We lawyers are up against a lot of misconceptions. The law is boring. Lawyers are greedy. In my field, trial lawyers are filing “frivolous” lawsuits. Lawyers charge too much. Lawyers cause problems. Ouch.
I recently spoke to a room full of people on personal branding, and what that means in the context of developing a social media marketing plan. I think the program was well-attended because the concept of personal branding, and online marketing, is relatively foreign to lawyers. We are restrained by a number of ethical rules and tend to see the internet as contrary to our duties…and maybe somewhat evil. Sometimes, that can be true.
But, in the sea of legal talent in Massachusetts, lawyers need to work at differentiating themselves and defining who they are. Inevitably, the people I’m speaking to think they aren’t particularly unique, or that they aren’t an expert in their field yet. Or any other number of reasons that they aren’t out there leveraging the internet in their favor. In speaking on this topic, I come close to telling everyone that they are a special snowflake. Maybe we aren’t all special snowflakes, but it is true, right? Everyone, somehow, through the mysteries of the universe, is completely unique. It’s kind of unbelievable. On top of this, everyone has an expertise. Also unbelievable for most people. The challenge lies in defining it for yourself and discovering where you fit in the crowded puzzle that I call “being a lawyer in Massachusetts.”
The challenge is also putting yourself out there. The inherent difficulty most people feel in revealing their personality online is extraordinarily difficult for lawyers. In today’s world, clients want to know who we are as people, not just lawyers. In today’s world, it’s ok to be funny, quirky, honest, artistic, athletic…the list goes on. But it’s ok to be all of those things, and to practice law at the same time. Lawyers are not getting this message.
The lines between the personal and the professional have been forever blurred. I, personally, don’t think we will ever go back to the way it was. This shift, coupled with the unparalelled power of the internet, means lawyers need to get with it, get out there, and bravely be themselves. Most importantly, lawyers must recognize who they are, where they excel, and let people know the value they bring to the law.
This institutionalized silence is slowly breaking down as the newer generations flood the practice of law. All of us lawyers need to embrace this change. Fearlessly marketing and differentiating yourself also happens to bring with it the possibility of changing all of those negative stereotypes I mentioned above. It’s a win-win.