What do Lawyers and Bars of Soap have in Common?

Most lawyers are very proud of the time and effort to obtain their degree and jobs and, most notably, their legal skills. And this makes perfect sense because that is what law schools spend their time and energy on. When I was a young associate, I thought that law schools should have had courses on finding documents that disappear off your computer at 2 in the morning rather than the UCC code. Still, as I focused more on my career-- it was clear that law schools did not spend enough time on helping us focus on the business of law and building a career. One key aspect of this is knowing and building your brand.

Let's start with the misconception that brands apply only to products--such as bars of soap. That is wrong- they are very relevant to people. For example, both Rachel Ray and Martha Stewart are successful lifestyle experts and TV hosts-- but they have very different brands. Martha is known for her attention to detail and perfection, and Rachel Ray has a more laid back style. Both brands are incredibly effective and profitable, and yet each brand has a different approach. Martha and Rachel carefully created and nurtured their brands. And it would be best if you did the same. To have your dream career, you need to invest in yourself.

What is a brand?

A brand is a personal value proposition. It is what differentiates you from your competitors and tells people why they should choose. It is not only necessary if you are selling products or services-- it is essential if you wish to be successful in marketing yourself- whether to a future employer or client. Your brand is your professional profile. It is who you are in the business world, and guess what, you already have one-- you just may not know it, and you may not like it.

Finding out your current brand

So the first step to determining your brand is to find out what your brand is today. First, take a moment to draft what you think your brand is or what you want it to be. For example, I am an international transactional lawyer with deep knowledge and an uncanny ability to navigate deals in China and find solutions where others do not. Or your brand could be: I am an in-house business attorney with an encyclopedia understanding of my industry, and I adeptly navigate complex regulatory issues challenging my clients. 

Second, to find out your current brand, you take the courageous step of asking people what it is.

You or a coach or mentor should ask the following questions:

  • What are the first three words that jump to mind when you think of me?
  • What do people say when I am not in the room?
  • What do I do well?
  • Where can I improve?

Request feedback from people from different levels and situations to develop a more fulsome picture of how you are perceived. Having a coach or mentor ask, rather than you - allows the people to respond anonymously and provide more honest feedback.

Changing or Amplifying Your Brand 

After you receive the results of your reach out-- you need to take some time to view it objectively. Is there a disconnect as to what you thought or you want your brand to be? Are you pigeon holed in an area- where there is little growth or opportunity? So what can you do?

Here are a few suggestions about what to do next:

  1. Walk the Talk: Do you see yourself as a confident litigator or a solutions-oriented partners-- and no one else does. It would help if you modified your behavior. And this will take time and consistent effort.
  2. Review your Public Persona: What do your resume, bio, your firm, and your LinkedIn profile say about you? Do they reflect the brand that you want? Is it that you aren't using the describing yourself correctly, or is it that you don't have the right credentials, skills, or experiences. If the latter, work on a development plan and hold yourself accountable or work with a coach or mentor who can help you.
  3. Build and Advertise your Brand. Make sure the world knows what you know. If people are unaware of your expertise, credentials such as articles and presentations can help. Remember, though, advertising a brand will not be impactful-- if you do not in actuality have the knowledge or skills.

There are thousands of excellent, skillful lawyers out there-- you need to ensure that the world knows and understands what your special sauce is. To do this, you need to make sure that you and the world know and understand your brand.

Sheila Murphy

Founder of Focus Forward Consulting

For over 20 years, as a former senior legal officer for a Fortune 50 company, I successfully developed, coached and transformed talent in corporations and law firms, as well as...