Build Your Brand

In law, like any services sector, there are lots of pipe dreams and distracting tactics. And such shiny objects easily influence busy attorneys. Sold on the daily as marketing cure-alls, there’s always a new social media strategy, case acquisition platform or TV advertising scheme.

It’s tough not to get caught up in the milieu. It’s hard not chase the shiniest marketing object, especially when you’re short on time, experience or expertise. Most important, it’s hard not to be sold by slick salesmen. But maybe it’s time to stop, back up and take a good, hard look at your brand. Brand trumps everything!

Arguably brand is the most important thing lawyers can do to compete better in crowded space, get the cases they really want and create a more strategic, values-driven foundation for all marketing efforts going forward. Remember, brand is what people think of you when you are not in the room.

As enticing as they are, willy-nilly business-boosting tactics will only distract and hold you back in the realm of brand differentiation. Instead, to gain a competitive edge and keep it, attorneys must start to focus on the truths about who they are, why they’re practicing law, what clients needs from them and what value proposition will create the most sustainable business model for the future.

The reality is, it’s probably time to revisit your brand — and decide if you even have one. In order to get the cases you really want (and deserve), brand is essential. Why? Because people aren’t buying your legal services; they’re buying you. Here are 10 things to stop (and start) right now if you want to build an authentic legal brand:


Stop: Looking narrowly at the tactics of marketing.

Start: Looking at the whole business of law — your brand.

By nature, lawyers love the weeds (I’m not talking about the kind you can smoke). While getting caught up in them can actually be productive during due diligence or while trying a case, an abundance of facts will get your firm nowhere when it comes to branding and building new business.

Yet every day small-time attorneys and big-time legal firms around the nation can’t seem to see the forest for the trees, to use another analogy. They can’t distinguish their brands from the millions of people practicing law today.

Once you have defined, rediscovered or recreated your brand — the “truths” or things that hold true no matter what — you will have a fresh footing for every choice you make. You won’t believe the pressure this will remove from your daily decision-making.


Stop: Ignoring how people really shop for services today.

Start: Putting your brand story and values front and center.

Wake up! Consumers don’t buy “features and benefits.” They have always purchased products and services based on a brand’s “personality,” values and mission, and even more so among younger generations.

That means leading with a message about your years of experience or number of damages you’ve recovered won’t cut it in today’s marketplace. Notice what those messages have in common? They’re about you. What people want to know is how you, as an individual or brand, can help them, especially during the trying times that bring people to legal counsel in the first place.

So what is it about your unique background or your firm’s culture or your personalized approach to serving each client that’s different from the lawyers out there in the exact same space? Mark the territory of you by focusing on them now.


Stop: Saying the same generic message as every other lawyer.

Start: Humanizing your attorneys.

We’ve covered some of the generic messages all lawyers rely on to market their services: experience, caseload, earnings, etc. All of these competitive elements have numbers attached to them — years and sums. But guess what? When every other attorney is using facts and figures in an attempt to differentiate, every legal message sounds the same.

Numbers are never going to explain who you are and how you operate in the legal space. So start going somewhere different entirely in your brand messaging: Make it personal. While at first it may be hard to build business from a more vulnerable place, you have to humanize.

The more potential clients can see the faces behind legal firms and the more they can picture what it might be like to work with you — as a person not just a hard-charging, case-chasing attorney — the easier it will be to sell your services. Not only will it lead to the first sales; it may pay of in a vast, untapped stream of referrals to follow.


Stop: Overlooking major audiences like millennials.

Start: Figuring out how to bring your brand to them. 

The easy way out is to focus on your existing clientele and getting more business from the same audiences. You don’t have to work too hard or push too far outside your comfort zone. But eventually that client segment and revenue stream will die off or taper off. You have to diversify by making your legal brand appeal to every generation. Otherwise you will age out. You will become the dinosaur.

Every generation is different than the last. Sure, millennials, who will soon be buying more legal services than ever, get a bad rap as being difficult to figure out and market to. And what the heck does Generation Z really want? The answer is much of the same things all humans want: empathy, understanding and authenticity. Generations are just sets of people. Start there.

How can your brand relate to younger folks as people who are more digitally savvy, globally aware and conscious in their brand choices? Consider the power of video to humanize your brand. Pay attention to the cultural shifts in human behavior. That’s where your brand needs to be.


Stop: Talking to potential clients like a robot.

Start: Talking to them like a jury. Tell a story. 

We’ve been harping on the “humanization” of your brand because it’s important. And it’s low-hanging fruit. Telling your brand story comes into play in every aspect of your legal operation, from the person answering your intake calls to the lawyers who lay out a client’s legal case.

Take some inspiration from one of the most iconic elements of the American legal process: jury. Only the best lawyers can win over a jury, and it usually takes a well-told story. Attorneys who can set the scene, personalize the defendant and wrap up the details of the case in a compelling story always win. The same goes for brand storytelling.

Use this cue in your brand delivery. Tell your human story, not just your achievements. Listen to your client’s story and relate one of your own. To put your clients at ease, offer a story of what the future could look like after legal proceedings. Create a story together — one of counsel and client — that upholds your brand values. Remember: You get what you ask for. Just remember how you ask a jury for something!


5 more things you should stop right now:


Stop: “Shouting” your supposed brand attributes.

Start: Listening to what clients need from a lawyer.

Remember, louder is not better. Once you’ve defined your brand attributes, ideally with the help of a branding strategy professional, you should be excited. But don’t get so giddy that you forget that law is still a service. Lawyers serve the needs of their clients. And none are the same. So listen as hard as you market.


Stop: Pretending a ton of cases is good business.

Start: Leading with brand so you get the cases that matter. 

Measuring success by the caseload is old school. It comes from the competitive atmosphere that marks the legal landscape. But it’s shortsighted. The attorneys who are best suited for long-term success are the ones who can slow down enough to acquire the cases that matter — the ones that align with your own brand values and carry more value because of it. Remember: The value of the case is everything!


Stop: Being afraid of showing who you are.

Start: Putting that in motion with a compelling storytelling like video. 

Fear is a common challenge in both personal and professional relationships. But basic psychology reminds us that when we allow ourselves to be vulnerable we grow in every aspect of life. So use today’s most personalizing technology — video — to put yourself or your firm in motion. Show up. And you might be surprised how many new clients do too.


Stop: Vomiting content. 

Start: Telling your brand story strategically. 

In a world where we’re told content is king or queen, and we now have a multitude of ways to share it, it can be easy to think more is better. But that just doesn’t hold true in legal marketing. Be deliberate in how you tell your brand story differently on each platform available to your firm. Too much generic, duplicate content will only diffuse your message — the exact opposite of what you’re intending. Remember: You get what you ask for!


Stop: Thinking about how you add only to your bottom line.

Start: Remembering that good lawyers add value to people’s lives.

Money, money, money. In a capitalist society, who can blame any service professional for striving to earn more of it? But at some point in every career it’s time to reflect on the purpose of it all. Why did you go into law? What is your greatest accomplishment? What do you want for the future? With a hard look at reality, the answer is usually something that leaves a mark, a legacy of good. So what is your brand? What value are you adding to the world?

If you do what I have suggested above, I promise you the money will come. I have seen it time and time again.

by Harlan Shillinger
Last updated on - Originally published on