If You’re Not Saying Who You Are, Others Will Guess—Perhaps Wrongly
A strong personal brand is important in the legal field because it opens you up to a larger network, increased visibility, and more client acquisition opportunities. Being easily recognized by potential clients is crucial to your success and will separate you from other lawyers. Additionally, having a well-established personal brand can increase your earning potential and enable you to command higher fees.
Your brand isn’t going to emerge overnight. Building your personal brand takes time, and it’s about being your own marketer. If you find this cringy, that’s OK. A lot of people do.
However, while you’re not building your brand, someone else is building theirs—and they’ll get ahead of you. They’ll take your potential clients and, perhaps, even a job you wanted. Additionally, if you’re not defining your brand, you’re leaving it open for others to interpret it, and they might not be taking away what you want them to.
You don’t want to be in a position where you’re guessing what people think about you—you want to tell them. The challenge behind building a personal brand is that you’re not really coming straight out of the gate and telling people. You’re building it and leaving people with your story to take away.
Think of a mosaic. You might not understand in the moment why you’re placing a little green tile at a certain location. However, when you’re done, you see the big picture, creating something worth discussing.
So, when publishing one article about a certain topic, you might not think it’s worth your time. But remember that it’s one little tile you’re placing down to create your mosaic. The full mosaic is your personal brand, but you need the little squares along the way to build it.
The Online Story You Want to Tell
In today’s world, almost all of what we do is online. Unless people know you personally, most of what they find out about you is based on their online research. When a potential client—or an employer—finds you online, what do you want them to see? What story do you want them to take away? Who are you? What value can you add to the problem they’re trying to solve?
Having a strong and purposeful personal brand helps you stand out. You will be remembered over someone else because someone remembered your brand, your story, who you are, and what you’ve done. That’s because you’ve packaged it in an easy-to-understand and succinct story.
Your target audience will also trust you more. Knowing who you are, what you’ve done, and what value you can bring shows—whether you think it does or not. Clients, bosses, future employers, and peers see your story. You’ve spent time curating your brand, and others are taking note.
5 Steps to Launching You, Inc.
There are entire books on branding, but there are five important steps you can start immediately.
1. Take Time to Reflect
What have you done in your professional career? What have you done in law school? Write these down in a bullet-point format.
2. Think about Where You Want to Be
This doesn’t have to be a certain job or company, but what space do you see yourself in? Do you want to be in a certain industry? A good time frame is one to three or five years. Also, write these goals down. It’s not enough just to think about where you’d like to be.
3. Analyze How Your Accomplishments and Goals Fit Together
When you put them together, is there a theme? If you find this exercise challenging, write down instead how you’d answer “Tell me about yourself” in a job interview and use that answer as a starting point. You can also prepare a short elevator pitch. Having something put together in a few sentences can help you define your personal brand.
Do you feel like it’s too early for you to list accomplishments? It’s not. If you’re in the early stages of your career and need to build any foundation, consider your internships. Are these experiences in line with where you see yourself? Then great, use those.
If not, go back to thinking about where you want to be. What steps can you take to get there? Can you learn a skill to indicate your interest and dedication? Can you conduct research and write an article in the space you want to be in? These are all stepping stones to building your personal brand.
4. Build a Community
Connect with people in the space you want to be in. Build relationships and get to know them. Your target audience (whether this is clients, future employers, etc.) will take note. They will associate you with that community. If you need help, visit your career center. They have ideas and can connect you with the right people.
5. Build Your Online Presence
If you don’t like the sound of this, don’t fret. You can be subtle about it. You don’t have to go into it thinking you need to be like the influencers so many of us follow.
What do you want people to find when they do an internet search of you? Can you write articles? Can you participate in any events? Do you want people to associate you with several topics? Or just one? These are things to consider when seeking opportunities to build your online presence and shaping your story.
However, if this still sounds overwhelming and all else fails now, take a weekend to update your LinkedIn profile. Having an up-to-date and complete profile is a perfect first step if you’re a busy law student.
Talk to Your School’s Career Experts
Most importantly, in this process, take what you’ve worked on in those steps above to your career center. If you’re stuck, they’re there to help you. Having everything plotted out for you to discuss with them will greatly maximize your time together. Additionally, if you find yourself stuck on any of the steps, your career center team is knowledgeable and will be able to help.
Being in the driver’s seat and shaping who you are is what’s important. You don’t want to leave your personal brand open for interpretation.
Finally, don’t forget to revisit your personal brand over time. Adapting to change and being willing to pivot is crucial. This isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it situation. Perhaps you graduate law school, work for a few years, and realize your passions and goals have changed. Then, it’s time to adjust your personal brand.