There are several ways to build your reputation as a lawyer. Much of what you do will align with they type of practice you have, the city you live in, and your personal goals for your career. But there is more to establishing a reputation and positioning yourself as an expert in your field than just doing good work. It makes me sad when lawyers roll their eyes at doing the basic sales and business development activities because they believe that a reputation is all about the technical work.
We have all seen countless examples of the best at anything not winning the marketing game. One of the most famous of my youth was Betamax vs VHS tapes. It seems like a lifetime ago since the idea of movies on tape were new (after all, now they are obsolete because of streaming) – but in the late 1970s there were two technologies that were in the marketplace. I have heard that Betamax was the better player when it came to video and sound quality, but VHS became the standard for over 30 years. You do not want to be better and have no customers. It hurts to know you are better and lose the client. But I also I assume you do not want to be a second tier lawyer who gets clients despite poor skills. You want to be good and win the business. And to do this you have to work at building a reputation and never leave it to chance.
As I say often in these articles, there are many many ways to accomplish your efforts to win business. I cannot give you exact steps to take, but I do want to challenge you to think. How much time in the last month have you put into how to establish a reputation as the expert? If you cannot recall, then now is the time to start looking at what you can do.
Again, there are many things you can do, but speaking and writing are two ways to be seen as an expert. There are many places you can speak or submit articles, and some will have better results than others. You have to pay attention to places that make sense for your practice area, what your clients and prospects attend or read, and if the place you want to speak or submit articles is looking for content.
Speaking is a great way to be seen as an expert, but only if you are a good speaker with decent content. We have all sat through presentations that when the speaker says “in conclusion” we want to applaud. Most people are not great speakers, but everyone can learn to improve. The smartest thing you can do is join a Toastmasters Club and participate actively for two years. I give this advice to everyone I mentor and coach, but few people ever do it. Those who do all admit that it helped them in many areas of their career. Even if you do not have to go to court to argue cases, you will in any area of the law, have to make intelligent conversation with groups of people. Learning to be a good presenter is the smartest thing you will ever do to help be seen as an expert. Look at politics. Those who speak well are assumed smarter than those who stumble on their words.
If you find it hard to get experience speaking, work with others in your firm to put on seminars for clients and prospects and present at these events. The more you are seen in your community speaking, the more opportunities will come your way if you have something important to say and know how to give a powerful presentation.
As for writing, it is also a learned skill. The good news here is you can get an editor to help you clean up an article or white paper before you publish. Even if you just ask another lawyer or two in your firm to proof you writing, you will get useful input. Beyond outside sources, you firm should have a blog or newsletter and you can write for that on a regular basis.
Another way – maybe the best way – to be seen as an expert is to appear on TV or in print as the expert source on a topic. While getting in the media is a whole different topic, there are PR firms you can hire to help you with this effort. If you work for a larger law firm it is possible that your firm already pays for PR and actively seeks lawyers to participate for interviews. I once suggested a partner in a firm speak with their director of marketing, and within two days they were featured in a local story on the television news. It just so happened they had been contacted that day, and the marketing director was looking for someone to do the interview.
Do not sit back an wait for others to come to you with opportunities to grow your reputation. Be proactive.