You are your Brand

You go into practice to be the Best.

Your reputation is Everything.

Being the best in the World (your World) should inspire you.

And then hits the reality of practice.

Remember: Soft is Hard. Hard is Soft.” And that plays out each and every day.

The focus will remain on billing until firms find that value is the component that will earn them a reputation in the market that out-smarts the competition. Managing WIP, lock up and cash is the science of success for nearly all firms. How many manage for profit: How much is this job costing us and what do we need to charge to make it profitable?

But focusing on the numbers all the time eventually takes its toll. You become subsumed into the fabric of the firm, and unless you really want to change, it won’t matter what advice is thrown in your direction.

I am not talking about self-talk and no you don’t have to go running for your copy of The Secret but you could do worse than reading the seminal work on self-actualisation As a Man Thinketh by James Allen (he lived out his days in Ilfracombe). Here is one of the many lines from the book:

“Men are anxious to improve their circumstances, but are unwilling to improve themselves; they therefore remain bound. The man  who not does shrink from self-crucifixion can never fail to accomplish the object upon which is heart is set.”

Now I recognise that in these hard-headed, tough economic times that hearing some woolly text may not be terribly inspirational, but if you are someone who takes your career seriously then the one thing you can control is your thoughts. And I don’t just mean thinking, arrogantly, you are the best, but more a case of having the self belief that you can be the best lawyer in the World.

If you have done any work on branding, then ultimately it is an emotional experience. At a corporate level, it is about the mark, colour and values. At an individual level it is your language, your results, your dress, your circle of acquaintances, your clients and, importantly, how you wish to be perceived.

In the future, I believe that the idea of personal branding will adopt greater significance for lawyers, particularly given the rise of social media.

It is a good idea to think about a personal development plan. This is not as far fetched as it sounds. At least one of the firms I worked at encouraged its lawyer cohort to produce one. It usually starts off with headline grabbing stuff like “Where do you see yourself in 3 years?” and “What do you see as the biggest obstacle to success?”; but what it should be focused on is how you can leverage your brand which will in turn abet the profit of the firm.

If the idea of creating a template doesn’t float your boat, then you need to consider what sort of work you really want to do, and how that is to be achieved. Some lawyers (in David Maister speak, ‘Grinders’) may be content to sit back and just wait for the work to arrive, but in reality those lawyers will soon find that to adopt that mindset will see them set their faces against much more junior people who will do the job just as well but for a fraction of the cost. And there is on-shoring or outsourcing. Where will that leave your troop of Grinders?

Like I said in Monday’s post:

“Extinct or distinct.”

Julie Anixter

Developing a personal brand takes hard work, consistent behaviour and patience. Look at those lawyers around you who you admire. You will see that they work at their craft every day. You would love it to be different, but qualification doesn’t guarantee anything.

Personal branding like every facet of our lives is something we have to go to work on, rather than simply working in the job. Being technically proficient or exceptionally gifted at the law doesn’t guarantee success.

Your brand can be lost in an instant. Guard it with your life. It’s all you have. Don’t focus on short term results for long term credibility. I have seen a few lawyers lose their grip and nearly every one never makes it back. They move on or move out of the profession.

Don’t take anything for granted.

Watch what you say and to whom.

And don’t just think about the external market. You need a few vocal supporters inside the tent if you are going to make the most of your potential.

~ Julian Summerhayes ~