Building A Brand For You & Your Law Firm
Human relations are built largely on associations. If you have positive associations about someone or something, you are drawn to that person, object, or experience. If you have negative associations or feelings, you will want to avoid them. This is basic human nature, and it will never change.
Advertisers understand this concept better than almost anyone. They spend vast amounts of money each year to learn what consumers like and dislike, so they can either associate pleasure to buying their product or service, or associate pain to not buying it.
Advertising and marketing a product or service over a sustained period of time is one of the primary ways to build a brand, although it is not the only way. A brand is built on name recognition to be sure, but it is also built on reputation, how your target market sees you, and how you are perceived in the marketplace.
So, why is branding so important for attorneys? Because we live in a digital world where legal consumers have more choices than ever before. In almost every area of the country, lawyers are a dime a dozen and consumers can look up hundreds of attorneys online within just a few minutes. If you do not distinguish yourself from the rest of them, you risk getting lost in the shuffle.
What does Legal Branding Mean?
For attorneys, branding means creating a recognizable name for yourself and your practice. Your personal brand is the unique value you bring to the table that your clients will benefit from. Your brand is built on your track record, reputation, how you personally approach cases, and other distinguishing characteristics.
Johnny Cochran is an example of an attorney who built a very successful brand. Most people know him as the lawyer who defended O.J. Simpson (and got him off), but he also grew the Cochran Firm into a national practice that continues to this day, 15 years after he passed away.
The firm still bears Johnny Cochran’s name, because his name is synonymous with the success that he had with his highest profile case, and he had also established a reputation as someone who fought for justice for those from all walks of life.
Every attorney and law firm has a brand, whether they realize it or not. You may never be as famous as Johnny Cochran, but you are known by the colleagues you have worked with, the clients you have represented, other attorneys you may have gone up against in court, and others whom you have crossed paths with.
Successful attorney branding involves making your unique attributes known to the widest number of targeted prospects and making them fully aware of how they will benefit from working with you. When you have built a brand that distinguishes you in the marketplace, you will no longer be viewed as a commodity, and this will make it much easier to obtain new clients and grow your practice.
It is important to emphasize that attorneys that work for a firm with several other associates should not rely solely on the firm’s brand to bring them cases and advance their career. An established firm with a well-known brand can be very valuable, as we have talked about with the Cochran Firm example. But there are a lot of reasons that you should have your own personal brand as well:
- Legal Consumers Hire Attorneys more than Firms: The reputation of a law firm certainly helps, but at the end of the day, prospective clients want to know about the attorney that will represent them, and as such, you will need to sell them on you and your expertise. This will be much easier to do if you have built a personal brand.
- A Personal Brand Establishes Authority: An effective branding strategy establishes you as an authority and thought leader in your area(s) of practice, which makes you the “go to” person when people have a legal issue (within your practice niche) that needs to be resolved.
- A Personal Brand Builds Trust: A well-developed personal brand will help people see not only what you do well, but why you do it. This helps establish an emotional connection and build trust with your target audience.
- A Personal Brand Earns You Respect: By having a well-established brand, you will gain more respect and recognition from your peers and from the public.
- A Personal Brand Attracts more Clients: When you have an established personal brand, legal consumers will already be sold on you and what you can do for them, making it much easier to sign them as clients. This, by the way, benefits the firm you work in as well.
- A Personal Brand Increases Earning Potential: If you take good care of your clients, you will get a lot of referrals over time as well as more new clients, which will keep you busy and vastly increase your earnings.
- A Personal Brand Provides more Career Opportunities: By having a well-established personal brand, you have greater control over your legal career. You could become a senior partner in a larger firm, start and grow your own successful practice, become a book author, speaker, host a podcast or local radio show, the possibilities are endless.
Ways for Attorneys to Build a Personal Brand
The first step to building a personal brand is to define what your brand message will be. Here are some questions to help get you started:
- What are your primary legal services? Drill down further than general practice areas like personal injury and family law. A related question would be – what types of cases do you want more of? Commercial truck accidents? High net worth divorces? Motorcycle crashes? Identify two or three specific niches/practice areas that you want to be your major areas of focus.
- What are your core values? What are your passions? Why did you get into practicing law? To stand up for working people who get injured? To fight for justice for the poor and disenfranchised? To give voice to those who are unable to speak for themselves? What do you enjoy most about practicing law?
- What special gifts and skillsets do you have? In other words, what are some things related to law that you do better than most others? Are you a strong negotiator? Are you an aggressive litigator? What makes you stand out from the crowd?
Taking the answers to these questions, write out a paragraph or two describing your top practice areas, your passion and skillsets, and your unique value proposition.
Now that you have a better understanding of what your brand will look like, you will need to take some decisive actions to build it. Here are some of the most effective ways for lawyers to build their personal brand:
- Build a Personal Attorney Website
Even if your firm already has a website, one of the best ways to establish your personal brand is to build a separate website for yourself. This could be a variation of your first and last name (e.g., johnsmith.com, johnsmithlawyer.com, johnsmith.lawyer) or a description of the specialized area of law you practice and/or your local region (e.g., highassetdivorcelawyer.com or criminaldefenseny.lawyer). Make your website aesthetically pleasing, search engine friendly, and include a home page, about/why hire me page, and pages for each of the practice areas you want to highlight. You should also have a blog/legal articles section where you can publish content on a regular basis (more on this below).
- Personalize your Legal Directory Profiles
Legal consumers will look very closely at your profile in places like Avvo, Findlaw, and lawyers.com. Make sure to personalize these profiles with all of the information you want your target market to see, rather than just having a generic profile.
- Optimize your Social Media Profiles
For attorneys and other professionals, having a compelling LinkedIn profile that effectively highlights your strengths is a must. Many people will look at your LinkedIn profile to see what you are about and what you can do for them. You should also consider setting up a Facebook page that is connected to your personal website, and beyond that, Instagram is another platform that a growing number of lawyers are using effectively.
- Develop a Consistent Ongoing Content Marketing Strategy
The first three steps can be completed once, and you are done with them for a while, although you will need to make updates from time to time. The fourth step is the most difficult and perhaps the most consequential, because it requires a consistent and focused effort. In order to establish your brand and stay in the top of the minds of legal consumers, you need to show up in a lot of places online. And this requires producing content on a regular basis.
Content comes in a number of different forms. Regular blogging is one of the best ways to keep your name out there, and it would be good to produce some YouTube videos to complement some of these blogs as well. Your content should be distributed across all of the social media platforms you are on, so it gets into the hands of those you are connected with. You should also look at doing some press releases to attract media attention to something newsworthy that happens, such as winning a major case with a multi-million-dollar verdict, for example.
There is a saying on the internet that “content is king”. The more quality content you produce, the faster and more effectively you will build your personal brand. All it really takes is an effective content marketing plan and consistent action.
Finally, one thing that can speed the whole process up for you is role-modeling. Rather than re-inventing the wheel, model the actions of others who are getting the results you want, and you will obtain similar results. If you need help with any of these steps, let us know and we will be happy to speak with you.
About Sundown Legal Marketing
Sundown Legal Marketing specializes in helping law firms review their current internet footprint, developing a comprehensive internet marketing plan and implementing every aspect of that plan. Contact us today for a free website evaluation and a no obligation assessment of your internet marketing plan. Call us today at (800) 864-1764 or online at Sundown Marketing.