Building an Attorney’s Reputation

reputationResearch from Gallup puts into question the credibility and ethical standards of lawyers. In one of their recent surveys, attorneys ranked just three positions above car salespeople in honesty/ethics. This demonstrates why it’s important for attorneys to manage their reputations so that people who look at them will positively differentiate them from the crowd.

Here are ways to do that:

1 – Clarify in your mind your audience. Before you embark on a publicity plan, decide who you want to communicate with: consumers, businesses, or other attorneys to help with referrals. Then decide what is the best way to reach them. It could be through traditional media, such as Law360, or an industry publication, which covers a concentration such as commercial real estate.

2 – “Small” is the eventual “big”. Some attorneys assume that if they want to build a solid reputation, they have to get major media coverage. It could help, or hurt. For instance, if you are working on a case that a national TV show wants you to comment about, but you have had no media training, you could make mistakes, which could jeopardize not only your reputation but your client’s as well. After you’ve gotten media training, it’s better to start out small, either with a local website, a local newspaper, or even a trade publication. That way, you’ll get used to crafting an effective message and be able to set your boundaries.

3 – Bio beautification. This might seem simple and obvious, but I’ve noticed that attorneys get so busy, they forget to update their own bios and the “About” page of their firms’ websites. You might have changed your focus, added more practice areas and lawyers, or had some recent victories. Set aside time each month to assess the information that you’re presenting online, whether it is on your website or social media that you use.

4 – Present well. A great way to help your reputation is to speak at conferences, informational sessions, or on a panel. It helps to establish you as an expert. Also, when you speak in person, you speed up the process of someone knowing and liking you that cannot be accomplished through other types of communication. If you want to stand out from the thousands of other attorneys in your area, choose what you’re passionate about so that it shows when you’re speaking. If you’re not experienced with speaking, participate in an alumni event, a committee at your bar association, or community forum.

5 – Give first. People are impressed with generosity. You can help others, such as mentioning someone in your blog, congratulating a colleague for an accomplishment, or sharing people’s links with your own network. Word will spread that you’re willing to acknowledge other professionals alongside your own accomplishments.

If you’ve accomplished something recently, please let me know, it might make a good Tweet on Twitter @tomciesielka.

A version of this article first appeared at the Law Firm Consultants Network of Chicago