There are many reasons why people choose to become lawyers, and one of them that’s fairly consistent across the board is that we all believed we could make a pretty decent living in what has historically been recognized as a noble profession.
Today, the legal profession is undergoing rapid change. There are more competitors, and they are not just the other lawyers down the street. You are competing with online DIY legal services like LegalZoom and Rocket Lawyer or like Avvo that enables consumers to talk to a lawyer for 15 minutes for a low fee.
You have no control over these new market dynamics, but you do have control over how you respond to these changes. One of the most effective ways you can distinguish yourself in the legal marketplace is by creating a brand that positions you as a leading authority in your area of practice.
Without a strong brand, you run the risk of becoming a commodity — and as we all know, commodities typically have miniscule profit margins. Not a good place to be!
On the other hand, building a strong brand will provide you with five key benefits:
- Attract clients.
Given a choice, we would all choose to work with a specialist rather than a generalist, whether it’s for healthcare or car repair. We all enjoy having access to the best. Professionals known for being the best in their fields are more trusted and more highly sought after. Once you have created a strong brand for yourself in your area of practice, you will find that clients will seek you out.
- Obtain more referrals.
If you are the attorney everyone wants to know (and hire), you’re also the attorney who will be referred more often by clients and other lawyers. Referrals are social capital — people share them because it elevates their own status. When you establish yourself as the authority in your field, people will want to make their association with you known.
- Command higher rates.
When people seek you out, it allows you to become more selective about the clients you take on as well as the rates you can charge for your legal services. It’s simple supply and demand. Conversely, if you are viewed as the same as other lawyers — a commodity — you are forced to compete on price. Having a brand that positions you as an expert and a specialist allows you to charge what you’re worth and still win new business.
- Do the kind of work you prefer.
If you are currently doing work you don’t like for clients you don’t like working for, it’s time for you to find your focus. You can’t be an expert in everything, so why not pick an area of the law you truly enjoy and start drawing clients you would enjoy serving. Having a niche makes it much easier to develop a strong brand as an expert in that niche and helps you attract the kind of work you want.
- Attract media attention.
Reporters are constantly looking for experts on a wide range of legal topics. The one caveat being you need to be perceived as an expert! How do they find you? Like most people who don’t know you do — by searching the Internet. Having a strong online brand with a major presence on social media will greatly increase the likelihood that you’ll be contacted and that opportunity for media exposure will present itself. Increased media exposure means an increase in the number of people attracted to your law firm, so be sure to leverage any media opportunities you have into future interviews and articles.
There are a number of ways for you to establish expert status in the eyes of potential clients, referral and media sources in order to build a strong brand:
Tip #1: Find your niche. Focusing in on a single practice area is key to establishing your expertise. If your focus is too broad, you will not be able to establish expert status. You may think that narrowing your focus on one practice area will hurt you financially, but realize that you are narrowing the focus of your marketing and that you can still accept clients in other practice areas if you choose. You will simply not be marketing to everyone with a pulse.
Tip #2: Build a strong social media presence. Did you sign up on every possible social media site as soon as they came out? There’s no way you can maintain all of them, so consolidate into two or three where your prospects are most likely to be found. Look at your competitor’s social media pages and see how you compare. Try to view them with the same eye as your prospects. Then make the necessary improvements to your pages to outdo them.
Tip #3: Have a great website. Your online presence begins with a professional looking and functioning website. This is your virtual storefront where you showcase who you are, what you do, where you are and how potential clients can reach you. You need a consistent brand identity in order to look professional. If you don’t already have a logo, hire a professional to design one. Use the same colors to brand your website and all your firm materials. Create a memorable tagline that will stick in the minds of consumers. Make sure your bio and photo are up to date and interesting. Have a detailed FAQ section that answers the questions prospects are most likely to ask. Post your articles, ebooks, blog posts, etc. to your website. Be sure your site has a contact form on every page. Use live chat.
Building a strong brand takes time, but it pays off in the five benefits I listed above — more clients, more referrals, more doing the work you want to do.