Having worked in sales and marketing, and having owned and run several small businesses before passing the Bar Exam, I am here to tell you that most lawyers are clueless when it comes to basic people skills, understanding human emotion, and being defined. The fact is that many lawyers can come off as arrogant, and that is no lie.
But many more legal advocates simply have little basic concept of being defined. These people have spent most of their lives in school being taught by people who have never owned a business, paid the taxes, and payroll. Many simply assume they will get picked up by a firm, get their own secretary and be Perry Mason. Of course we recently learned in California that is pure BS. Even the government paid attorneys have been getting furloughed here in the Golden State (Source.)
What compounds the problem for new lawyers, is that in law school we are basically taught not to have an opinion about anything. It is almost sacrosanct to not be able to shamelessly argue both sides of the case with equal believe-ability. It makes sense too that lawyers should be poker-faced. You see, judges and even juries are trained to withhold their opinion till they hear all the evidence. Attorneys are basically trained to have the opinion that will win their case as a matter of the profession. Of course in the real world of pop culture, that type of personality won’t make you any money.
Many lawyers I have known are afraid to have an opinion publicly, because it could cost them their case or their PNC (potential new client.) The art of not having a personality can be deadly to your firm and your business. This is what my experience has revealed to me anyways.
My belief is that with few exceptions, there is no such thing as bad publicity, but more evenly keeled lawyers like Seth Price back east, would certainly disagree with me. The point of this article is to give some tips on how to build your brand. It is up to you to decide how far to the left or right of the “being defined” spectrum you want to go with your strategy.
How Can You Build Attorney-Client Trust Without Being Defined?
You cannot build trust without being defined. Now that is out of the way, lets get down to brass tacks. Lets explore what being defined isn’t? When it comes to marketing, many lawyers are stymied. Why are they stymied? Simple, they come off like dead fish, boring and detached. That is called not being defined.
Being Trusted IS Being Defined
Ultimately, any legal practice comes down to trust. Trust can come in many forms and can be the result of many actions, but remains paramount in the legal profession. Building up a reputation is a slow and steady process, buffeted by experience and training. However, there are actions that every attorney can take in order to make that process quicker and more effective.
- How Do You Build Trust as a Lawyer?
There are many different ways that an attorney will be able to create such a path. Effective learning with a mentor who already has proven him or herself successful in the marketing and career path you have selected, will be able to create a professional environment within the field of law you intend upon mastering. Often the shared reputation of the mentor will be at least partially passed down to the mentee. This is an important stepping stone towards creating a foundation to build the rest of your career from.
You could also join a lawyer marketing organization that follows basic quality and ethical guidelines. Unfortunately, many are just trying to sell SEO, or some other service. There are also vaunted organizations like ours that require you to pass basic skill level tests, and take you under their wing for the greater good. This enables you to interact with marketing professionals and other lawyers who have found various levels of success on and offline. This sounding board method also helps eliminate models that will potentially fail. This is how we teach our members at the Circle of Legal Trust when they are developing their strategy for both on and off-line legal success.
Don’t Let Others Define Your Lawyer Brand
Attorneys often find that if they do not define themselves, others will do it for them. And I mean in a bad way, like with bad reviews. Of course, not just clients and the general public will negatively brand you. The attorneys that refuse to pay, or selfishly reduce their referral fees to other lawyers get clobbered in their relative legal community as Charlatans and lowlifes. So the choices are:
- Others define you in a bad light, or,
- You fall behind in the larger marketing game.
Creating an effective public image that can be used both in and out of the legal field will be one of the most important aspects of your entire career.
Defining Yourself as a Lawyer 101
How you do this can be complicated, but can be assisted through the use of several tips.
- An Effective Media Presence. This can take on many forms. Making sure that your firm is well advertised in both print and new media can be an important step. Internet sources and social media is often a quick and relatively inexpensive way to get the word out. Work with websites and other media to write columns and be interviewed. Your name and thinking will get out there and increase your recognition in the public. Place your resume and accomplishments on a LinkedIn and professional Facebook page. Having a well crafted website that effectively demonstrates your strengths and goals can be especially effective.
- Be Yourself. There’s a million side-of-the-bus and bench attorney ads. In order to get the attention and trust of potential clients, you’ll need to show them that you are the original article. Don’t put on airs or exaggerate your abilities. Be straight with clients and manage expectations effectively. Speak from the heart, well tempered by experience than off of a script. Be the attorney that you would like to hire.
- Enhance Your Brand. Your cases and experience will often speak for itself. However, you may be in a locality where you are one of several attorneys with similar experience. If you are able to enhance your skill-set with helping within the legal field and your community, do it. Being able to mentor up and coming attorneys, work with local community groups, and assist the less fortunate can show others how you treat people both in and out of the courtroom.
Your skills and experience are not always enough to get clients. Being able to effectively market yourself and those skills will be invaluable to you no matter what stage you are in in your career, especially if you are early on.
Michael Ehline is the head of Ehline Law Firm PC, a principle personal injury firm in Los Angeles. His experience as a former Marine and reading the law has allowed him to become a top fighter for his clients. Contact Michael for more information or follow his articles for more advice from experience.
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