Beyond Self-Promotion

Volume 39 Number 6


About the Author

Ari Kaplan, a lawyer named to the inaugural Fastcase 50, is the author of Reinventing Professional Services: Building Your Business in the Digital Marketplace (Wiley, 2011) and a leading ghostwriter in the legal community. He has been the keynote speaker for events in Australia, Canada, the U.K. and throughout the U.S., and has shared ideas with students and professionals worldwide.

Law Practice Magazine | November/December 2013 | The Marketing Issue

I was a lifeguard on the beach in Queens, N.Y., for six summers until I needed to get a law-related job in my mid-20s. One of the senior guards with whom I worked was a renowned musician, having served as the lead trumpeter for Tito Puente and having played at the Copacabana for Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett and others. A remarkable athlete, at 54 he won eight gold medals in swimming events in the U.S. Masters competition.

When he passed away in the summer of 2007 at 74, tears flowed at his funeral in the packed church in Midtown Manhattan, but they were often in response to the extraordinary musical celebration of his life, his family and his legacy. It was unlike any memorial I had ever attended.

I often think of him when a law student, lawyer or legal administrator asks me about overcoming his or her discomfort with self-promotion. In response, I note that reinventing your job search or career is much more about showing up than showing off. It does not need to be perfect or be about you. We are often anxious about seeming insincere in our efforts to connect with others, so we become paralyzed by our fear and limit our potential. The lifeguard I knew always seemed fearless to me. Even at his service I was moved, not by the fact that he had died, but rather how he had lived.

In our technology-centric environment, marketing is often about creativity, community and connectivity, not simply accumulating contacts.


A few weeks ago, I found a pair of journals that I kept in the spring of 2001. The first entry, dated April 11, 2001, at 9:30 a.m., began as follows:

Why am I so tired today? Perhaps it is because I feel [sic] asleep at midnight—I don’t know. Just put the white laundry in. Going to have to put it in the dryer before I go to work (and hopefully it will be done before I leave). Am going swimming between now and then. I love to swim. Sometimes (most times, really) I have to give myself a huge kick in the a-- to get out of bed, especially before work and on Saturday mornings, but as the weather gets better I become more motivated. I especially love when the sun shines through the spotlight into the pool and reflects on my face—that is incredible.
I keep hearing doors open and close from my seat here in the kitchen. It would probably be interesting to focus a camera at the end of the hallway from 7:00 to 9:30 one morning to see people’s expressions as they leave their homes for work. I’m not sure what exactly it would tell you but the emotional spectrum would probably be pretty broad. Worked until 9:15 p.m. last night but didn’t mind. I’m not sure what these morning pages will do for me but I will certainly keep an open mind about them.

That stream-of-consciousness writing is part of an exercise from a remarkable book called The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. It is essentially a self-guided tour to help foster creativity and uses these “morning pages” to set the foundation for the three-month program. The premise is that our minds are filled with junk when we wake up and, in order to approach each day with maximum clarity, we need to get it out. So Cameron suggests that for 90 days, readers commit to producing three pages of continuous and unedited free writing as soon as they wake up. No laptop, no dictation, just a good old-fashioned marble-colored composition notebook and a pen.

The other key component of the program is to take yourself on an “artist’s date” each week. My events included a tour of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, going to see the movie Memento and a trip to the Whitney Museum of American Art, among others.

We often find ourselves in November and December reflecting on the year that has passed—and the promise of a fresh start in January. As you are contemplating the path forward, consider using The Artist’s Way to transform it. Whether your goals are related to business, career or personal development, Cameron’s perennial best-seller will help you achieve them.


As you hone your creativity, you will want to share the resulting new ideas and perspectives with a community that is related to your interests and/or practice area(s). That population is now readily accessible and available online.

One day, as a child playing Jumble (a game focused on unscrambling words) with my maternal grandmother, I noticed an advertisement in the back of the paper that offered a guide to making $1,000 per week at home stuffing envelopes. Despite Nana’s advice to the contrary, I quickly sent away for it and realized minutes after it arrived that it was useless. (Give me a break, I was probably 9.)

Social media seems like that for a lot of people trying to leverage it for client development. For those looking to generate business, create career leads or find job opportunities, however, it offers tremendous value for cultivating a community online. Consider establishing a LinkedIn group in your area of interest, whether it is your current focus or not.

Invite members of your network directly but also let it grow organically. As individuals join, others will follow because their connections will receive notice of their new association with your group. Then try to personally welcome each new member with a customized message, and make an effort to meet those who are client or career development prospects when traveling to their cities.

That direct outreach is part of a new era in client engagement, which is essential for both professionals and aspiring students. Proactive sincerity will be the hallmark of the new year. Master that skill and you will find that your message is a welcome addition to the daily conversation.


Last summer, a guest was staying with us for a week. While watching television one day, she eagerly called a number on the screen to order a new diet supplement. The advertisement claimed that when sprinkled onto food, the additive helps the user effortlessly lose weight. After almost a month, though, she returned the item and was no closer to her fitness goal.

And she wasted something much more valuable than money: her time. She was waiting for results rather than hustling to achieve them. Whether you are a student circulating résumés or a professional distributing business cards, the keys to building momentum are cultivating organic relationships, following up and staying connected.

Here are two proactive ideas that may provide an immediate impact:

1.   Google your practice area or a related subject and a combination of the words association, newsletter and webinar. You are likely to retrieve a number of results that will offer ideas for where you could supply content to your target audience. Call an appropriate organization on the list and mention your interest in contributing.

2.   “Follow” three accessible professionals you would like to meet on Twitter, and introduce each one to a relevant contact in your network via email, hopefully citing a piece of content that the Twitter user posted. The people you are following are just as curious about the potential of the tool as you are and will likely appreciate your initiative.


Ultimately, you can set the foundation for reinventing your profile by distributing content that reflects your point of view, interests and knowledge. To generate that material, however, most of us need a deadline because we are often more likely to accomplish goals for which we have assigned a specific date for completion.

Editorial calendars, which set forth in very broad terms the coverage a magazine or newspaper will give to a particular subject over the course of an entire year, provide that timing and can ensure your publishing success in 2014. They are generally available on the website of the periodical in which you are interested, in the advertising or media kit sections.

In addition, November and December are ideal months to reflect on the past year. They also permit you to look toward the future, regardless of your practice area, interest or level of experience. As such, use the season as a hook to engage your audience in a blog post, article, LinkedIn update or tweet. In fact, many weekly or daily publications are eager for year-end content (because their regular contributors are probably planning for a vacation).


Last summer my son’s Little League team lost its first five games, including one by 23 runs. It is not that the team was so bad; they simply seemed to lose heart when they started falling behind. That led to a lack of focus, followed by fielding errors, bad swings and talk of leaving the game.

They routinely blamed the umpire, a bad hop or fatigue. Like them, professionals and professional school students fault the economy, firm mismanagement, job placement statistics, a lack of resources and other elements outside of their control.

Consider changing the internal conversation to issues you can directly affect by asking yourself how many calls you have made (or are planning to make) today, whether you have sent an email to follow up or initiate a dialog or if you did something that positively impacts your work but scares you every time you do it.

Given that the holidays are approaching, consider sending a client a guidebook for an upcoming holiday trip or a copy of The Artist’s Way to a colleague struggling to finish a creative project. Both gestures demonstrate your thoughtfulness as well as your sense of timing.

In fact, this season there are a variety of ways to exceed the expectations of your clients, colleagues and prospects. Start by leveraging free Web-based survey tools
such as SurveyMonkey to ask them about a favorite charity
or an altruistic endeavor in which they are involved. Building relationships, rather than simply cultivating networks, is essential for creating opportunity. Charitable interests offer insight into the personal philosophy of others that do not typically arise in professional conversations.

Reflecting this art of learning more about those with whom you work and would like to work, focusing on ways that you can collaborate and demonstrating a creative approach in your marketing will showcase a convergence of technology and talent that will characterize the new year. 



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