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Personal Branding v Personal BD plan: Which is Best for Lawyers?

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What is a Personal Brand and how relevant is it for lawyers?

Earlier in the week I was forwarded a link by a colleague, someone whose professional opinion I value.  It was a very worthy piece about personal brand and personal branding strategies, about – and I quote – “how to craft a step-by-step route map to greater visibility and reputation.”

I have to say I am a huge advocate of the STATOY (saw this and thought of you) email and the forwarding this link ticked every box.  It was about marketing and BD.  It was written (on the surface at least) from a legal perspective.  The person who forwarded it had seen it and thought of me and it led to a longer more involved dialogue over the content of the piece behind the link.  A BD 101 success story!

The only problem was, beautifully written as it was, the content really irritated me.

Branding: Applies to products and people?

It was full of worth weighty statements about how building a personal brand would “propel you to prominence in your field”, how a personal branding strategy would “take you from relative obscurity to what you want to achieve in the future” and how a personal brand will give you the “tactics, tools and skills you will need to attain your goal.”

Arguably this is all probably factually correct.  However, I have two very large issues with it all:

1  Surely what they’re actually talking about (in a legal context) is creating a personal BD plan rather than a personal brand?

2  Having worked with around 100 law and IP firms our experience is when you start forcing people to take time out to conduct a thorough investigation of the finer points of their naval, more often than not the outcome is just a delay in doing what really needs to be done.

Does brand even work in a legal context?
Brands: Great for handbags, not for lawyers?

I also have a bit of an issue with the use of ‘brand’ in a legal context.  Don’t get me wrong, I am a firm believer in the notion of brand and branding and, in a consumer context, it is essential to create a brand that both resonates with your audience and sets you apart from the other products in your immediate market.

However, without getting too marketing-ish about the whole thing, brand is largely built upon an emotional response (‘how do I feel’, ‘what does it make me think’, ‘how does buying that make me look’).

In contrast buying legal services has to be a calculated response based upon visibility, reputation, technical ability and the service offering promoted alongside the previous three.

And this takes us back to the need to build an effective personal business development plan rather than delaying action by taking up huge swathes of the available BD time you have to construct and launch a watertight, all singing/all dancing personal brand.

Forget the ethereal and concentrate on the practical!
Forget the persona, knuckle down to the BD plan?

The good news is creating a personal BD plan should never be a time consuming process; the best plans are always on one page.  And, as you already know you, what you do/how you do it and a) who should be your clients and b) who you want to be your clients, the need for lots of supplementary research is minimal.  All your personal BD plan needs to do is draw the line between you/what you do and the people you want to do it for.

With regards to a start point, set aside half an hour to have coffee by yourself and ask yourself three very simple questions

1. What?

What do I do?  What specialisms (legal, sector, geographic) do I have?  What specific experience do I have that adds to my credibility?

2. How?

How do I deliver my legal advice to clients?  How could I improve the delivery?  How could I promote the extras I do over and above fulfilling my clients’ instructions?

3. Who?
Who do you know, what could you be doing for them?

Who do I work for now?  Who do I want to work for?  Who do I know (clients, referrers, industry/local contacts) who could introduce me to the people I want to work for?

You now have the skeleton of your plan, i.e. your ‘product’, your business model and your targets.  Next week we will look at the actual structure of an effective personal business development plan using our simple and straightforward OGTM (objectives, goals, tactics, measures) model.

In the meantime if you would like to have a chat about your own personal BD plan, please drop me a line and we can find a time to have an initial free 30 minute meeting.

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Doug McPherson

Douglas is a director of Size 10½ Boots, a specialist business development agency that works solely with the professional services, helping firms grow by winning more new clients and more work from the clients they already have. Although every project is different our work generally falls into one of three camps - strategic marketing support, BD training and 1on1 coaching and independent client research.

2 thoughts on “Personal Branding v Personal BD plan: Which is Best for Lawyers?

  • June 27, 2017 at 8:09 am

    I am circulating this and will feature it in the law management and marketing e-newsletter later in the week.

    The best thing I’ve read this month.
    Well done.

  • June 27, 2017 at 3:09 pm

    Hi Doug. As you and Bernard know, the brand of any lawyer is ultimately no more than how that lawyer makes the client feel. The ones that make clients feel a certain way on purpose are in my experience, exponentially more succesful as a result.


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