Quick: Who’s the top personal injury lawyer in your town? Criminal defense? The high-profile lawyers who spring to mind have developed an image, or personal brand if you will, to connect their name to their practice in the mind of the public. You can do a number of things to improve and refine your image so that you make a strong lasting impression, too.
- Your electronic image. All the attention these days is on your electronic profile. Do Google yourself to make sure you know what is being said. It is helpful to know who else has your name, too. (If your name is “John Smith,” it will be harder to differentiate yourself than if your name is “Foghorn Leghorn.”) And wherever you go on the Internet, think about the presence you want to project, from the language you use to your photos and graphics.
- Your personal appearance. It happened by accident, but I’m told people remember me for being well-dressed. I was thrilled when a supervisor told an adjuster in front of me, “She’s always so well put-together, you know she’s going to handle your cases with the same care.” Now that’s an image I want to project! On the other hand, when you meet an attorney whose collar is frayed and whose shoes look like they belong to a hobo, it’s easy to have doubts. At the courthouse, I saw a woman attorney using a stuffed-animal backpack for a purse. What image are these people projecting?
- That something to remember you by. How you are groomed and what you are wearing sends subliminal signals about your competence—it can help you project a more memorable image. You don’t have to be a fashion plate or spend half your paycheck to make a strong impression. One Los Angeles attorney, a specialist in equine law, always wears cowboy clothes and, yes, boots. Even his tuxedo has a bowed yoke. Likewise, a woman bankruptcy attorney in Chicago always wears a diamond scales of justice pin. And, yes, they are both good lawyers. But the point is, they are instantly memorable before you know a thing about their credentials.
- And then there’s your voice. If you get a negative reaction to your regional accent (you may have to actually ask for feedback on this), consider working with a voice coach. A coach can help you lose the tell-tale accent and make your voice more mellifluous. Among other things, this means consciously trying to push more air through your mouth as you speak.
- Your office has an image, too. Are you located downtown or in the suburbs? High floor or street level? Shared space or home office? Everything—the floor you occupy, the carpet in the elevator, the wall color, the furniture, and the way your firm name is displayed as you walk in—screams something about your practice. From choosing the flowers or the type of magazines (weightlifting? gossip?) in the waiting area, consider the message you are sending.
- Your stationery and business card. Your letterset—letterhead, envelopes, business cards—serves as your envoy when you aren’t present in person. Logo, paper color and quality, fonts and ink colors should be consistent on all your marketing materials. This applies to your website, social media and email signature, too.
A last word of advice: You want to look successful always, but not too flashy. Everybody wants to go with a winner, but clients may have reservations about paying for what appears to be an exorbitant lifestyle.
Spend some time thinking about the image you project, and how to refine that message.