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Building your brand: Lawyers refine their images to land target clients

The golden arches. The swoosh. The blue ribbon.

They’re all famous brands that immediately connote thoughts or feelings in those who see them.

Lawyers — though they may not be as well-known as McDonald’s, Nike or Pabst — can have brand recognition, too; it just takes a little self-awareness.

Personal branding is about knowing your own unique strengths, qualities and talents — and leveraging those to build a client base, said Tammy Mangan, director of marketing at the New York City office of Sterne, Kessler, Goldstein & Fox.

“Personal brands stand for something and people select based on that something,” she said. “That something is likely the value you can be counted upon to provide. It’s about giving a clear impression of who you are, what you value and how you can be counted upon to act.”

Appearance plays a role, she said, so lawyers need to look the part. But the most effective way to brand yourself is to be authentic about what your passionate about and what your firm stands for.

“If you’re busy trying to be someone you’re not, or something you’re not truly comfortable with,” Mangan said, “others will figure it out pretty quickly.”

No one builds a brand overnight, Mangan said. That reputation is developed over time, as a lawyer’s associations are made, expectations are met or not met, messages are communicated and services are provided.

A brand also can change over time. Mario Mendoza, an associate with Murphy Desmond SC, Madison, said his law firm’s brand has traditionally been business oriented. But over the past year or so, it’s been refined to appeal more to Madison’s growing Latino business community.

Mendoza complements that with his personal brand as a bilingual attorney. He is a founding member of the Latino Chamber of Commerce and a longtime member of its board. He is also a musician and lead singer with a local salsa band.

“That’s where I come in with Murphy Desmond,” he said. “In Madison, if I may humbly state, for nearly 25 years I’ve developed a profile within the Latino community. Murphy Desmond has a long, distinguished history in the city. And the firm is very quickly becoming a bilingual law firm to be reckoned with.”

Mendoza communicates his brand, and the firm’s, through social media such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook, where he posts on the growing effects of the Latino consumer market, he said.

Another way to communicate your brand is through an “elevator pitch,” said Alyson Lynch, marketing coordinator and law librarian at Stafford Rosenbaum LLP, Madison. The pitch is your way to briefly describe what you do, within the span of an elevator ride.

The response “I’m an attorney” might send some people running in the other direction, Lynch joked. But better branding, such as saying, “I’m a trusts and estates attorney. I help people by writing their wills and I can also help with succession planning for their businesses,” emphasizes helping clients and gives potential clients something to remember.

The need to brand yourself is increasingly important in today’s crowded marketplace, Mangan said.

“Visibility gives the holder of the brand a competitive edge over the competition,” she said. “The same is true with personal brands.

“A strong personal brand can help you position yourself as an expert, win business and demonstrate your value to clients, members of your firm and the press.”


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