Mind Your Business

You were probably not taught to market yourself; now what?

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Few law schools offer their graduates LinkedIn self-branding workshops as an employment game-changer before law firm hiring managers. Today, even when taught, self-branding coursework is outdated, even at the best law schools. Or, as widely lamented by attendees in my recent online seminar, marketing courses not offered at all.

Once employed, lawyers are not held responsible for marketing themselves, or are too involved with perfecting their law practice. After time and experience, many find themselves at a firm with a role to deliver robust client revenue. Yet self-marketing is still an alien concept, though a requirement to advance.

By simply repeating your bio on your firm’s website, you offer the bare minimum to get by—it’s OK to admit it for now—but that’s not enough to differentiate you from the competition. This is not about abridging your resume. It’s about adding new explanatory material so the reader of you LinkedIn profile learns more about you than shown on the firm’s website bio. This is your self-marketing in the long-term.

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It’s especially difficult if you end up heeding your entrepreneurial calling after several years at the big firm, and you have decided to partner with a colleague to open a small practice, or set out as a solo, without any practical business experience in self-marketing. That mad dash to catch up with brand marketing, a vital component of the business of law, means you err in branding yourself and the new firm. As a result, lawyers often learn the expensive, hard way that it’s time-consuming, arduous work to convince your prospects to pick you over the competition.

Few attorneys can express their “why” effectively in ways that attract clients; they usually list bulleted factoids about themselves. They misjudge two ways we clients/consumers base our interest in others’ brands, as Lois Geller wrote in her May 23, 2012 article “Why a Brand Matters,” in Forbes Magazine:

“If you’re going to develop your brand, the last thing you want to do is follow the beaten path. You want to head down your own road. Your brand has to plant itself in the hearts and minds (especially hearts) of prospects and customers.”

So heart and mind combined, we absorb brand perception, but when you are marketing your small firm or solo on your own, reliance on networking and warm referrals may not fully pan out. “I’ll just ask my law school friends and best colleagues to refer me” is unlikely to fill the sales funnel—or the bank account.

The prospective client is looking for a trusted adviser, so they cycle through one or more online resources to research people like you. For most prospective clients, these methods are ineffective:

  • Your firm’s website: This is only useful if the prospect wants to read it, since most will not. Yours may be like so many; a cookie cutter, pretty advertisement.
  • Your bio on the firm’s website: A styled subset of your firm’s website—it’s formulaic and not necessarily going to help the reader make a “one vs. the others” decision about you.
  • Google search: Clicking around, prospective clients still have to sort through a lot of different material to understand your attributes and strengths. Google is an expensive moving target to optimize keyword usage and position your website in its topmost search results.
  • Marc Halpert headshot_400px Marc W. Halpert.


    When you have a LinkedIn profile, it may be among the first Google search results. Now we are getting somewhere when Google and LinkedIn are in sync. As with most legal professionals, if your LinkedIn profile is weak and missing vital information, there’s more you can do.

    LinkedIn is the respected, global platform, routinely searched to assess business partners via various aspects of their work by over 1 billion professionals. Your cogent and compelling LinkedIn profile, with contact details, once fully expanded, can win hearts and minds, but only if your personal and/or firm’s profiles is/are engaging enough to compel them to contact you.

    LinkedIn readers today are too attention-deprived to read mediocre material. They expect immediate confirmation that your profile is worth their time. You cannot afford to have a reader leave and never return; a forever lost opportunity.

    As with most legal professionals, if your LinkedIn profile is weak and missing vital information, there’s more you must do. All profile readers want to decide cerebrally and emotionally—to appreciate “why” you, not factoids of “what” you. You get few seconds to articulate your “why” on LinkedIn, and it always pays to showcase what others praise you for in your “Recommendations and Skills Endorsements” section.

    Ethically, as attorneys, what you say and allow others to say on your LinkedIn profile is expected to be reliable, so research the ABA, state or local bar associations to keep you up to date.

    Readers expect to receive the same verbal personality and intonation they’ve already read and admired on your profile. As you work your marketing magic to capture them, they are “falling in love” with you—enough to hire you.

    I encourage my clients to write their personal LinkedIn profiles to offer freshly hatched ideas, a tactic in step with their firm’s overall marketing strategy, attracting clientele with personal stories and memorable branding. You advance by promoting your earned strengths and accumulated vision via your profile, posts, comments, articles and videos, compelling them to contact, interview and engage with you.

    If you cannot do this, solicit help from an impartial legal marketing expert for yourself and/or your entire firm. No matter your experience, these are teachable life skills, employing your personal best to paint a portrait of why anyone should collaborate with you. Keep tweaking it, especially as you and your expertise advance.

    Your goal: relate your career narrative in terms of your past making you who you are today, and your current position hinting at what you can do for your clients in your conjoined futures. Starting right now, tell your work story and improve your current LinkedIn profile. As you progress, change perspective or add new abilities, which you should further tweak.

    As with most skills, the more you practice by writing your LinkedIn profile, the better you get at it. It’s entirely up to you to make yourself marketable.

    Marc W. Halpert is a recognized LinkedIn expert with over 14 years of experience helping business professionals around the world as a trainer, a personal coach, a consultant and a LinkedIn self-branding thought leader. In 2010, he started his third concurrent company, Connect2Collaborate, where he is a managing partner. Halpert is a self-described “multi-preneur.”

    Mind Your Business is a series of columns written by lawyers, legal professionals and others within the legal industry. The purpose of these columns is to offer practical guidance for attorneys on how to run their practices, provide information about the latest trends in legal technology and how it can help lawyers work more efficiently, and strategies for building a thriving business.

    Interested in contributing a column? Send a query to [email protected].

    This column reflects the opinions of the author and not necessarily the views of the ABA Journal—or the American Bar Association.

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