Selling Yourself: How Lawyers and Law Firms Can Express Unique Brands
Time and time again, FindLaw’s research has shown that legal consumers have difficulty distinguishing between what they see as comparable law firms providing comparable services. When they have a legal need, and especially when that legal need is pressing, they don’t know how to determine whether Law Firm A or Law Firm B is a better fit for them.
So, whether you’re Law Firm A or Law Firm B, where does that leave you? Blending in with all of your competitor firms and hoping your fair share of business somehow works its way toward you? Hopefully, you don’t need to be told that isn’t much of a business development strategy.
In this two-part series, we’ll explore the concept of brand and how solo attorneys and small law firms can use it to set themselves apart from other legal providers and speak directly to the kinds of paying client they want to draw in.
But wait – what is my brand?
Before you do anything else, you need to figure out who you are and what it’s like to work with you. What sets you apart from comparable firms? If you don’t know yourself, then how could potential clients? This is a vital first step because without a clear concept of yourself, you’ll go nowhere fast.
The more specific you can be, the better. “A law firm serving New Mexico families” is okay, but “A trio of compassionate, experienced attorneys working with families in and around Albuquerque on adoption, surrogate and foster-care matters” is far better.
Once you decide what your brand is, you need to weave it in to any and all areas where a legal consumer might come in contact with you. That’s a lengthy, multi-step process, but here are the first two in our five good starter recommendations:
Show and tell who you are
No ifs, ands, or buts about it – you need a clear, current headshot of yourself. Once you have one, you will be surprised at all the occasions you have to use it, from your website and social media accounts to printed material for conferences and presentations (more on those last two later.) A photo of yourself is a vital visual element of branding because people want to know who they are working with.
If a professional headshot is in your budget, that’s the best route to go. Ask your photographer for neutral lighting and a subdued background so the attention is on you, not where you are. Aim for a hairstyle and clothing choices that aren’t trendy, because you don’t want your photo to date too quickly.
If hiring a professional photographer isn’t feasible, ask a friend to take a photo of you or use your phone’s timer. Selfies almost always look like selfies, and they aren’t the right fit for this context. In addition to the pointers we shared above, try to find a space with even, natural light. Shadows and fluorescent lighting aren’t anyone’s friend.
Enlist others to help you make the case
Online reviews haven’t been around for very long, but they’ve dramatically increased in importance year over year. In FindLaw’s most recent U.S. Consumer Legal Needs Survey (a poll of about 2,000 U.S. adults who had a legal need within the past year), 35 percent of respondents said they used online reviews to help make their hiring decision. That makes online reviews the second most-used tool for finding legal representation behind only search engines.
There are software programs that can automatically make a short, polite request to clients that they leave you an online review, and those programs are helpful and effective. If you want to make online reviews work for you and can’t work an automated product into your budget right now, the best thing to do is make it a routine part of closing out a matter. It takes consistency and diligence, but may well be worth it. As you’re wrapping up a client matter, considering sending a brief, tactful note along the lines of:
“Online reviews help increase awareness of my law firm and benefit future clients like you by letting them know what it’s like to work with me. If you have time, would you consider briefly describing your experience with me here?”
Digital marketing research has shown that most people are fine with being asked, and once asked often do leave a review. Feel free to exercise a degree of judgment. If your client wasn’t particularly pleased with his or her experience, there’s no need to ask for a review.
If you’d like to learn more about online reviews, registration for our complimentary December 1 webcast What Can You Do to Improve Your Firm’s Online Reviews? is now open.
In the second installment of this two-part post, we’ll explore further ways to express your law firm’s brand. Stay tuned!