Rainmaking Recommendation #259: Law Firm Brand or Lawyer Brand?

Which is more important? The law firm’s brand or the lawyer’s personal brand? The answer is not quite as simple as one or the other – particularly in midsize to large law firms. 

Let’s start off with a quick explanation of what constitutes a brand. 

First, a little history: in the west, cattle ranchers used a hot iron to burn a distinctive mark into the skin of their herd.  This was used as a way to distinguish one rancher’s cows from the other when they were grazing on open land and discouraging “cattle rustling.” This was the rancher’s “brand.” 

Then, the term became usurped by corporations to signify the visual elements of their product offerings, such as packaging, colors, logos, font, etc.  Think Coca-Cola.  They have had the same script on their very distinctive shaped bottles since they began selling the soda (or pop if you prefer); the same red color has been used to distinguish them from the other cola companies. 

As time marched on, the term brand has come to signify the tangible or visually elements, which is the brand identity, and the intangible elements or the brand’s personality.  Your brand personality is the promise that the company makes to the consumer.  It is the feeling that is evoked when you hear the company’s name or see the visual branding elements.  

But be forewarned, you can try to steer clients into what you want them to think about your services; however, the client determines the brand.  Your brand is what others think about when they hear or see your brand name.  For almost every woman in the world, the beautiful robin’s egg blue box with the white satin ribbon means only one thing to them. They are going to receive a gorgeous piece of well-made (and probably expensive) jewelry. But they also feel this way just hearing or seeing the name Tiffany’s. Of course, they wouldn’t feel this way if Tiffany’s promise to provide beautiful (and luxurious) jewelry wasn’t fulfilled every time you opened that box.     

Your law firm’s brand should also convey the core competencies of your firm

However, as firms grow larger, their reputations can start to grow, and they now need a way to distinguish themselves from the other law firms. Hence, a brand is formed and becomes a way to attract clients more easily to the firm.   

A lawyer’s brand is different.  Jeff Bezos was quoted as saying, “Your personal brand is what people say about you when you leave the room.” Before the internet, it was considered your reputation, and it was limited to friends, family, colleagues, and specific industry publications.

Now, with the ubiquitous nature of the internet, your reputation or personal brand is on display for everyone to see. 

You can develop a personal brand – or your lawyer brand – very easily and quickly.  And it would help if you did so.  There are more than 1.3 million attorneys in the United States – what are you doing to distinguish yourself from all others. 

So let’s define the term personal brand for a moment: 

You want the world to see the unique combination of skills, experience, and personality. It is the telling of your story and how it reflects your conduct, behavior, spoken and unspoken words, and attitudes.

Professionally, your personal brand is the image that people see of you. It can be a combination of how they look at you in real life, how the media portrays you, and the impression that people gain from the information about you available online.

The good news is that you can build or change your personal brand any time you want. 

The Bad news is that You (and only you) can destroy your brand in an instant.  In fact, there is something you genuinely need to know – your brand can change instantly if you are not in control – and you need to be in constant control.

All it takes is one bad review by someone who is unhappy with you, your services, or the outcomes, and if you have not taken control of your brand, it can be destroyed instantaneously. 

So, you have to take the time to determine what your personal legal brand will be and what you will do to make sure that it is promoted to your clients, prospects, and referrals sources. 

Which is more important?  In typical lawyer fashion, I will say, “it depends.”

You need both, particularly in midsize and large law.  But you also need to concentrate on your own so that if something happens and you leave that firm, you still have a brand to take with you.

For more information about your personal legal brand and how to grown and hone it, contact me.

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