outside the office. Remsen also recommends to “be the go-to associate for partners who are involved in your area of interest.” “If you’re still unsure of what type of law sets you on fire, research legal trends,” he recommends. Find your niche early and use it to your advantage. For young lawyers, the best source of business will always be from the other lawyers in your office, especially if they have the confidence that you are up to date in a specific subject matter.
For a firm or an individual, developing a brand takes a great deal of work. But the alternatives are to accept whatever label you’re given, or worse, have friends and relatives ask you repeatedly, “What type of law you practice?” Branding yourself or your firm won’t ever be simpler or cheaper than it is today with the right technology—and there’s no time like right now to get started.
About the Author
Robert A. Young is the managing partner of English Lucas Priest & Owsley, LLP in Bowling Green, KY, and is a former chair of the ABA’s Law Practice Division. Follow him on Twitter @BobYoungELPO.