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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
You’ve probably been practicing law long enough to know that you are good at what you do, and should be recognized for it beyond just your coworkers, clients, and other attorneys. One way to stand out from the crowd and communicate to a wider audience is to become an expert. If you don’t want to be an expert on a national or international scale, you can be a big fish in a small pond. How big you want your sphere of influence to be is up to you.
Here are some tips to get you started:
Define Your Niche and Audience. An obvious niche is the area in which you already practice law. But can you refine that even more? Decide if you’re going to be an expert to other attorneys or if you are going to want to appeal to people outside of the legal profession. Then you can plan where you are going to share your expertise and what type of language you are going to use to communicate with them.
Prepare. Even though you already have a lot of knowledge and experience, it never hurts to get more education and to read even more so that you will be a good source of information for others. Get tips from someone who is more established in your niche, or talk to a mentor. If you don’t know anyone personally who can help, then go online and look at experts’ books and articles to read all you can. Look at what the current experts know, and see if you can add something unique or extra. Or just find out what the average person knows. You just need to know more than they do to give them helpful advice.
Break it Down. Law is a complex subject for many people. A good way to become an expert outside the legal profession is to take a complex case that you have worked on, or an important historical or current legal decision, and simplify it for people to understand. You can also explain what current laws mean in “layman’s” terms. Then post your summary online, either at your own site or someone else’s. There are also various publications that you can submit your explanation to, online or offline.
Outlets. Experts give seminars, teach classes, appear on panels, write articles, post online, publish books, go on TV and radio, have a YouTube channel, and more. Decide what outlet you want to use to display your expertise. Or do them all. The more exposure you have, the more you’ll be known, and after a while, you won’t have to put forth so much effort; people will be asking you to make an appearance or write something for their publication.
And remember: Substance still matters. Stay informed on your chosen niche, develop superior speaking and writing skills, and the combination of your helpful knowledge and experience, combined with your exposure, will make you a solid expert to whom people will turn.