This article was first published in the Singapore Law Gazette on March 3, 2021
I had just stepped into the lift when I heard a voice behind me saying, “Hi, you’re Lara Q, aren’t you?” “Er, yes, that’s me,” I said, a little bewildered. I did not recognise the lady. “I thought I recognised you,” she said. “I follow you on Instagram. I love your posts.” “Thank you,” I replied as I got out of the lift. It struck me then how I had reached real people using technology. I had built a brand and been recognised in person. She knew who I was instantly and remembered my name.
What is your personal brand? Your brand is who you are and what you do. It is how you present yourself, both online and offline, to your ideal audience. It also includes your values, opinions, expertise, quirks, personality, and humour. Your competitors cannot bring what you bring to the table. They simply do not have what you have to oﬀer. You are unique.
Why do you need a personal brand? Because people do business with people they know, like, and trust. Building your personal brand can help broaden your network, increase your authority, and bring more business to your practice. This is true whether you are a solo practitioner or part of a large law firm. Although your reputation may be well established within your firm and/or with opposing counsels – how well is it realised with your prospective clients?
In this connected age, it is important to stand out from the crowd of thousands of lawyers by letting people get to know who you are as a person, lawyer, and thought leader. This article gives you ideas on how you can start to build your personal brand using technology.
1. Use LinkedIn
LinkedIn is one of the most powerful business networking platforms in existence. You need to have a profile on there, and it needs to be optimized. Often your LinkedIn profile will be accessed before people meet you in person. This means that you will need to make a good impression and will need the following:
- Photo of yourself looking professional but approachable. LinkedIn reports that users with a photo get 21 times more profile views.
- Keywords in your heading that epitomize what you do and for what you want to be known. LinkedIn’s algorithm uses these keywords to find you in searches.
- Your ”About” section needs to tell your story. Make it exciting and compelling. Include who you are, what you do, and for whom. It is an opportunity to showcase your personality, passions, and areas of expertise. Always write in the first person. Do not get your marketing team to copy and paste your law firm bio. Make your elevator pitch brief, relevant, and intriguing.
- Add your Experience and Education sections.
- Add your Skills – LinkedIn uses these for search. You can add up to 50 and attract endorsements from colleagues and clients to build your credibility.
- Give and ask for recommendations to add to your credibility. Nothing is stronger than social proof.
- Add your contact details so that people can get in touch directly by e-mail.
- Build your network by inviting others to connect. Write a personal message to help them understand why you wish to connect. Leverage mutual connections, “I see we have 34 mutual connections …”.
- Find thought leaders in your field or area(s) of interest. Do not be discouraged if you do not have any mutual connections yet. LinkedIn allows you to ”Follow” individuals, which will enable you to see, react and comment on their posts.
- Create posts which allow you to share your knowledge, share interesting articles, and highlight your personality.
- Create articles to go more in-depth and showcase your expertise. The more you add value by sharing valuable content, the more people will trust you and see you as a thought leader.
- Posts, where you can demonstrate authenticity and vulnerability, will do well, and help others identify with you as a real person. Lawyers can often seem aloof. Showing your authentic self can make you more approachable.
- Interact with other people’s posts. Comment, like, and share. It is “social” media, after all.
- Use the platform to build new relationships that you can take offline. Message someone and invite them for coffee.
- Start a LinkedIn Group or join one. Add meaningfully to the conversations.
- The no. 1 rule of social media: always add value. Have your ideal client in mind when you post. What would be useful for them?
If you have a smartphone, you can be a podcaster. There is no barrier to entry unless you have lost your voice due to a cold. You can start your own show for free and get exposure to a whole new audience. Download the Anchor or Spotify app on your phone, name your podcast show, record something, upload it, and ta-dah, you will be on all the podcast platforms within hours.
Okay, so maybe having your own show is a bit daunting to start with, so why not get yourself invited on to other people’s podcasts? Listen to shows like Legally Speaking with Robert Hanna, or our shows, Fringe Legal, and the Legal Genie Podcast. What interesting topic could you bring? Why would you be an ideal guest? Write an e-mail pitch and send it in. Connect with people on LinkedIn who host a show and attract their attention by doing all of the things mentioned in the section above.
As a lawyer, you may be risk averse. Having a YouTube channel may feel a step too far outside of your comfort zone. But that is exactly why you should do it. Because hardly any of your fellow lawyers will dare to do it either. Another reason why you should have a channel? YouTube is the second largest search engine on the web after Google. And Google owns YouTube. If you were to have a channel with your name on it and consistently upload valuable video content, you would significantly increase your web exposure.
The individuals and firms effectively utilising YouTube today are doing so by providing educational content, establishing themselves as an authority on a range of topics. If you find yourself answering the same types of questions frequently, recording a video on Zoom/Teams or your platform of choice providing information is a good starting point. Additionally, YouTube can also be used as a way to highlight client testimonials and provide an insight into the culture of your practice.
4. Write a Blog
A Blog is another great way of honing your writing skills and sharing your thoughts with the world. As a lawyer, writing a blog focused on your niche practice area could help you further establish yourself as a thought leader. It will provide a repository of all your articles in one place. You can save any articles here that you write for your firm’s website. You can also repurpose them for LinkedIn as articles or share a link to your blog in a LinkedIn post. A blog is your platform where you can share whatever you like.
5. Social Media Platforms – Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and TikTok
Instagram is more visual and lends itself well to showcasing images of the informal you or a photography hobby. Twitter is very popular with journalists and barristers. It is succinct and informative. Twitter has also launched Spaces (in beta) and will offer similar functionality to Clubhouse (see below).
Facebook is very informal and generally better left for personal time, but there are many FB forums that may be interesting from a networking perspective, so do not rule it out entirely.
TikTok is very entertaining and popular with the young. It has an audience of 26 million, and there is a growing number of lawyers on the platform. For some inspiration, look no further than Michael Mandell (@LawbyMike), Brad Shear (@Bradshear), and Ethen Ostroff (@Ethenostrofflaw).
6. Instant messaging applications – WhatsApp, WeChat, Facebook Messenger, Telegram, and Signal
There are groups on these apps that may be good for networking and finding new business. All of these are instant messaging apps where you can connect with others and form group chats on certain topics. If you speak Chinese, then WeChat is a must.
Clubhouse is the newest social media platform and is currently only on iPhone and is by invitation only. It is an interactive audio-based app that allows users to chat in real-time and share stories, ideas, and thoughts. There are chat rooms hosted by one or more hosts who speak on a range of topics. Listeners can raise their hand, and the hosts can let them join the discussion. You could start your own room on a topic and host it. This would give you a live audience and the opportunity to establish yourself as an expert on a topic of your choice. People can choose to follow you and will be notified the next time you are presenting.
As you can see, there are many ways to leverage technology to gain exposure that you control. Although the choices may seem overwhelming, the key is to get started and be consistent. It is not feasible to be on every platform consistently, so pick one or two and understand that you have to be in it for the long haul.
Understand that different platforms have different audiences, which means that an article you may have written for your firm’s blog could be republished on LinkedIn, with the key takeaways shared on Twitter, or a short video about it on YouTube, and more.
Building a following takes time, effort, and commitment, but those who have done it well have reaped the rewards.