Are you a competent lawyer but can’t sell yourself?
Francesc Dominguez explores how lawyers can ‘brand’ themselves for better results
Are you a competent lawyer but don’t think you can sell yourself and never seem to get the right clients?
The legal market is full of good lawyers who are experts in the prevention and resolution of client issues, yet are confounded when it comes to selling themselves.
Some lawyers think they know how to sell themselves, but in real terms they are either unaware of their full potential from a commercial perspective or of specific legal marketing techniques for lawyers. This happens to lawyers and partners in all types of firms.
Most are honest people, who have earned their clients' trust and hence fulfil a lawyer's positive brand – namely, to be a good person as well as a good lawyer. Yet, they cannot sell themselves.
The expression, ‘I don't know how to sell myself’ is incorrect, since we should not ‘sell ourselves’ – we should help potential clients place their trust in us instead and find out how they might prefer our services. We should, therefore, talk about: ‘good lawyers who do not know how, or do not have a method, to help potential clients choose them.’
These lawyers sometimes have a social perception that is not in line with who they are and what they can bring to potential clients. It even happens to lawyers who practice under prestigious legal brands. Not only do they systematically miss opportunities, but their firm or department is not as profitable as it could be.
The market perception of them quite literally keeps them away, and by not being proactive in solving it, i.e. by not managing their social perception, they do not get the kind of clients they could be providing an excellent service to. In other words, they are not perceived as an option for those potential clients.
A law firm depends, above all, on its social perception in the market and on the sale of its services. The strength of firms lies in their marketing ability. Without sales there can be no firm and without the right clients there is often insufficient profit. Despite this, there are still lawyers and firms that deplore the word ‘sales’, though sales are the one thing that drive business, including the legal business. Disciplines are neutral per se – it all depends on the values and intentions of the person applying them.
There are still lawyers and firms who believe competitiveness depends on technical competence. It is the basis, but competence is generally assumed in a firm. Some firms believe the key to their permanence, performance or growth depends primarily on internal factors, in particular technology. In today's legal world, digital transformation is essential, but it does not usually provide a long-term competitive advantage, as it can be copied. Competitors can acquire the same or similar digital tools and the potential advantage is deflated. People are the most important asset.
Moreover, law firms that view their competitiveness as an internal factor are likely to either fall behind in the market and ultimately lose competitiveness or have to focus on a type of client that is neither sufficiently profitable nor, at times, consistent with the firm's values and style.
The firm's competitiveness is essentially an external issue – an external challenge – as important as another crucial aspect: having the right professionals. In order to generate more and better cases, it is essential to know the firm’s distinctive value and communicate it effectively through channels where potential clientele is present.
This may sound obvious but acting and achieving it is a different matter. Why is that? Many lawyers and firms are aware their current situation in the market is due to them, but instead of focusing on creating circumstances, they complain about them.
What we are and how we are perceived in the market today is largely the result of our inner dialogues. Our current situation is a consequence of our actions and these are made real by our thoughts and beliefs, which are often limiting and can cause insecurities, lack of self-confidence and also prejudice towards disciplines such as legal marketing or the sale of legal services.
These limiting thoughts and beliefs stem from our conditioned mind and the result of the teachings received at university and in the firms where lawyers began their professional careers or currently practice.
This type of lawyer, generally complacent and attentive from a commercial perspective, has, over the years, seen how other lawyers have progressed much further in their profession, because they have developed commercial competence. In short, they have been able to sell their services better because they have gained the trust of the market. Lawyers who were perhaps mediocre in law school have been able to create and consolidate more successful firms and surround themselves with competent lawyers.
We all have commercial and professional potential we can develop if we commit to it and learn how to manage our limiting thoughts and beliefs and can acquire business skills specific to the profession. How about we act on it?
How to achieve your goals
What is the most effective and efficient way to achieve your goals? Work on your professional development: discover your strengths, the distinctive added value you bring to the market, but also what you need to manage better or stop doing, because it can limit or slow down your development and progression and, by extension, also that of your firm.
People differentiate law firms
What differentiates a law firm? People. If we believe that, we would probably agree it is essential. What we are and how we are perceived in the market today is largely the result of our inner dialogues. It is essential to find and develop the best version of ourselves as lawyers, in a manner consistent with the firm's values and strategy and with loyalty.
The key elements are people and our determination to develop the best version of ourselves to achieve our goals with greater likelihood. Success depends on our commitment.
Personal development is discovering and learning about yourself, mastering your talents and managing the brakes that can block or stall your career.
There are professionals who do not really know themselves or the effect of their communication. This leads them to miss out on opportunities.
The first stage in personal branding is crucial. It consists of an analysis and diagnosis of what the lawyer can enhance and avoid or lessen to find their better version of themselves as a professional. On that basis, and only then, they can communicate the brand and convey its differential advantages to potential clients, knowing how to create trust-based relations.
Personal and professional development is sometimes confused with training. It means more than that. It seeks the most authentic and profound advancement of the individual for the professional to thrive, through awareness. Awareness is priceless. This is knowledge that can mark a watershed as it helps the professional to make a qualitative leap in his or her professional career. If they accept the challenge.
What are your priorities starting today? Define them and act – no excuses.
Francesc Dominguez is a legal marketing and personal branding consultant francescdominguez.com