Branding your law firm

The differences between a personal brand and a firm’s brand, and how to start selling it

Teresa Diep
2021 November

We’ve all seen the ads, you’re inundated with them daily – all promising case leads, more followers and a first-page ranking on Google. But what does it really take to accomplish these things? It would be impossible to map out all the potential avenues one could take, so I’m going to concentrate on discerning the difference between personal brand and firm brand, with a few tips on getting started in marketing.

Why do you need a personal brand? People hire lawyers, not law firms. Times have changed and so has the game plan for many attorneys. They have more freedom than ever to choose the right law firm and the barrier of entry to owning and operating their own firm is much less costly than it used to be. You no longer require a traditional office and technology has made it almost effortless to communicate with clients. Today, a solo practitioner working out of their home can produce the same results as a rusty cog in an over-sized machine. As you start your career, you must focus on your personal brand regardless of where you practice.

Firm brand embodies a collective approach to law, a unified mission and combined results. A good example of how the two brands differ is Johnnie Cochran, the late marquee attorney who defended O.J. Simpson in 1995. He built a legendary brand for himself and a firm brand that still thrives nationwide over 15 years after his death.

In the highly competitive 21st century, brand is imperative and yet still extremely underrated in the legal industry. Solid brands build trust, and trust is one of the top things consumers want to feel when selecting a product or service, especially legal services.

I’m going to focus solely on content marketing and organic strategy. Paid strategy is another ball game.

First and foremost, you need to identify what type of firm you are. Are you a high-volume pre-litigation practice? A boutique trial firm? Hybrid? Unsure? Understanding your business model is crucial. If you don’t know this answer, you must stop reading and figure this out immediately. These business models have very different approaches in terms of marketing from financial and strategic perspectives. So, before you can even set foot on the road to effective marketing, you need to distinguish your target audience.

Pre-litigation firms

This type of law firm garners the best results with direct-to-consumer marketing. You’re casting a wide net which also means you need to be financially prepared to compete with attorneys who advertise with radio, digital ads, brand partnerships and OOH (out of home: billboards, bus stops, wallscapes, etc.). You also have to prepare a good infrastructure for case intake.

So, how does a firm eyeing direct-to-consumer marketing compete in this environment? The answer is simple – social media. The popularity of social media has given smaller firms or anyone with a smartphone a chance to level the playing field. Getting consumers to follow a law firm is not an easy task, but if you can provide useful information in an entertaining way, or “edutainment” as marketers like to call it, you will see growth almost instantly.

Six years ago, when I started acquainting law firms with this mysterious unknown, it was a very unusual practice. But then it all started to catch on. People converted from doubters to believers and I quickly realized I was on the precipice of something new, so much so that it inspired me to launch a creative agency dedicated to bolstering smaller law firms.

According to a survey reported by the American Bar Association, the overwhelming majority of both law firms and individual lawyers do have some online presence. Eighty-one percent of all respondents in that survey say their firms are active on at least one platform, with the highest usage coming from LinkedIn. We all know the legal industry is notoriously slow when it comes to adopting new technologies and it’s apparently not much different when deciding on social media platforms. Consider this, TikTok has just surpassed 1 billion monthly users; Instagram also has 1 billion and the dominant Facebook boasts 2.89 billion.

One of the biggest advantages of TikTok is that you do not need a following to have your content seen. Content is being shown based on a user’s algorithm and what it thinks you may like. This has been a major selling point for many brands and content creators. If your law firm model is consumer facing, your best chance for organic growth right now is through TikTok.

The first rule in social media – have a plan. It is much easier to produce content when you see the big picture. What do you want your audience to know? How do you communicate your message? What is your visual aesthetic? I suggest spending a minimum of 10 hours a month in the planning and execution of your posts. Also, another useful route is breaking down your content into pillars. Here’s an example, for a referral-based or B2B type firm, your content pillars could be:

News-relevant stories about your area of practice, verdicts, etc.Education – Share your expertise.Testimonials – What people are saying about you.Brand/Mission – Supporting content that reinforces your message as an individual brand or firm.

Turn clients into fans

Turn your clients into your biggest proponents. You’ve spent your time advocating for them, so your hope as the case resolves is that they become your advocates. Treating your clients well is a given but it’s important to keep them engaged even after the case has come and gone. How do you do this? You will need to start with a good customer relationship management (CRM) program. If your firm doesn’t have one already, look into case management systems that have this built-in feature. Produce occasional newsletter campaigns, send Christmas and birthday cards and invitations to community events. If you’ve treated them right during this process, you have just created a loyal follower.

Email campaigns

Email campaigns are the most cost-effective marketing tools you can use. It’s a great way to keep your audience glued with minimal effort. You can engage past clients, current clients and leads not retained. Select an email marketing service like Mailchimp, Constant Contact or FloDesk. To build a good database, you need to capture data on subscribers by having an option to sign up for your newsletter visible on your website. Another way to build subscribers would be to designate a link on a third-party application like Linktree and add it to your social media platforms. That way a potential client can register for your newsletter the moment they discover your brand – no further searching required.

The six steps to a successful campaign are: define your objective, build your email list, refine your content, choose your subject line carefully, design your email, and follow up on your analytics. The most valuable advice I can give is to be content specific. For example, if you are sending to current clients with a certain injury, include helpful resources to recover from those types of injuries. Bottom line is, people respond to content that relates to them. The more laser-focused your content, the better likelihood of engagement and follow up.

Share your expertise

Gain personal and brand exposure through sharing your expertise, whether it is through publications or speaking engagements. Find that one area of practice that you can’t stop gabbing about, get out there and spread the gospel. Put together a media kit, which could be as simple as a few photos, a bio and topics you like to discuss. Get the ball rolling by sending it out to local conferences that might need speakers.

Podcasts, webinars and YouTube

These alternative media options are very powerful. They allow you to be the host, build a following, and all while passing along good information to the community you’re serving. One of the best YouTube accounts I’ve ever seen, that’s 2.06 million followers large, is Devin Stone’s LegalEagle. He breaks down the legal system by turning what most lawyers daydream about while sitting in rush hour traffic into humorous and entertaining rants. Got somebody in the family who is a wiz with editing? Sign them up and start getting your opinions out there.

Marketing doesn’t have to be a big scary monster. It can be fun and cool, but it requires multiple funnels, good strategy, discipline and a lot of heart. For decades, the future of the industry was dictated by the legal giants of the world, but in today’s digital landscape, it’s anyone’s game.

Teresa Diep Teresa Diep

Teresa Diep is the founder of Outlier Creative Agency. She has consulted over 100 legal brands since the inception of the agency. She is the Vice President of Marketing for EsquireTek, an emerging legal tech company, co-founder of Justice HQ, and a partner at Athea Trial Services.

Copyright © 2023 by the author.
For reprint permission, contact the publisher: Advocate Magazine