“The greater the position, the greater the person must be” (Baltasar Gracián)
A lawyer’s or law firm’s reputation, that is, the perception of excellence or prestige generally held of them, is based on their integrity, behaviour or performance, and the way stakeholders recognize, admire and compare them to their competitors.
A good reputation gives a lawyer or law firm a competitive edge, and is directly related, among other things, to the possibility of receiving ‘fairer’ fees, attracting qualified talent and building client loyalty.
Perception is ‘what makes or breaks our business.’ This marketing maxim exemplifies why many competent firms and lawyers fail to be a reference in the market they specialize in.
Can we influence our reputation, the public’s perception of us?
Yes, by building on our integrity and competence as lawyers. ‘Prestige or reference brand’ and ‘trust or positive reputation’ are synonymous. Trust or reputation, like branding, can be enhanced if intelligently managed.
Moreover, trust, as well as being a core value, is a skill and, as such, we can learn how to improve it through trust-building training.
Phases of the brand or trust building process
- Awareness: The proper starting point to generate more trust, more brand, and, in so doing, build on our reputation, is improving ourselves or the firm. To deserve better clients, we need to be better first. By analysing and diagnosing the brand, the lawyer can become aware of the virtues they need to develop further, and those elements, usually one or two, that limit or have limited their professional career and need to be managed better; first, by acknowledging them, and second, by building on their skills.
- Action for improvement: Awareness is invaluable, it can constitute a major difference in a lawyer’s career, provided he or she takes action and creates new positive habits, and shakes off limiting beliefs, habits and mental dialogues. Once a lawyer has a diagnosis or snapshot of the current situation, they must carry out an improvement plan through training, to define a strategy and action plan that will bring them closer to the clients they want to have and lead them to achieve their goals and objectives.
The brand is a treasure that should be nurtured and strengthened, and in a firm where trust prevails, all lawyers (CEO, partners, associates and juniors) should work on their personal brand. First, by enhancing their self-awareness to search and find the best version of themselves to reinforce their good name, and in doing so, they will build on the reputation of their firm, increasing its capacity to attract new clients.
That’s right, lawyers should be ‘ambassadors of the firm,’ ambassadors of the brand, in all situations at all times. Everyone needs to know how to create and take advantage of ‘moments of trust’ – interactions they conduct with people or companies.
A final fact: It is estimated that up to 48 percent of a company’s reputation and financial performance can be attributed to the standing of its CEO. In short, intangible assets such as brand and reputation are also financial assets. In the case of law firms, or in any professional firm, we are convinced the CEO’s personal brand is even more important.
Does your firm manage its personal brands? If you have a marketing or communication department, you will probably think you do. Or if you think that marketing is about promoting, you will possibly think so too. But I am not talking about promotion, I am talking about something much deeper that precedes it, that stems from self-awareness, from knowing the perception your circles of trust have of you, and what Internet says about you. The key is to find the best version of you as a lawyer and, only then, make it known effectively in the market to attract and get the type of clients you want to have and probably deserve. Equally important is for you or your firm to know how to protect your corporate reputation during a crisis.
If you want to broaden your knowledge on your personal and corporate branding, take a look at these two books:
To end, another maxim:
“Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today.”