- Who & Why?
Category Archive for: ‘American Bar Association’
As a former securities lawyer turned personal branding expert, I can tell you I get the pain of practicing law, juggling family and having to be seen and heard in an effort to market your practice. It’s not so easy being good at all things, all the time.
Over the years, here’s what I’ve discovered are the top three mistakes lawyers make in marketing themselves.
- We don’t think we need to market ourselves
This is a very common problem. Often we feel that because we are professionals and rely on our intelligence, we don’t feel we should have to “sell” ourselves. How tacky, right? The hidden problem is that we often don’t know how to, or are uncomfortable to, market ourselves.
Here’s how I distinguish the two concepts for lawyers. There is healthy self-promotion and then there is bragging.
Healthy self-promotion is always about the other person. How are you a stand for them being better?
Self-promotion is fine if it means you are explaining your uniqueness, raising awareness and thereby, explaining how you can help your target market. How else will you let people know what you do and how you can help them live a better life and run a better business?
Bragging is when you no longer care about helping others, but looking to gain praise and be better than others. Bragging is what makes us feel nauseous and uncomfortable when we are the victims of it.
If you have a strong personal branding strategy and self-promote with the intent of helping others, then you can never be accused of bragging or boasting because you have kind, compassionate intent behind your self-promotion strategy. In other words, you are working towards a cause bigger than yourself.
- We don’t spend enough money, or the right kind of money, on marketing
Oftentimes in law firms, we are given an annual marketing budget. We are also given free reign to spend it as we see fit. I often see lawyers taking their, say $5000, marketing budget and going to a conference with it. Sometimes it just so happens to be a conference with lots of golf involved.
Don’t get me wrong- I go to lots of conferences and I love playing golf. The two concepts work well together.
However, they only work well when they are part of a deliberate, marketing plan that is based on your well-developed personal brand. This means you know who you are, what your story is, how you will share your story and where your target audience is found. Maybe all this means that you go to a conference and play golf. Maybe it doesn’t.
- We give up too soon
So here’s the saddest part of it all. This is the part that should never have to happen. What do you suppose happens when the marketing budget is gone, and we find that the conference and golf did not net any new clients- year after year?
Or maybe you’ve seen situations where associates have spent eight years doing great billable, substantive work. They have not spent much time on business or personal development. Then one day it happens- they are made partner. Oh happy day! Right? Not always. Oftentimes, they end up sitting in front of me in tears (men or women). They are panicking because they don’t know how to bring in revenue and clients, as is often encouraged and/or required of new partners.
This is when many lawyers throw up their hands in the air and “give up”. They claim in exasperation that marketing themselves “just doesn’t work”. Or maybe they say that they will never be good at it because they are introverts.
I say that doesn’t have to be the case. Step back and spend time and effort on knowing yourself, your brand and what drives you to be a contribution as a lawyer.
To start, ask yourself:
a) Why did I become a lawyer?
b) At the end of the day what emotional value do I bring my clients?
c) What am I all about (hobbies, passions, and community service) as a PERSON, not as a lawyer?
I realize that time is a precious resource. However, this is one area you don’t want to short-change yourself by not giving it proper time. This is true whether you are an associate or a partner, solo or in a larger firm.
Until you can say that you have done so, then you won’t be able to say with any degree of certainty that your marketing efforts did not work.
I just spent a weekend working with a group of lawyers at an American Bar Association (ABA) conference. The one subject most every lawyer needed help with was “sales”. Specifically, most attorneys were very unsure of when and how to ask for the sale when talking to a prospect. The result is a poor personal brand.
I find it really interesting that most professionals have the same view of “sales”. That is, their perception is that they are professionally trained in a substantive area (ie, law, dentistry, medicine, engineering, accounting, etc.) and thus, they should not have to deal with/worry about selling their services. What I found equally interesting was that these same professionals feel that everyone is trying to sell to them and they don’t like it.
Here’s my take: If you are good at what you do, ie, being a lawyer, then why are you not trying to help me see your point of view so that I can benefit from your excellent service? Would you rather that I go elsewhere, get lesser service and possibly pay more?! Sadly, we find most professionals don’t take the time to sell their services well and they lose out on the prospective client and the client loses out on your superior service. The result- everyone loses out all because professionals don’t want to sell.
Because their view of sales is so skewed, these same professionals feel that everyone is trying to sell to them. As a result, they run from people and feel uncomfortable when approached. Often, they miss out on quality products and services that could make their business better- all because they assume everyone is trying to sell them something shady.
This feeling of being threatened by the “ask”, is because many professionals are not comfortable with being confronted with a situation. The word, “confront” has gotten a bad wrap in our society. Confront does not have to mean there is hostility or aggressiveness. In my book, “confront” just means being able to stand next to someone, look them in the eye and hold your boundary and have a communication with them. That’s not such a bad thing, right? If professionals begin to look at “confront” as such, then the entire sales concept can have a new meaning.
So next time you feel like you can’t “make the ask” and sell your services OR you feel like you are being sold to, stop and think about the reality of the situation- are you and your services worth you confronting and informing your prospect of how much you can help them?
In personal brand management, a big key to success is your ability to adapt to circumstances and change. If you aren’t flexible and dynamic, then there’s no room for you to grow, develop an effective and genuine personal brand and succeed.
Many industries are perceived as static and slow to change and grow. One in particular is the legal industry and lawyers. I work with plenty of fabulous lawyers and law firms up for the challenge of developing a personal brand that is dynamic and flexible. However, the legal industry as a whole is not viewed as such. For those of you who remember, think about the show, “Paper Chase”. Not sure that perception has changed over the decades since that show aired.
I was just at the American Bar Association (ABA) Law Practice Management (LPM) conference in Napa, California. We were working on developing a program for lawyers, when this topic came up again. As we work hard on bringing new concepts and trends to lawyers and working on helping younger lawyers see the need to be outgoing, dynamic and brand-oriented, we always keep in mind a few thing. Lawyers can be slower to change, more risk-averse and more security-oriented.
If you think about it, these generalized traits make sense. The law is about precedent and following what came before to get to a new place in the future. Legal educational institutions and firms have been around for centuries and take pride in having this longevity. I remember my international law professor had been teaching at my law school for something like 30 years by the time I took his class- and the running joke was that there hadn’t been many changes to the curriculum since he started at the law school.
However, with the longevity and prestige there is always the danger of stagnation. This stagnation comes from following precedent, becoming comfortable with “what has always work in the past” and a general fear of trying new things, growing or following new trends. Fear of the unknown is common and something I appreciate.
The way to grow and succeed, though, is via a shift in perspective. Appreciate your tried and true ways, but always keep your eyes and ears open for a new method and process. Your personal brand will thank you for it and so will your family and clientele.
I was honored to be the articles editor for the American Bar Association (ABA) November Law Practice Management Section Webzine. I chose the topic of personal branding so fellow lawyers could learn more about how to create an effective personal brand that sells them as people and sells their business brand well. We have tons of fabulous articles- all of them apply to lawyers and all professionals, so click HERE to read more!