Is building a personal brand an important strategy for growing your law practice? Or, is it merely “an oxymoron, for a corporate practice, not a personal one” as blogger Doc Searls argues in his post, The Unbearable Lightness of Branding.
In his article “Telling Lawyers to Build a Personal Brand May Be a Big Mistake”, Kevin O’Keefe responded to Doc Searls by stating, “today, building trust and maintaining a reputation matter. Calling both ‘branding’ is a categorical error.”
After reading both posts and having worked with lawyers for ten years on branding, I passionately recommend that lawyers focus on both their personal and law firm brands. My suggestion is to re-frame the question from:
“Should I build my personal brand?”
“What distinguishes me and my practice, what do I stand for, and who is my ideal client?”
The answer to these questions define your “story” that is, how you express your value to potential clients. Your “story” will establish the foundation for defining your personal brand.
Personal brands fail for the following two reasons.
- When the brand starts outside of yourself. Too often lawyers focus more on their external persona verses who they truly are and what they stand for. This can lead to disastrous results (think Tiger Woods, Tony Hayward, the recently demoted CEO at BP and Elliot Spitzer).
- When the brand is about self promotion verses an authentic commitment to making a positive contribution to your clients, colleagues and community.
A brand is not a persona or a “logo.” It is about building a reputation and doing remarkable work, living your values and consistently delivering on your brand promise.
One example of a successful personal brand is Don Schiller of Schiller DuCanto & Fleck LLP, who has created a brand as a “gentleman” in a volatile practice area.
His brand enhances and is in direct alignment with his firms brand for unparalleled excellence. It also distinguishes him as the “go to” family lawyer for high profile clients among the influential, wealthy and famous in Illinois.
In a recent article, titled The Gentlemen, Don was described as:
“In the field of divorce law, it’s hard to escape from name-calling. The amazing thing about Don Schiller is that even at the top of the divorce field, the name he’s most regularly called is ’gentleman.’
Don Schiller has successfully built a personal brand: He knows who he is and who his clients are, and he delivers on his brand promise every day.
A strong personal brand is about being authentic, knowing what you stand for, and consistently delivering on your brand promise. This includes building trust and maintaining a reputation in alignment with your brand.
The more defined your brand, the more you will distinguish yourself in a competitive market and attract the clients who value what you do best.