July 01, 2020 The Big Ideas Issue

Building Your Lawyer Brand: Professional Identities in the Netflix Era of Law

In today’s tech-savvy environment, establishing a professional brand can set you apart from the competition.

Juda Strawczynski
A composite image of Atticus Finch, Alicia Florrick, and Elle Woods standing together with a color block effect applied.

A composite image of Atticus Finch, Alicia Florrick, and Elle Woods standing together with a color block effect applied.

Atticus Finch via Picturelux / The Hollywood Archive / Alamy Stock Photo; Alicia Florrick courtesy of CBS Television; Elle Woods via Pictorial Press Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo

Picture a lawyer. What do you see? Pop culture will be the starting point for many members of the general public, with visions of Perry Mason, Atticus Finch (To Kill a Mockingbird), Alicia Florrick (The Good Wife), Harvey Specter (Suits) or Elle Woods (Legally Blonde) having winning courtroom moments. Historians and political scientists might rewind to the founding of America. When the Declaration of Independence was signed, 25 of the 56 signatories were lawyers. At the constitutional convention that drafted the U.S. Constitution, more than half of the 55 delegates were lawyers. John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton were among other Founding Fathers who practiced law or received legal training. For people who needed a lawyer to help them in times of trouble—a crumbling marriage, a horrific car accident, a refugee application—perhaps they will think of the lawyer who helped them.

There are different lawyer professional identities, or “brands,” because there are many kinds of lawyers serving different types of clients with incredibly divergent needs. The legal profession is not monolithic; there is no one way to be a lawyer. In our age of rapid change, new lawyer brands are rapidly emerging. What are these new lawyer roles? What kind of professional identities are being forged to embrace the future of legal services? And in a multiverse of lawyers, what lies at the core of the lawyer professional identity? Or as Stephen A. Greyser and Mats Urde ask in their 2019 Harvard Business Review article “What Does Your Corporate Brand Stand For?”: What is it about your brand that is your “north star, providing direction and purpose?”

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