A 2020 study by Ohio State professor Deborah Jones Merritt has uncovered an uncomfortable truth:
Law schools fail to prepare new lawyers to work with clients.
According to the report, lawyers struggle with gaining clients’ trust, communicating with clients, managing expectations and dealing with demanding clients.
No wonder so many law practitioners fail to secure a steady stream of ideal clients after law school.
However, if you create a safety net of a lawyer personal brand, half of your struggles can end right there. It allows you to reach a large audience, showcase your expertise and win your target audiences’ trust (and business) in the process.
Chances are, you have heard the term “attorney personal branding.”
But what does it bring to the table? And how should one go about it?
Instead of randomly picking a tactic and wasting your time on it, let’s catch on to the nitty-gritty of personal branding for lawyers.
What Is Lawyer “Personal Branding”?
First, let’s address the elephant in the room — what is personal branding for lawyers?
Many equate it to either being on social media or uploading videos on Youtube.
In reality, personal branding is way more than that (though creating YouTube videos is a good decision).
Think of personal branding as the grand total of efforts you put into promoting yourself and communicating your value before your potential clients and peers.
The value of your brand depends on how your audience perceives you. Each time you go the extra length to educate the audience or help others see things from a different perspective, your personal brand and reputation grow. As you invest more time and effort, the return becomes exponential.
At the same time, if the quality of content deteriorates (or inconsistency becomes an issue), it will erode your brand.
Feel free to imagine your personal brand as a well-oiled machine that makes your professional life easier—but it can break down once you stop taking care of it.
Now, some of you might ask, “Why should one choose personal branding over law firm branding?”
Often in other industries (SaaS, for example), elite-level experts use their massive following to promote their businesses. Since people already trust those experts/influencers, they feel comfortable purchasing from their businesses.
There is no reason that it couldn’t happen in the legal industry. Think about this: Would it be hard to get perfect clients when your law firm hires lawyers that hundreds of thousands of people look up to?
Strong attorney branding indirectly promotes one’s law firm. Of course, you still want to do some law firm marketing, but having a personal brand makes the latter much easier.
The Importance of Having a Personal Brand as an Attorney
Before we discuss why you should invest in a personal brand, let’s meet one of your peers: Mike from Law by Mike. Mike is an attorney with 1.6M subscribers on YouTube and over 6.6M followers on TikTok. To give you an idea, he has more followers than Arnold Schwarzenegger.
His YouTube videos garner over a million views every week. His viewers (his potential clients) engage with his content in droves and share his content. He even gets invited to TV shows.
The amount of business opportunities he gets is beyond the wildest dreams of other equally capable law practitioners.
That’s the power of personal branding.
Mike may be an outlier (or is he?), but you can achieve impressive results by doing a lot less than Mike.
Stand out from your peers: Getting a constant flow of clients is probably one of the biggest challenges in the legal business. From running Google ads and SEO campaigns to filling out Avvo profiles, your competitors chase after the same potential client pool.
However, building your lawyer personal brand as an expert in a specific legal niche protects you from that cutthroat competition.
As you share your knowledge regularly, others take note of your experience and past achievements. Clients usually prefer to hire well-known lawyers with a long history of past successes. Therefore, in times of their legal needs, your name pops up in their minds.
Great for Niche Lawyers
If you are a highly specialized attorney (for example, a personal injury attorney expert in road accident laws), personal branding is a “must-do” for you.
Your audience quickly recognizes your expertise when you cover different aspects of a specific legal niche in depth as a part of your brand-building efforts. Soon word gets around, and more people with similar legal needs flock to your firm.
It’s great news for you. Most leads you receive in this way will be highly relevant to whichever legal niche you specialize in.
Most marketing folks on the internet focus too much on client acquisition, yet retaining your clients is as important, especially in the legal business. If they are happy, they will always return in the future and refer you to their friends. In fact, you make way more money by serving your repeat clients than new ones.
Attorney branding helps you with client retention. When your clients know you are well known (and they can see why on your social media/blog), they value your decisions and advice more.
Sometimes court decisions might not go in the direction of your liking. In such situations, having a strong personal brand makes your clients less likely to go for another lawyer. They would still rightfully perceive you as an expert and put their trust in you again.
A pipeline full of potential clients eagerly waiting to hire you — this is a dream of every attorney out there. But getting clients through outbound methods (PPC ads, social media ads, traditional advertisements) is pretty expensive. If you didn’t plan it well, your campaign might not even attract the right clients.
Attorney Personal Branding Solves Both Problems
When you provide value to your followers by answering their questions, they engage with your content and share it with others. As a result, you mostly get inquiries from your target audience—and these leads often have higher conversion rates, as your content already did the selling on your behalf. So, essentially, your content works as a great lead screening tool.
Also, your content will be there for your audience to see for a long time. So imagine your content (and SEO) as a long-term investment. It will continue to drive leads and create career opportunities.
Mutual trust between the attorney and the client is paramount in the law business, and establishing trust with your potential clients is easy when you have a decent personal brand.
Your future clients consume your content, read your thoughts, hear your voice and see your facial expressions every day. It creates a sense of familiarity. This familiarity later transforms into trust.
There are a few different ways you can start building your personal brand. Let’s cover the most popular and effective ones.
Your Law Firms Blogs
Quality blogging is one of the best ways to establish authority and build trust.
First, readers love long-form content that answers their questions. From an SEO standpoint, also, a blog is a great investment. After all, it’s really easy to earn links and target the right keywords with your blog posts.
Also, publishing a blog post is far cheaper than producing video/audio content.
However, blogging in the legal space is still undervalued. Lex blog found up to 90% of blogs by small law firms are little better than spam.
It has a silver lining, though: You can stand out by creating excellent blog content. Here is how to do it:
Content ideas: Your best sources of inspiration are your daily client interactions.
Do you think clients often make a few mistakes that make the cases unnecessarily complicated? What questions do you usually get from your clients?
Those are goldmines sitting right under your nose.
Other than those, looking for content ideas in various industry blogs/social media accounts is a great option. You can also find gems on sites like Quora and Reddit.
Keyword research: Finding the right keywords will ensure your blog posts use target keywords with high search volume, and they have the opportunity to receive consistent traffic. So, keyword research is crucial yet not very complex.
Once you have your content ideas, look for related keywords. If one has a decent search volume, you want to target it.
However, the most crucial part of keyword research is user intent. Two similar keywords can have 180-degree different user intent. For example, someone may use the term “what is a criminal defense lawyer” to figure out what exactly criminal lawyers do. On the other hand, anyone using the term “best criminal defense lawyer” is searching for a defense lawyer. So understanding the user intent before targeting a keyword is absolutely necessary.
You also want to have an editorial calendar. It will give you an overall view of all the crucial details: publication date, topics and targeted keywords.
Blog content creation: Many blog owners (organizations and individuals) just publish blogs on topics loosely related to their industry/niche and call it a day. Often these blogs lack substance and value for the reader.
That’s not how you should write content if you want to build your personal brand.
Of course, SEO is important but, first and foremost, your content should answer your readers’ questions and offer them new perspectives. To improve your blog content further, start weaving your experiences and thoughts into the content outlines.
Both the quality of content and your personal touch are crucial for coming across as knowledgeable and trustworthy. That’s why your involvement in the blog post creation process is a must. Share your experiences and opinions with your SEO agency so that your blog posts never lose that personal touch.
On the technical side, long-form content (2000+ words) works better. However, quality comes first. A shorter article can perform well if it provides value to your audience.
Please note you will not have thousands of visitors from the first day. Attorney SEO takes time to work, and so does blog content marketing. In the beginning, consider promoting your blog posts through social media ads. Free and sustainable traffic will follow once you consistently offer your readers value.
The personal injury blog by the law firm of Stuart J. Guss is an excellent example of legal blogging done right. Almost all of their blog posts got three things right:
- The narratives are centered around the target readers’ concerns, challenges and backgrounds.
- Those blog posts offer actionable and pragmatic advice.
- Most are around 1500-2200 words long.
Feel free to check their blog to understand how to be relatable and add value to readers’ lives.
Most lawyers at least vaguely understand social media can be a source of future clients. Unfortunately, they often don’t receive guidance and end up indulging themselves in insistent self-promotion (without offering any value), which delivers the final death blow to any decent result they otherwise would have gotten.
To establish yourself as a credible legal expert in the right way, you must complete a few crucial steps before you even sign up for your social media accounts.
- Audience research:
Researching your target audience is the first step toward building a successful personal brand as an attorney. Without a specific client avatar in mind, it’s hard to make all the many decisions (campaign targeting, image choice, tone, platform selection, etc.) that go into genuinely interesting content.
On the flip side, when you know your audience, everything becomes a lot easier.
If you don’t know where to start, here are some questions to get you moving:
- Who are your potential clients?
- What questions do they ask?
- What challenges do they face?
- What is their level of legal knowledge?
- What is their background?
Existing clients, peers and even online — you will find answers around yourself. This audience research will be the cornerstone of your entire social media strategy. Irrespective of your chosen platform, your content must align with your target audience’s questions, challenges and preferences.
- Goal setting:
In the next step, you want to write down your goals for better decision-making. For example, are you looking to fill up your slots immediately? Or can you afford to take things slowly and plan for future gains?
As an attorney with a successful personal brand, you can do both. However, your content, success metrics and promotional strategies can differ based on your goals.
Once you complete the groundwork, you want to pick a platform where your target audience is active.
According to an American Bar Association 2020 report, Linkedin (76%) is the most preferred platform among individual law practitioners, followed by Facebook (60%) and Twitter (37%).
Professionals often use Linkedin to connect with others and learn about the latest industry developments. That makes it a great choice if you practice workplace/business/employment law. However, even if business laws aren’t your area of expertise, you still want to be on Linkedin to connect with other influential attorneys.
A well-written, fleshed-out attorney Linkedin profile is the first thing you need to succeed on Linkedin. You need to write a crisp bio, list your achievements and fill out the sections.
Relevant content and consistency should be the core components of your Linkedin attorney branding strategy.
Linkedin’s audience seeks out quality content written by experts, so when you share your experiences, opinions and tips, people start following you. Moreover, the Linkedin organic algorithm rewards you by drawing more visitors to your posts when you write high-quality content regularly.
Ideally, your content should be original, covering topics relevant to your followers’ interests—but, sometimes, curating insightful content from other sources works too.
Your job doesn’t end with posting content. Engaging your audience by responding to comments is a must too. It opens up another way to add value and show your personality simultaneously.
Twitter is probably the most content-focused platform out there. From breaking news to polarizing opinions to sensational stories — everything pops up on Twitter first. Twitter users always look for interesting content. Once found, they willingly spread it via retweeting.
It’s also the daily go-to social media channel for 76M U.S. active users. You will find almost every possible audience segment on Twitter.
So it is worthwhile for attorneys to share content and build connections with their audience on Twitter.
Providing value to your audience through content and being consistent is a no-brainer. Here are a few other points you’ll need to succeed on Twitter:
1.) Chances are, new visitors will find you through your content, but they will check your profile anyway. Ensure that your profile makes a good first impression and represents your personal brand.
Uploading high-resolution profile pics is a good start. You also want to mention your accomplishments and expertise in the bio.
2.) Slice your longer content into short tweets and publish them as a thread. In this way, you can drop value bombs without exceeding the character limit.
3.) Twitter users often use hashtags to find interesting content and new creators, so you’ll want to use relevant hashtags. Just check influential Twitter user profiles for hashtag inspirations. Also, the most widely used legal terms can be perfect hashtags.
4.) Twitter isn’t Linkedin. You can and should showcase your personal opinions, interests and hobbies occasionally. It helps your audience know you more on a personal level and connect with you.
Linkedin, Facebook and Twitter — these platforms are great options for personal brand building. For most lawyers, they are the right platforms. Lawyers should not spread themselves too thin by being on four to five different platforms anyway.
However, in some cases, Instagram is the right choice:
- Your target audience is on the relatively younger side and very active on visual-heavy social media platforms like Instagram and TikTok.
- It’s hard to define your audience based on their job and economic status.
Family Attorneys, Personal Injury Attorneys and Criminal Defense Attorneys are some examples of legal professionals who do very well on Instagram.
Instagram, as you probably know, is visual-dominant. You’ll want to leverage educational and entertaining videos and images for growth on this platform.
But what do great Instagram posts look like for attorneys?? Here are a few examples:
- This personal opinion video (over 8k likes) by dmv_lawyer is a great example of how you should share your opinions with your audience.
- Joey Rafaeli, an injury lawyer, educates, entertains and initiates discussions with followers by sharing video clips of real-life scenarios where personal laws are applicable.
- Frankl Kominsky Injury Law shares personal injury-related legal advice with their videos and images. The law firm also uses branded logos on its videos to add an extra professional touch.
Please note that growing followers count and getting engagement on Instagram without spending might be challenging. You may want to try paid promotion to kickstart the growth.
While in other industries, up to 86% of businesses invest in video marketing, only 24% of law firms use videos.
That’s a huge missed opportunity right there.
The two biggest video platforms, YouTube (2.5B users) and TikTok (1.3B users), are perfect for attorney branding. You can reach almost any audience on those platforms and create content for them. Also, the average organic engagement rate on short-video platforms like TikTok is a whopping 28%, meaning you don’t even need to run paid ads to reach your audience, at least at the beginning.
So, video content could be what lawyers need to establish their personal brands.
However, a successful video strategy for lawyers requires some planning and shifts in mindsets. Let’s discuss those with a few real examples.
The foundation of YouTube content is an audience-centric content approach. Ensure your ideas are valuable, insightful and entertaining to your audience.
Once that is taken care of, you’ll need a script. It will ensure your video content narrative flows well. You can create great videos with a decent phone camera setup, provided you have a great topic and a well-written script.
Wendy R. Hernandez from Command the Courtroom (28.8K followers) is a great example. She uses a minimal camera setting and simple scripts for her videos. Her videos educate viewers about different aspects of family law. These are so popular that a few of her videos have already touched the 150K views mark.
Consider hiring a freelance video editing expert if you want your content to shine. Of course, good content is the priority, but your video content becomes even better when you give it a professional touch.
Also, it takes an equal measure of quality content and a unique personal touch to make a great personal brand. Therefore you want to spice up your content by adding a dash of personality — crack a joke, share your personal experiences, experiment with different types of content and so on.
Devin Stone from LegalEagle (2.5M subscribers) is excellent at sprinkling some personality throughout his already professionally made videos. He also uploads different types of videos that are entertaining and educational at the same time.
You can even give 16-secs-long “YouTube shorts” videos a try. With these short videos, you can entertain/educate your viewers about legal stuff without going into details. These are also very easy to consume for your followers.
“Shorts” are also great for repurposing on both Instagram and TikTok, meaning you can reach your audience on three different platforms with one video.
Mike from Law by Mike is excellent at creating viral YouTube Shorts in the legal niche.
Some of you might have some reservations about TikTok, but it isn’t just for teenagers and young adults.
According to a 2021 report by Pew Research, one out of five adults in the U.S. uses TikTok, and the average session time of TikTok (10.85 minutes) is higher than any other social media application. Also, unlike other platforms, even accounts with a handful of followers stand a chance of going viral and getting millions of views on TikTok.
So, TikTok can be an excellent platform for attorneys looking to build a personal brand.
As you probably expect, your YouTube video strategy doesn’t translate well on TikTok. It is a short-video platform, so the following adjustments are required:
- For starters, your videos must be recorded in vertical format. TikTok is optimized for watching videos on mobile devices; no one likes to turn their phones sideways while watching short videos. So keep it simple and shoot your videos vertically.
- TikTok supports videos up to three minutes long, but 50% of users feel videos longer than one minute are stressful. Therefore, you want to keep your videos short.
Ideally, you should come up with a script that allows you to deliver nuggets of wisdom within 30 to 40 seconds without cutting corners. However, there is one exception: If you are sharing something exceptionally interesting/valuable/controversial, you can go longer.
For instance, this video by @thedivorceattorney has 2.5K comments, though it is over two minutes long.
- If you can’t draw viewers’ attention within the first two to three seconds, then they will scroll past. Since those first few seconds are crucial, consider using a “hook.” This “hook” could be an interesting fact, a bold claim, a question from a viewer or an intriguing headline.
This video from @alilegal uses a simple yet effective hook as the headline to make viewers interested.
- Last but not least, use hashtags and popular tunes. Viewers often use hashtags and tunes to find new creators.
Apart from these platform-specific adjustments, the fundamental rules of video marketing, such as creating relevant content and engaging with the audience, also apply to TikTok videos.
Lawyer Personal Branding Challenges
Understanding the principles of attorney branding isn’t very hard. However, being consistent while facing challenges during your journey certainly is.
Here are some challenges you will probably face while building your personal brand:
- Right at the beginning, your website will not have much traffic and your social media posts will not go viral, and this phase might feel a bit frustrating.
You need to shake off any doubt that may crop up in your mind and keep creating content actively. Social media algorithms and Google value consistency. So, after some time, your content will attract new followers and website visitors. You can, however, occasionally use paid promotion to reach more followers.
2. Many fail at attorney personal branding due to the audience content mismatch. They often don’t have a crystal clear idea of the audience’s demography, exact pain points, level of legal literacy and preferences. As a result, their content often fails to relate to and hook the target audience.
Solution? Do your audience research right. It’s tempting to start creating content right off the bat, but you must ask your clients, consult with peers and then do extensive online-based audience research to know your future clients exceptionally well. It may feel like too much work, but there is no shortcut here.
3. Your first blog posts might not flow well. Your first few live videos might feel awkward and a bit forced. Your social media posts might look like the designer did a bad job.
Content creation is harder than you had imagined.
Don’t let that discourage you. Instead, focus on value and consistency, which can compensate for whatever you lack in the production department. Moreover, with increased experience, your content quality will improve fast.
Attorney branding is all about knowing your audience, helping them and building your authority in the process. Book a call here if you need help with audience research, blog post strategy, social media content strategy and paid campaigns.