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After the Bar

Professional Development

How and Why a New Attorney Should Develop a Personal Brand

Camille Chambers


  • Start developing your professional brand early in your career by identifying your interests and creating a one-line elevator pitch to reflect them.
  • Take proactive steps to build your brand through professional development courses, networking, and participating in industry events.
  • Use your brand to guide your career development, build a network, and enhance your business development efforts, remembering that law is fundamentally a service industry.
How and Why a New Attorney Should Develop a Personal Brand

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Asking a first-year attorney, fresh from the bar, to start developing a brand is akin to asking a child who just learned to walk what car they want to drive; seemingly preposterous! The first couple of years of being an attorney are normally occupied with learning how to draft memorandums and court briefs, navigating law firms, offices, or government agencies, developing practical and soft skills, and making sure that assignments are timely and proficiently completed. Very few early-career attorneys are concerned about making a brand for themselves; that’s usually left to the senior associates, partners, and solo practitioners. 

At least, that’s what I thought when I first started working at a boutique law firm. I quickly learned that developing a brand is something anyone can do at any time in their career, and it’s best to start thinking about it earlier than later. I urge early career attorneys to consider taking some time out of the whirlwind of new experiences to develop at least a rough plan for developing their own unique brand.

Why should I care now?

Though they may seem unnecessary to a young attorney, “brands” and “business development” are a key part of your professional development and part of your answer to that ever-daunting question “what’s your five year plan?” Your “brand” is also part of who you are in your “network.”

What is a brand, anyways? There’s no one definition and it changes “name” over time. To an early career attorney, it’s best to think of a “brand” as a “one-line elevator pitch” that so many young practitioners are familiar with from their law school professional development courses. This conversation is not much different from those about developing an expertise or practice area. However, instead of an internal focus on professional development, developing a brand is all about the external outlook. A quick look at the LinkedIn profiles of prolific attorneys will reveal a short one-line by-line right under their name—their brand.

How do I develop a brand?

  • Paint yourself a self-portrait. While the focus is on your external self or how the world sees you, it’s key to also stay true to yourself. For example, I am interested in data privacy issues, contracts, and supporting small business, and my professional “brand” reflects these interests.
  • Take action. If you strive to be a passionate litigator who takes the best depositions, take professional development courses and CLEs on depositions and litigation. Seek out opportunities to interact with other litigators, go for opportunities to present on the topic, and attend conferences in your field. If you support a specific industry, attend industry events and conferences, meet non-attorneys in the field, and look for opportunities to write or speak on topics. 
  • Be flexible. Your brand will most likely develop and change over time as the world changes and your career takes form. We are human and expected to change. Further, the industries we support change over time. For instance, artificial intelligence and cryptocurrency are evolving fields that may have more laws and regulations for attorneys to provide advice on and litigate over.

I have a brand, what do I do with it as an early career attorney?

Having a brand not only helps you direct your professional development path and opens up doors and paths, but is also key if you work in a field that must develop business.

General tips:

  • As with everything else you do in the first years of practice: Do what’s right and comfortable for you. Business development and brand development is exhausting work, especially if you’re an introvert and find large crowds intimidating. Find what interests you. Start small. Do one-on-ones. Take advantage of technology. Partner up with a colleague in a similar situation. Partner up with a mentor or a more experienced attorney. Don’t be afraid to jump right in when you’re ready.
  • A main purpose of developing a brand is to develop a network of colleagues with similar interests and those who can turn to you for your expertise. Use the same skills and experiences you use for “networking” yourself into a job, to build a network for business.
  • Get involved in your industry. I am fortunate enough to work for a small boutique law firm with partners that saw the value in developing associates from the beginning, and to my pleasant surprise was promptly signed up for an industry conference my first year. It was intimidating to stand in a booth and talk to strangers about government contracts and government procurement issues as if I had been practicing for years. However, it was also exhilarating. I quickly realized that many people just did not know what lawyers did and so it became a way for me to share my work, experiences, and value.

Remember, law is a service.

One practical tip I learned was to develop short, but effective answers to questions such as “What do you guys do?”, “Can you help me with X?”, and “How can lawyers help me, a small business?” I don’t think I brought in work to the firm during that conference, but the next year, when I was standing there again, people came up to me and said “Ah you’re that law firm! Let me tell you about X and see if you can help me?” Those experiences taught me that law was truly a service industry and that at the end of the day, no matter how much money you bring in, the point was to help people.

With that last point, I want to reiterate that developing a brand is not an easy one-size-fits-all approach nor is it necessary to start diving into different activities right away. At the very least, as you are exposed to different assignments and areas of law, think about what excites you most and what you might see yourself doing a year or even five years from today. That’s the first step in developing a brand.