The importance of personal branding for lawyers

Oprah. Ellen. Seal. All three have one thing in common; a personal brand so strong that you recognise them by their first name alone. But building a personal brand doesn't mean becoming a household name who can't go to the movies without a bodyguard. It isn't about big-noting yourself or sticking your head up too far. It's about being smart and realising your brand isn't going to build itself. Personal branding for lawyers, in particular, is becoming more important as technology changes make technical skills increasingly redundant. Think of personal branding as a way to future-proof your career. Personal branding for lawyers is all about leveraging your best traits to accomplish your goals. It's not enough to do great work - you need to make sure people know who you are and that you're valued for it.

There are many myths around personal branding for lawyers, so we're going to dispel a few of them for you.

Myth #1: I have no intention of starting my own firm, so I don't need a personal brand.

Believe it or not, winning work isn't the only reason to build a personal brand as a lawyer. Sure, it doesn't hurt with that, but it can help, even if you're set on staying in practice. Being a great lawyer isn't enough. You need to highlight what makes you unique; your unique skills, traits, networks, goals and perspectives.

Speaking gigs and other career growth opportunities arise when you have a strong personal brand. These things look great on your resume and don't hurt when you're pushing for that promotion.

Myth #2: I'm only a junior lawyer, I don't need to worry about my personal brand just yet.

It's never too early to set the foundations for your personal brand as a junior lawyer. Sure, you mightn't have the years of experience yet but, hopefully, you have an inkling about what interests you. If not, then you should really start looking for something that interests you and start building skills in that area.

Once you've found what interests you, figure out how you can set yourself apart from the thousands of other law graduates. Volunteer to present a topic to your team, to build your public speaking skills. Spring clean your Linkedin profile and replace your uni student profile photo with a professional headshot. Don't forget to dress the part too - if your appearance is messy, others will perceive you to be the same.

Myth #3: Branding is low-brow. I don't want to be seen as someone who has to advertise to get work.

Lawyers aren't typically big on promoting themselves. Law Society regulations on the way firms promote their services has meant the profession has kept its distance from advertising - so many lawyers have drawn the conclusion that it's safer not to market yourself at all. Let us clarify one thing: personal branding and advertising are not the same thing.

Building a personal brand as a lawyer is completely different to having to advertise to get work. In fact, building a strong personal brand will most likely result in more work coming to you, without you having to hustle to get it.

Your personal brand is what sets you apart, not how loud you can shout. It's what value you add that people see in you. If you struggle to see that on a macro level then start at the micro. Look at your immediate team and think, how can I add value to it? How do I make that so irresistible that I get noticed? It might be a small thing you become really good at. It may be a piece of legislation, or drafting, or something where you are the go-to person. Maybe you decide to build your branding with the juniors, so they seek you out for help. Maybe it is with specific clients in niche areas.

Myth #4: I'm an introvert. I don't want to market myself, I just want to put my head down and get on with the work.

There is a misconception that personal branding requires you to go out there and boast about yourself. That you need to be out there, constantly selling yourself to people. This couldn't be further from the truth. You are simply positioning yourself as an expert.

Lots of us avoid sticking our head up too high for fear of getting it knocked off. We just want to be left alone to do our work and hope that hard work is enough. And it can be - if you are smart in how you ultimately promote your work and yourself. You might not be the client person, and that's fine but you'd better be the best at branding what you are good at.

Perhaps you'd rather stick forks in your eyeballs than do the public speaking thing. The secret to public speaking is just getting started. You'll be surprised how much easier it becomes over time.

Myth #5: I've got work coming out of my ears. I don't have time to build a personal brand as a lawyer.

Your personal brand isn't something you have to build overnight. It's the result of many small efforts, compounded over your entire career.

Some of these efforts will already be expected of you at work, for example, attending networking events. Other efforts, such as building your own website, are a bonus but not compulsory.

Maybe you want to become known for a particular thing, maybe you have great people skills and can take on tasks that others don't want. Your brand is ultimately how people see you, both internally and externally. Being in control of that and how you build it over time requires work, it won't just happen by accident (of if it does, you won't like the outcome).

Get started building your personal brand

Branding is important for both individual lawyers and businesses.  We’ve written lots on this topic and are currently giving away our guide tailored to firms, 7 Marketing Mistakes Killing Your Growth (+ How To Fix Them).  You can grab your complimentary copy below.