What successful personal brands do differently in the legal industry

Lawyers have a funny relationship with personal branding.

On one hand, most of us recognise it’s really, increasingly important.

We’ve always known that rain-making partners owe at least part of their success to personal branding.

On the other hand, lawyer tend to be conservative with marketing — especially marketing themselves. The legal industry is still a ‘profession’ with all the pride (and snobbery) that comes with that title. No-one wants to be the ‘LinkedIn guy’ in the firm. Nor should you overdose colleagues with relentless yammering about industry accolades or dense, niche legal content.

That’s the paradox of personal branding in the legal industry. We know we need to speak up, but are afarid it’ll backfire.

So how do you become visible in the legal marketplace without squandering your reputation?

What’s the big idea?

One solution way out of this paradox is to focus on a big mission, goal or idea.

Instead of talking about you, your products/services and your sales pitch, talk about the big problem you’re trying to solve.

Talk in detail and with empathy about the challenges your customers face. Talk about the change you want to see in the world and how it affects the people you care about (your clients).

Here are two well-known examples of effective, mission-driven personal brands:

  • Tim Ferris’s mission is to help people optimise every bit of their lives, from their morning routines to their relationships;
  • Elon Musk’s mission with SpaceX is to create interplanetary life; with Tesla, it’s to accelerate the world’s transition to renewable energy.

You can also take inspiration from a multitude of rapidly growing lawyer personal brands. For example:

  • Mary O’Carrol, former Head of Legal Operations at Google, has a built a reputation for leading and growing communities of legal op professionals. As a result, O’Carrol has landed speaking engagements, podcast apperances, and a new role at a fast-growing tech company, Ironclad.
  • Lisa Lang, General Counsel at Kentucky State University, has built a recognisable personal brand via her LinkedIn profile, website and her WHY THIS NOT THAT™ blog, by making meaningful contributions to discourse about life as an in-house lawyer.
  • James D’Apice, Special Counsel at Australian firm Chamberlains, has created a video series ‘Coffee and a Case Note’ to provide valuable, digestible legal content to a community of lawyers and other professionals, ultimately resulting in new business via referrals.

Legally speaking

What is your mission in law?

That’s the key question to ask of your personal brand.

When you’re clear about the answer, you will be ready to elevate your personal brand and reap the rewards.

Maybe you’re on a mission to help amazing Aussie startups overcome the hurdles to sharing their wonderful products with overseas markets. Maybe you’re changing the way e-commerce businesses monetize their brand by protecting their IP.

Whatever it is, your legal expertise is extremely valuable to a significant group of people.

Your job is to tell the right story so you can reach more of them.

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Sam Duncan

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