Given the choice between Batman and an anonymous superhero, who would you trust to save the day? Batman — of course. The other hero might be great, or he might be a delusional pretender; without an established identity there’s no way to know. If you aspire to be a superlawyer, you need to build a (not so secret) identity that clients can recognize and trust.
Legal marketing expert Leah Norman writes about identity in terms of personal branding: “as it relates specifically to lawyers, personal branding is the strategic use of your legal expertise, professional appearance, experience and relationships to ensure that others view you in a particular light.”
Of course, you don’t need a costume, signal, or batmobile to establish your identity as a superlawyer, but you do need a focused idea of who you are and what you represent. Management consultant Ron Ashekenas writes that “to crystallize your personal brand, ask yourself what you want to be known for — what differentiates you from everyone else who might have a similar background or set of experiences? In other words, what skills, abilities, knowledge and attitudes do you have (or are developing) that will make people want to work with, follow or “friend” you — online or off? What value can you create for others as a friend, blogger, colleague, teammate, boss or subordinate? And what will make you satisfied and fulfilled that you are indeed making a contribution?”
As you answer these questions, strive to distinguish yourself as narrowly as possible. You cannot be everything to everyone, but you can be something very valuable to a specific, targeted audience. By building your identity in a focused niche, your expertise will resonate more clearly. The old saying that you can’t be taller and shorter than me at the same time holds true for the Internet. (We will cover reputation building and search engine optimization strategies in greater detail in later blog posts.
Your identity is as much about your personality as your intellect; your online identity should reflect the charisma that characterizes your offline relationships. Attorney Shai Littlejohn writes that, in addition to expertise, a successful online identity will “demonstrate shared values like reputation for responsiveness, accuracy, discretion, political savvy, family, and participation in lofty priorities beyond day-to-day work.” According to Attorney Kevin O’Keefe, this approach is a great way to build trust; “the public trusts lawyers less than everyone but journalists. However, sharing where you’re coming from, where you’re heading, your aspirations, and your insight on niche legal issues develops trust like you wouldn’t believe.” And with this trust, clients will look to you to come to their rescue.
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