A lawyer with a powerful personal brand is one who is well-known and well-respected by a distinct audience. She is thought of, and sought out, when a particular type of expertise is required to solve a particular type of problem. In other words, a lawyer with a powerful personal brand is not someone who tries to be all things to all people. She knows a lot about a little, as opposed to the generalist who knows a little about a lot.
She did not attain broad brand awareness by accident. Rather, she became well-known through focused, strategic, long-term effort. She hunts antelopes, not field mice.
ANTELOPES AND FIELD MICE
The parable of the antelope and the field mouse was introduced into the culture by Newt Gingrich. The parable reflected his approach to setting and pursuing ambitious legislative goals.
Here’s the premise:
A lion is capable of hunting and eating field mice if it wanted to, but the energy to catch them exceeds the nourishment from the mouse. If a lion spends his days chasing mice, it would slowly starve to death.
Lions must hunt antelopes, which are big and provide great nourishment. Yes, an antelope takes more effort to hunt. But once captured, it provides ample fuel for a long happy life.
As lawyers, our world is filled with field mice: easy-to-achieve, short-term goals. There’s always endless busywork to do. When it comes to marketing and business development, in particular, we fit in what we can, when we can. The activities we engage in, therefore, are often of low impact and disconnected from any larger strategy. They might provide a momentary sense of pleasure or satisfaction, but don’t serve a long-term purpose.
In other words, we hunt field mice.
Most lawyers with powerful personal brands, on the other hand, hunt antelope. It’s antelopes that make our lives and careers great. Acts like cultivating and maintaining relationships, developing real skills and unique expertise, tackling big, high impact projects, and contributing to something greater than ourselves. These things take more time and effort to accomplish, but in the end, the payoff is much greater.
BOOKS BUILD BRANDS
How about an example? In my book I highlight an attorney who, early in his career, identified a problem: there were no resources that aggregated and analyzed case law that addressed the intersection of the Uniform Commercial Code and the modern day automotive supply chain. Instead of simply lamenting this gap in the literature, he decided to hunt a massive antelope. He took it upon himself, as an associate, to write the book that he wanted to exist. The book, which has been in print for over twenty years, has been a huge catalyst for his career. In many ways the book is his brand. It serves as a calling card of his skill and expertise. It opens doors to meetings and speaking opportunities.
It took an immense amount of effort, but looking back that effort was condensed into a relatively short timeframe during his career, and the book has been paying valuable dividends ever since.
My own experience – albeit on a smaller scale and in another industry – has been similar. Writing my first book was a painful experience in the moment. But since its release many new opportunities have presented themselves to me. And more often than not these opportunities are ones that I did not pursue. For example, in the last couple of months alone, I’ve traveled internationally to speak to the partnership of a large law firm, presented an educational seminar for the Chicago Bar Association, and spoken to several reporters for national publications about topics related to legal marketing and business development. Each of these opportunities then led to additional opportunities. And they all came my way as a result of my book.
A BOOK IS AN ANTELOPE.
Now, not every lawyer has the time, nor the desire, to write a book. While I think writing a book is a great way for a lawyer to build a personal brand by establishing himself or herself as a domain expert in a particular practice area or industry, my point is not to convince everyone to become an author. What I’m trying to stress is that, when thinking of brand or business development-building activities, don’t bother with the small stuff (the field mice). Focus your eye, and your energy on the big prize. One year’s worth of focused effort on a high impact activity (writing a book, planning an industry conference, creating a new process or methodology for addressing a critical client need) will be dramatically more valuable than ten year’s worth of activity that’s not directed toward a bigger vision.
Want to learn more about personal branding for lawyers? Check out my book – One of a Kind: A Proven Path to a Profitable Legal Practice. Also, in the next month I’ll be launching a new online course that will help lawyers become well-branded lawyers. Stay tuned!