By Kevin O'Keefe

Only your personal brand will save you as lawyer

Dorie Clark, CEO at Clark Strategic Communications who consults with clients from Google to the National Park Service to Yale University, has a good read for lawyers in the Harvard Business Review this week entitled, ‘Only Your Brand Will Save You.’

Clark’s story of 61 year Matt Siegel re-upping his contract so as to go into his fourth decade as DJ on a youth driven radio station while online powerhouses like Pandora and Spotify have radio in decline is a relevant one for you as a lawyer.

Why?

Consistently ranked #1 in Boston, downsizing and macroeconomic trends are facts of life Siegel simply doesn’t have to worry about: he’s protected by the power of his brand. (emphasis added)

Clark warns why the need for a personal brand — the uneasiness of job security, one that many of you as a lawyer feel.

With the international economic recovery uncertain at best and the stock market convulsing wildly with every Beltway standoff or whisper of bad news from Southern Europe, it’s obvious we can no longer rely on job security or investment returns to protect us from hard times. Amidst these harsh realities, there is only one investment that’s certain to outperform the others: your personal brand.

I’ve been blogging for years that you as lawyers need to build your niche and and word of mouth audience. It’s your reputation as an authority, not a website or other advertisement, that’s going to bring you the work you want.

It’s imperative per Clark that you start to to act immediately:

  • Cultivating a reputation as one of the best in your company or industry
  • Developing a passionate, loyal following of people who value your perspective
  • Becoming widely known and discussed

One way Clark talks of developing a strong reputation is through blogging. One example being Seth Godin who’s been able to cut out the middleman publishers.

Armed with his popular blog and increasingly powerful brand, he made headlines late last year by launching his own imprint (in partnership with Amazon). Self-publishing used to be the hallmark of amateurs who couldn’t convince anyone reputable to vouch for their work.

I’m not suggesting you’re Seth Godin, but countless good lawyers on the LexBlog Network have developed niche blogs, that along with other business development work, have given them a reputation as one of the best in their industry and or locales. In addition, they’ve become widely known and discussed by people who value their perspective.

New York City Attorney Peter Mahler with Farrel Fritz, a good lawyer doing business dissolution work before he started his New York Business Divorce blog. now receives the majority, if not all of his work, because of his blog and the reputation he has established by virtue of the blog. And as Mahler reminded the audience at a PLI Social Media Conference this spring, his clients are coming on sophisticated matters which involve high hourly rates.

Within the last two weeks lawyers from Miami and Seattle told me they always read Mahler’s blog. They want his insight on business dissolution matters.

Lawyers would be wise to heed Clark’s words:

If you care about insuring yourself against hard times, the only true safety is in developing a personal brand that’s better known — and therefore more powerful — than that of your competitors, or even your employer.

For strong empowering law firms, your developing a strong personal brand is something they should be right behind you on, not fighting you on because you may dilute the law firm’s brand. Sure there’s a benefit of being with a strong law firm, but it’s the lawyers doing business development bringing in the work.

In the vast majority of cases, people hire lawyers, not law firms, through relationships and reputations.

You can see more from Dorie Clark on HBR Blogs at “How to Become a Thought Leader” and “How to Reinvent Your Personal Brand.”

Kevin O'Keefe
About the Author

Trial lawyer turned legal tech entrepreneur, I am the founder and CEO of LexBlog, a legal blog community of over 30,000 blog publishers, worldwide. LexBlog’s publishing platform is used on a subscription basis by over 18,000 legal professionals, including the largest law firm in each India, China and the United States.

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