Marketing Advice For New Law School Graduates
I don’t remember who spoke at my law school graduation. In fact, I don’t remember who spoke at any of my graduations. I think it’s fair to assume, though, that each speech probably included a generous helping of platitudes and inspiring messages about going forward even when you’re afraid, overcoming obstacles and the like.
If you’re a newly minted J.D., you don’t need to hear just inspiring messages. You need to hear advice on how to succeed as a professional in an industry that’s not particularly kind to new members.
That’s a larger topic than I can tackle at all, let alone in one post. What I can do is provide some pointers on marketing. More specifically, pointers on marketing yourself, because as a recent law school graduate myself, that’s the best and most useful lesson I can impart: You’re your own best advocate.
If you land at a law firm that has a marketing department, that marketing department’s job is to promote the firm, not you. The marketing department will spend some of its time and energy on you once in awhile (when it’s creating your profile page on the firm website, for example) but careers are not sustained on such fleeting moments in the sun. Also, it’s much more likely that you will wind up working at a small or midsize firm that doesn’t have a fully developed marketing department – or that you’ll end up working for yourself, in which case you are the marketing department.
That may be a jump you aren’t quite sure how to make. Law schools don’t really have a Marketing Yourself 101 course. With that in mind, here is a truism you ought to know: Most consumers can’t readily distinguish between law firms and assume they’re more or less the same; and now that smartphones enable consumers to review a larger array of options more quickly than ever before, you can’t afford to be one of many and subsist on whichever clients just so happen to come across you. You need to distinguish yourself from the (oversupply of) competition and give potential customers a reason to seek you out specifically.
To successfully emerge from the noise and distraction of the internet takes sustained effort and investment, so start right now. Here’s how:
- When it comes to your academic credentials, set ‘em and forget ‘em. Put your CV out there and make sure it’s accurate, and then be done with it. Most clients take it for granted that you’re qualified, and let’s be honest – the people who are going to pay you for your service probably don’t care too much about that article you had published in, say, the Journal of Advocacy and Representation for Municipal Entities in Southwestern States.
- People like to see photos of who they would be working with. If you’re a millennial, then you probably aren’t shy about photographs, but we aren’t talking selfies with Snapchat filters here. A clean, clear, professional headshot is best, but it may be something you haven’t had the time or money to have taken this early in your career. This post has some advice on nice-looking headshots, as does this post.
- Social media is a useful instrument for any attorney, but at this stage in your career, it’s especially valuable. It’s free or low-cost and you know how to use it. I won’t recap everything we’ve written about social media here, but I will say this: If you’re using social media as a professional development tool, then it isn’t a toy. It doesn’t seem to matter how many times we’re warned; social media missteps keep costing people customers or even jobs. Err on the side of caution – always.
- Everybody wants high-income divorce and complex business litigation cases, because that’s where the money is. There’s nothing wrong with jumping into the fray and competing for that business, but you might want to consider whether your local legal market has an underserved niche where you could thrive. Is it millennials? Spanish-speaking consumers? If it’s possible to create your own market, that might be the way to go.
There’s a lot more to successfully and efficiently marketing yourself and your practice than can be covered in one post, but if you generally act with the understanding that no one cares more about your success than you do and realize your early reputation is your own responsibility, then your personal marketing plan is already in better shape than your peers’.
And lastly, congratulations on graduation!