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If you are an established lawyer looking to grow your practice, or a young lawyer hoping to build a book of business for the long term, you should give serious consideration to writing a book. Why? There are few, if any, better marketing assets than a book with your name on the cover.
As a lawyer, there are two steps to business development. First, you need to generate opportunities, then you need to capitalize on them. Writing a book helps with both. Here’s how.
To generate opportunities among your target audience, members of that audience need to be aware of you. In a world of information parity, where consumers of legal services are online, in control, with access to more information than ever, a website bio and LinkedIn profile are not sufficient to create awareness. As lawyers who write blogs and publish articles on third-party websites know, merely publishing periodic thought leadership on the internet rarely makes much of an impact either.
In today’s world, to generate the personal brand awareness, media coverage, and speaking opportunities that lead to new business, it’s important to think bigger. Writing a book is the type of big thinking that cuts through the noise and clutter and gets you noticed.
In my new book, “The Essential Associate: Step Up, Stand Out, and Rise to the Top as a Young Lawyer,” I profile several lawyers who have leveraged books to build successful practices.
One of these lawyers is John Trentacosta, who is a partner at Foley & Lardner and one of the country’s top automotive industry litigators. As a young lawyer, John began serving clients in the automotive industry while the modern-day tiered supply chain came into existence. At that time, companies started focusing more intently on their contracting practices, including the terms and conditions included in purchase and supply contracts, and how those terms interacted with the dictates of the Uniform Commercial Code.
It occurred to John that it was inefficient not to have a single source that addressed the contract case law concerning the manufacturing industry. Being an enterprising lawyer, John took it upon himself to write the seminal book on the issue in Michigan, called “Michigan Contract Law.”
According to John, being a published author on an issue of significance is “a great calling card” into the world of in-house counsel because it establishes instant credibility. It also leads to other opportunities. After publishing his book, John saw a meaningful upturn in the number and quality of opportunities to write and speak, further exposing him to his target market and building his reputation. Writing a book has a multiplier effect when it comes to building your brand.
Lawyers attempting to develop business in today’s world face a hard truth: To most clients, lawyers in the forest of similarly-qualified and credentialed lawyers in the marketplace are largely indistinguishable. To stand out as single tree among this forest, you need a unique credential.
Writing and publishing a book is one of the best ways to get noticed. Writing a book is also a signal among all the noise that you’re someone who is thoughtful, diligent and courageous enough to follow through on a long, arduous process and get things done.
Further, writing a book allows you to associate your personal brand with a big idea. From clients searching for a solution, to journalists looking for a source, to conference organizers procuring speakers, the marketplace wants to hear from experts who can dive deep on a topic, not generalists who can merely scratch the surface. By writing a book, you can articulate your big ideas in a unique way that gets you noticed among your target market.
Once you’ve packaged your ideas in a book, you’ll have opportunities to share them in many other mediums and domains.
Finally, if you want to generate awareness online, writing a book is one of the best ways to surface to the top of search engine results. Not only do books rank high in Google search results, but a book gets you in the game on Amazon (which is the third largest search engine) where prospective clients are spending time every day searching for answers to problems they’re facing in their lives and businesses.
Generating awareness is only one side of the business development ledger. You still need to be able to close the deal. Books help in this regard, too.
From a client’s perspective, the decision to hire a lawyer is often an emotional one that is fraught with risk. To overcome the prospective client’s anxiety, and get them to make a commitment, you need to find ways to put them at ease and help them realize that they are making a wise choice.
Think about your own experiences trying to hire someone to help out with an issue. It’s hard, right? Before committing, you probably felt a certain level of unease. You asked yourself: “Does this person know what they are doing? Is the price fair? Will they do what they say? Will they complete the task on time and on budget?”
Prospective clients are asking themselves these same questions when evaluating whether to hire you. Accordingly, one of the challenges you face when pitching new business is adequately explaining why you are any better situated to help solve a specific problem than the multitude of other smart, hardworking lawyers competing in the marketplace. There are few better answers to the question “Why should I hire you to deal with this issue?” than “I wrote the book on it.”
Nothing conveys expert status more completely and more quickly than having written and published a book.
Polls suggest that over 80 percent of Americans want to write a book, but only a small percentage of them actually do. Perhaps you have a book inside you waiting to come out, but don’t know what the next step is. A good place to start is evaluating whether you have the time, energy, and capacity to devote to the book writing process. It’s a huge undertaking that shouldn’t be entered into lightly. But if you think you have what it takes, I say: Go for it! There’s no better way to set yourself apart in the marketplace.
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