Tag Archives: Professionalism

Leveraging Your Reputation: Remember that the media is savvy

Tom Ciesielka is President of TC Public Relations (www.tcpr.net). Tom has over 25 years of marketing and public relations experience, working with individual lawyers and midsize law firms. He is also a former board member of the Legal Marketing Association in Chicago and has spoken at Chicago Bar Association CLE programs. Reach him at tc@tcpr.net.

A while ago, I went to a public relations conference where some television producers were speaking. They offered helpful advice about how to contact them, the types of guests they wanted, what their audiences were like and why they chose certain stories to cover. They also answered the audience’s questions and seemed friendly, so people approached them to talk.

After the presentation, a man walked up to one of them and handed her a package, trying to pitch his idea for her show. He seemed pushy, and I think such behavior was inappropriate for the situation. After all, they were just there to speak, but instead, at least one of them had to listen to the man as he tried to persuade her to give his client an opportunity.

I still think about that man’s behavior, especially since the media is changing and there are more ways to contact them, which makes it seem like the walls are totally down. However, it’s important to remember that there are still standards, and media professionals are just as smart as they were before. With social media such as Twitter and LinkedIn, contacting them seems to be more casual, but we shouldn’t forget that manners count, and the media is still savvy, no matter how easy communication seems to be.

For instance, people think that a fancy media kit will get media professionals’ attention, but if the content doesn’t fit what they’re talking or writing about, then it doesn’t matter how sparkly the package is; you won’t be able to convince them. Sometimes all it takes is an e-mail to make something work for you. I have met people who only use e-mails to contact the media and have been consistently successful because they are offering content that journalists or hosts are interested in.

Attorneys are highly educated, and while members of the media may not have the same types of degrees as lawyers do, they still have been exposed to a lot of information and people, and they know what they want and what would work for their audience. So if you hear a “no”, then it’s best to accept it and move on, and offer to be a resource for future stories. Your politeness and professionalism will go a long way, and they will be open to your connection in the future.

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The art of professionalism – Four simple steps to help you transition from student to practitioner

Desiree Moore is the president and founder of Greenhorn Legal LLC. Greenhorn Legal offers intensive practical skills training programs for law students and new lawyers as they transition from law school into their legal practices. Moore is also an adjunct professor at Loyola University Chicago School of Law and was an associate at the law firm of K&L Gates. She can be found on Twitter at @greenhornlegal.

Law school is, by definition, a professional school.  Still, if you are like me, you spent much of law school lounging around in sweatpants and socializing with law school classmates (and studying, obviously!).  As you transition from law school into your legal practice, you will be expected to have mastered professionalism and to project professionalism in all instances.  More importantly, your ability to act in a professional manner early in your career will define you – and will define the impressions you leave on the people around you.

Whether you are interviewing for a legal position or you have begun your legal practice, here are four easy things you can do to ensure that you are perceived as a true professional:

1. Dress like a professional.  As simple as it may seem, your attire is an exceedingly important aspect of your professionalism.  This is the very first impression you make, before anything else.  For interviews, without exception, you must wear a suit.  Several days in advance of your interview, be sure your suit is clean and pressed (and that it fits you!).  Likewise, if your workplace observes a “business” dress code, or for any formal business occasions (for example, client meetings, court hearings, depositions, etc.), wear a suit.

If your office observes a “business casual” dress code, this calls for something slightly less formal than a suit.  Still, your attire should be traditional and conservative.  Flashy, quirky or otherwise inappropriate attire is never well received in a professional environment.  Also, wear your clothes well.  Avoid wrinkles and tuck in your shirt.

If you dress the part of a lawyer and a professional, you will make meaningful first impressions and build your credibility from day one.

2. Be mindful of your demeanor. Much like attire, mastering the proper demeanor in a professional environment will be central to your success.  In interviews and in your practice, take care to act in a formal, professional manner.  With this said, you also want to approach your office interactions in a relaxed, natural way.  Your demeanor should reflect that you are serious about your work but that you are also an open, friendly person.  If you can demonstrate by your demeanor that you are both of these things, your colleagues in the legal profession will respect you and want to get to know you.  Finally, as a new lawyer, you will be well served by expressing enthusiasm at the prospect of working on any case, deal or project that comes across your desk.  Enthusiastic lawyers are more pleasant to work with, and in turn get more work!

3. Hone your interpersonal skills. Finding success in a professional environment depends in large part on capitalizing on our own personal strengths and minimizing our weak areas.  In a legal environment, in particular, where you are expected to work closely with colleagues and clients, honing your interpersonal skills is a must.  While not everyone has the same interpersonal qualities, there are a few rules to live by.  In all instances, be reasonable and even.  Do not display extreme emotions and do not take frustrations out on anyone (this includes your administrative assistant – the best way to get in trouble as a new lawyer is to treat staff in a disrespectful manner).  Ask your colleagues about their work and their interests.  Steer clear of office gossip or any office dynamics that you are not comfortable with.  Keep your personal drama out of the workplace, too.

4. Master your practice. Finally, in an effort to demonstrate professionalism in a legal environment, it is important to master your legal practice.  Now, this is not something you can do right away, or all at once, but you should be working toward this every day.  As a recent law school graduate (and after having studied for the bar), your knowledge of the black letter law will never be better.  Capitalize on this and build on it.  Make yourself marketable (if interviewing) or indispensable (if you have already secured a job) in the early years of your practice by staying on top of the technical aspects of your job and showing growth from month to month and year to year.

Follow these guidelines and – even if you have to work at it at first – you will project professionalism to your peers and superiors.  Over time, it will become second nature.  (And don’t worry – those sweatpants can get plenty of use on the weekends.)

Leveraging Your Reputation: Stay professional

Tom Ciesielka is President of TC Public Relations (www.tcpr.net). Tom has over 25 years of marketing and public relations experience, working with individual lawyers and midsize law firms. He is also a former board member of the Legal Marketing Association in Chicago and has spoken at Chicago Bar Associations CLE programs. Reach him at tc@tcpr.net.

Even though competition is becoming fiercer every day, it’s always important to do the best job possible and represent yourself and your firm in the most professional way. I was thinking about this when I recently saw examples of attorneys who produce cheap commercials that use gimmicks and stunts, or express extreme emotions, such as bitterness and anger. Some attorneys use clichés, such as posing as superheroes beating the villainous bad guys, while others use silly or tacky images that they think will get them more clients.

One firm that handles divorce advertises their services on billboards with half-dressed women and men to motivate people to hire them if they’ve become dissatisfied with marriage. They’ve even started selling merchandise with those images. They’re probably making money, but at what cost? It cheapens their image.

What is unfortunate is that attorneys have gotten a lot of education to get where they are, yet they are behaving in such a way that reflects barely any education or sophistication. Marketing gimmicks are a great way to create buzz, and controversy will get people’s attention, but it’s a short-term fix.

Here’s something to think about: Do you want to make money at any cost, or do you want to maintain your professional reputation and the respect of your colleagues and peers? You should always consider what kind of image you want people to walk away with, and I think it’s best to avoid crazy tactics to reel clients in. It’s better to behave like a professional because cheapening yourself won’t help your reputation in the long run.

Professionalism and engagement programs

J. Nick Augustine J.D. is the principal of Pro Serve PR, a public relations firm serving the law and finance industries. Nick advises and assists attorneys in transition based on his experience in legal marketing, public relations, and his Secured Solo Practice model. Nick shares career growth strategy and experience with legal job seekers.

Your law schools are there to help. This week, I attended the Professionalism and Engagement Appreciation Luncheon at The John Marshall Law School to honor the local judges, justices and practitioners for their generous assistance and dedication to helping law students prepare for their career in law. The Office of Professionalism and Engagement, directed by recently retired Illinois Appellate Court Justice Margaret O’Mara Frossard, prepares students to compete with the best and uphold the standards of the legal profession.

Law students who embrace professionalism are more likely to advance quickly and earn respect from colleagues. Professionalism and engagement efforts focus on several practice management functions such as marketing, management, technology and finance. In a competitive marketplace, with so many opportunities for referrals, our best ambassadors are those who know, like and trust us.

Justice Frossard offered the following statement: “We appreciate the fact that over one hundred  members of the legal community  have committed to our in-classroom professionalism program which addresses the challenge presented to law schools by the Carnegie report , namely, to teach professionalism across the curriculum to IL’s, 2L’s and 3L’s. With this innovative program we are bringing judges and practitioners into the classrooms to explain what professionalism means, how to resolve ethical problems in a professional manner and most importantly, what professional skills are valued by employers in the workplace.”

Students should seek out programs that prepare them for the real world and the business of law practice. Look for professional responsibility professors, practice management lecturers and your career services staff who can identify useful resources in the pursuit of professionalism. Current student, Yolanda Delgado comments: “The John Marshall Law School’s Office of Professionalism and Engagement provides students and recent graduates invaluable preparation to achieve the skills valued by employers.”

Lawyers, judges and law school faculty working on professionalism outreach at the law school level to give students an opportunity to start their career with solid footing. I strongly suggest students get involved and take advantage of these opportunities so that law school administrators continue to develop and promote these programs. Ask your law school professors how they can help you move from academia to business. Get involved!

Leveraging Your Reputation: Don’t pull a bait and switch

Tom Ciesielka is President of TC Public Relations (www.tcpr.net). Tom has over 25 years of marketing and public relations experience, working with individual lawyers and midsize law firms. He is also a former board member of the Legal Marketing Association in Chicago and has spoken at Chicago Bar Associations CLE programs. Reach him at tc@tcpr.net.

I recently attended a meeting at one of the professional associations I belong to, and I couldn’t believe what I saw: a speaker that pulled a bait-and-switch. I’m not talking about products at a retail store but about a speaker who says that he is going to talk about a certain topic but ends up using the speaking opportunity to sell his services. I was surprised that he ended up being the main speaker, since he was chosen out of about 100 people who submitted applications. What he did was devious, and hopefully no one walked out of there with any intention of hiring him.

That speaker reminded me, and perhaps others at the meeting, about what to avoid when we’re chosen or asked to speak. Not only do we have to think about what image we’re presenting to others, but we also have to pay attention to what we’re actually saying. To avoid being so blatantly self-serving, here are a few tips you should remember in case you’re tempted to use a public platform for your own gain:

1 – Deliver what you promise. If an organization or other professional group asks what you are going to speak about, then put it in writing and be willing to submit an outline if they ask for one. Then stick to the plan. It sounds obvious, but sometimes people will forfeit their integrity because they’re desperate to get more work. Don’t give into the temptation, and remain professional.

2 – Respect your audience. The speaker I saw probably assumed we were naïve or ignorant. He definitely underestimated us, so his presentation seemed condescending and even annoying, since we were there to get helpful information, not a sales pitch. Chances are that the audiences you speak to are going to be sophisticated, well-educated and experienced. Even if they end up not being as savvy as you think they are, you should walk in there being open to what they have to offer. Remember that even just one search on the internet can yield vast amounts of information, and in our information-saturated culture, the average person is well-informed.

3 – Be accountable. Talk to someone in your firm or another person you trust about your speech and show him or her your outline, or practice your speech in front of others so that you can get constructive feedback. You might not realize if some parts of your presentation make you sound like a salesman, so a second pair of eyes and ears will help you make any adjustments.

If you or your co-worker is tempted to turn a speaking event into a commercial to acquire more clients, stop and think about the long-term impact of such a decision. Even if it doesn’t affect your firm right away, there’s a good chance it will affect at least your own reputation.