Attorneys in Transition: Finding your brand

Nick Augustine is the principal of Augustine Legal Public Relations and he helps law firms and their staffs attract more clients and tell their stories about the legal industry. Nick’s marketing, advertising and media team helps attorneys share their knowledge, skills and abilities. Nick earned a communications and rhetorical studies degree from Marquette University and a law degree from The John Marshall Law School where he is an active Alumni Board member.

For some reason, most law schools dangle the big law firm carrot and many law students take interest. My law school had a strong presence in the big firms here in Chicago and what to wear was included in the instructions on playing the part. Once you grow in your legal career, you may still desire large law firm practice, but you may also hang your own shingle or align with a smaller firm. How will you attract clients in the smaller office?

Many say big firms have big clients and to an extent, this is true. The perception developed that the bigger firm with more attorneys and staff will do a better job and the chance of error is diminished. Another perception is that large firms’ names carry more weight in the courts and when leveraging that perception with opponents. These perceptions can be true and false, but at the end of the day, corporate counsels and big clients hire the big firms because the perceptions exist.

Branding is all about creating and managing consistent perceptions. In smaller practices, the qualities clients seek an attorney are variable. Some people want the lawyer who calls them back promptly. Others want a strong and silent type to get the work done. Others want a lawyer with a big personality who “performs” well in court. Think about the qualities that make you a good lawyer and how you will promote your brand.

Although you may wish to direct your brand, your friends, colleagues and customers are the ones who seal your branding fate, in most cases. If you just be yourself, honestly, and try to do the best job, then people will make comments about why they like you. Some will note that you always “know a guy” or “have a way of selling the opponent” and those clients’ perceptions give them confidence. Whatever the perceptions are about you, the brand follows. What people say and know about you is an important part of your brand.

Once you are on your way to really knowing who you are in business, you then should consistently package and share text and imagery that support your reputation and perceptions in the community. When you adopt a logo or font, use it religiously, and adopt a set of branding rules. Consumer psychology tells us people buy what they know, like and trust. When they see your name and logo over time, your clients and colleagues develop a perception, and your job is to meet expectations.

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