Branding yourself and your business through community service

Whether you are a new lawyer starting your own firm or a seasoned associate at a large law firm, branding is critical to your success. Branding is about the reputation that you cultivate in your community and the market you serve, wrote Nathan A. Hartman, managing attorney at Hartman Private Law LLC, in a recent issue of TYL. He offered these insights on branding:

Build your brand on your reputation.

In the legal profession, as in other service industries, a strong, positive reputation is essential to a brand. People will come to lawyers and firms that they trust, either because of a past positive experience or a recommendation from someone they know.

“Just like good friends earn trust, so do lawyers and law firms,” Hartman said. “Your reputation precedes you — your reputation often is you. In an oversaturated legal market, it is one of the very few things that set you apart.”

Ask yourself the important questions.

Consider why you are in business or entering the market and what you can offer others: the goals of your business, the benefits of your services, the quality of your services and how they differ from others in the market, how you and your brand are perceived, and what qualities you want to project with your business.

“On the most basic level, your brand is your logo,” Hartman said. “It is your tagline, your website and the graphics on your business card. … Your brand is a reflection of your personality, of your key business traits, of what you will deliver to clients.”  

Cultivate your particular brand.

Cultivating your own brand is accomplished through defining your mission or motto and visual branding — the use of logos, symbols and taglines. The best visual branding is an outgrowth of a person or company’s motto. For example, Hartman’s motto is “in service to the community.”

“My aesthetic choices relate to that motto and mission: green colors selected for growth and vitality and an image of an elk because it is noble and majestic. These are some of the qualities I use in approaching the community I serve,” he said. “Once you’ve defined your business and your mission, you can create your visual branding elements.”

Build your reputation in the community.

If you have identified your mission and branding elements, you should promote them, in a variety of ways, through involvement in your community. Hartman has focused considerable effort on cultivating a strong reputation in his community. He led an effort to improve two parks, securing landscaping and a sculpture for one of them. “My main intention was to interact with the community, but a positive tangential benefit was that working on the park project generated clients for my practice,” Hartman said. “Other individuals in my neighborhood that had a similar passion for the park also, it turned out, had a need for estate-planning services.”

Make your business known.

It is important for people to know what you do, but this will come up in casual conversation, Hartman said. “I made sure that the people I worked with knew I was a second-generation estate planner who worked to help families preserve wealth, all of which came up while performing these community services,” he said. “Once that was accomplished, targeted, separate conversations were effective.”

Find other opportunities to get involved.

Besides interacting with your neighbors, there are other opportunities to brand yourself in your community. Hartman, for instance, was involved with the Georgia Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts and served on the board of directors for a community theater group.

“Both organizations allowed me to work with the arts community, provide legal services where needed and network with persons who share the same values,” he said.  

TYL is a publication of the Young Lawyers Division.