Generally, the importance of personal branding is knowing who you are, what you stand for, your professional strengths and what clients can expect when they hire you. What is often overlooked, however, is the importance of internal branding — ensuring that your colleagues know who you are and what makes you unique. As law firms spend an increasing amount of energy into cross-selling efforts, becoming a well-known presence is an important business development strategy. Here are a few ideas to think about:
STEP ONE: Figure Out What Makes You Stand Out — This one tends to be difficult for most people (few people actually enjoy talking about themselves) and it can take time, but it is a good exercise that will help you to crystallise your message. Here are some questions you can ask yourself to get started:
- What can you do or offer that few others can do?
- What don’t your colleagues or clients know about you?
- What professional or personal experience do you have that others don’t have?
- Do you approach your work in a different or more efficient manner?
- What skill do you possess that could help another colleague?
If you are having trouble answering these questions, or you want to verify what you believe to be true about yourself, ask the people who know you best: family, friends and colleagues. They will either confirm what you know — or even better — highlight your traits that are not squarely on your radar but should be!
STEP TWO: Get Out of Your Office and Say Hello — How many times have you decided to stay put in your office for a conference call when other colleagues have assembled in a conference room? So often the important, relationship-building conversations happen when the final good-byes are said on a conference call. Imagine presenting at a meeting with new partners to discuss different ways partners can raise their individual profiles. As the meeting concluded, one person made a comment about something that was not work-related, but it captured the attention of another person and sparked a conversation which would surely continue days or even weeks later. In that moment, those two individuals made a connection with one another and from there, the relationship can build. It’s that small talk that can really leave a lasting impression.
STEP THREE: Get Involved — Law firms tend to have many committees dedicated to a variety of topics. Are you interested in diversity? Pro bono work? Hiring? Work-life balance issues? If the answer is yes, then put yourself out there and join the committee (and think about whether there may be a leadership opportunity for you in the future). While these committees don’t always focus on legal issues per se, the topics are ones about which people are passionate. Yet another way to forge those relationships!
STEP FOUR: Update Your Website Biography — Biographies are the most-read content on a law firm’s website. It is important to keep your biography updated on a regular basis. A good rule of thumb is to look at it every six months and think about what can be added or edited. If you have a significant development to report in advance of that six-month checkpoint, then update your biography more frequently. Biographies provide an excellent window into who you are as a professional and where your talent lies.
STEP FIVE: Read Others’ Biographies — If “other people” are reading your biography, then you should be one of those “other people” and read their biographies. Would you ever go to a job interview without reading the biography of the person(s) with whom you will be meeting? The same goes for meetings with your colleagues. Perhaps there is something you will pick up from their biography that is a conversation starter (such as, you attended the same college or law school, or you’ve worked on similar matters or ones that are of interest to you). Think of it this way — prior to a meeting, you prepare, and that includes understanding who the meeting participants are and how to maximize the time spent together.
STEP SIX: Be Informed — Make sure to get to know your firm and its practices (even the ones that are not your own). Many firms use their intranets as hubs for information about cases, deals and other matters, including firm accolades, events, etc. As a busy lawyer, this can be hard to do, but just like exercise, you must make time for it.
When lawyers ask about the different marketing and business activities available to them (aka the tools in the toolbox), the advice to them is to start small, pick what they enjoy most and build from there. When it comes to building your internal profile, there are not really any choices. You either do it or you don’t. It’s all up to you!
Editorial note: A version of this piece was published by the Thomson Reuters Legal Executive Institute (www.legalexecutiveinstitute.com)