The art of personal branding for in-house lawyers
Let’s face it, our private practice friends often bask in the limelight and recognition of their peers and clients whereas us in-house lawyers are frequently seen as nothing more than a cost center. If you’re like me and are a little frustrated with the ‘black box’ label of the in-house department, it may be time to consider the role of marketing to help you and your team stand out from the crowd.
There are plenty of in-house lawyers in the industry. Yet, bar the occasional showcase of their legal expertise or participation in industry-specific events, there is little that in-house lawyers generally share to market themselves. The reasons for this are complex; the traditional nature of legal practitioners and lawyers means they have rarely had to market themselves to gain clients. However, in a world where there are hundreds if not thousands of other in-house lawyers with similar areas of expertise, setting yourself apart is crucial to success.
Marketing is not taught in law school, let alone in a professional setting, yet it is increasingly vital for lawyers today. Let’s explore why marketing yourself matters and even more so as an in-house lawyer...
Setting yourself apart in a competitive environment
Having a job title is no longer enough. You need a brand. We see this in our everyday lives; why do we choose Apple over Samsung or Nike over Puma? These companies sell similar products, but their branding sets them worlds’ apart. Legal services are no different; if the core of the legal expertise is similar, the brand associated with a person is becoming something that will drive the decision-making for potential hires.
The legal industry is a competitive market, and yet there is only one version of yourself. Leverage it. Promote what makes you who you are and showcase what you want to be known for or, dare I say, develop your personal branding.
The rise of personal branding
The term ‘branding’ used to be widely perceived as something exclusive to businesses, but it is increasingly present in an individual sphere. From celebrities to high-profile individuals (iconic CEOs, founders, etc), branding as a concept is harnessed by people to create a public persona that defines them as unique.
As lawyers, we are the respective owners of our personal brand. It is probably fair to say that other industries are more advanced than the legal industry on this topic. However, this concept is on the rise and lawyers are increasingly aware of its importance.
If personal branding seems frivolous or unnecessary to you, try to picture yourself in the future having to compete against those in-house lawyers who’ve been proactive about it. No one wants to be left behind in professional development, and personal branding is an underrated concept in our industry that can generate opportunities.
The employers’ approach to personal branding
You might be thinking, what would my employer think about me being visible on social media?
I have been running a few rooms on Clubhouse, and this has been one of the recurring concerns with personal brand development. While there are no rigid rules, a few tips that have been provided are: be compliant with the social media policies of your organization and be upfront and transparent about this to your line manager and HR team to avoid surprises.
Not every employer will necessarily encourage employees to develop their personal brand irrespective of the adherence to the social media policies and other company guidelines. Still, in this case it is better to seek forgiveness for posting on LinkedIn rather than permission, as ultimately it is your personal platform.
In our industry, people also leave the profession because they do not feel they belong to the culture. Therefore, it would be worth exploring your possibilities in terms of finding an environment where you feel your personal brand development will be considered part of your professional development. If anything, by marketing yourself, you will be attracting a workplace that values explicitly what you personally bring to the table. One of the benefits of growing your personal brand is in the ability to also create your own opportunities.
Create your own opportunities
Award winning author, Andrew David said: “Content builds relationships. Relationships are built on trust. Trust drives revenue.”
It’s natural in our profession to assume that outside partners in law firms with a ‘real’ incentive, there is no need for in-house lawyers to market themselves. However, by putting yourself out there and showing the world what you’re about, you will ultimately build an audience, a network, and perhaps even a community around your core values, areas of expertise, and whatever else you want to be known for.
As a result, you may be offered speaking engagements, grow your visibility, generate job opportunities, and potential referrals or leads. Marketing allows you to build a successful path for yourself. It comes down to the laws of attraction; you will attract what you create.
It takes time, persistence, consistency, and a long-term approach, but it can’t do you any harm… to the extent you do it right.
Marketing yourself the right way
You might be thinking, what does ‘right’ look like? The answer? Value. Sharing meaningful content is key to any strong marketing strategy. To quote Ann Handley:
Lawyers have so much to offer the world. They understand the fabric of our society - which every individual is impacted by - the law. Understanding the nuances of the law is a skill that few outsiders to the profession can master. The law is dry; it is complex and full of intricacies that lawyers help their clients navigate. Explaining the law to people is not only valuable but critical to any society.
You might already be creating content in that respect, but between you and me, can we always describe traditional legal content marketing as being relentlessly empathetic? The thing to think about is: how can you market yourself in a unique way? The answer: sharing content that is unique to you.
To give you a concrete example: the content I create on social media is a mix of education and entertainment. I could not see myself writing highly technical articles or videos; I am demystifying the legal profession and making the industry more accessible by explaining legal concepts in an innovative format.
With that said, you don’t have to reproduce what others in the profession are doing. You’ve got to be you. Understand what makes sense to you as an individual, create a personal and unique brand for yourself, and demonstrate your legal expertise.
This won’t happen overnight and it requires consistent execution. But if you plant the seeds now, they compound over time and, in turn, raise your professional profile.
We are more than in-house lawyers and cost centers; we are humans with a sound understanding and ability to apply the law.
Sarah Ouis is an in-house legal counsel and legal content creator. She produces innovative legal content on social media, @verylawyerproblems. She is on a mission to contribute to a more user centric approach to the delivery of legal services.
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