By Tom Hagy

Lawyers may not realize it, but there is much they can do quickly and relatively inexpensively to get their name out there and establish a new brand. 

This is especially important for lawyers finding themselves out of work due to large firm staff reductions or even law firm dissolutions.   According to one blog site tracking the numbers (lawshucks.com), the legal market has surpassed the 10,000 mark for attorney layoffs.

Whether you are among that group and starting over or not, here are “Seven Ways to Jumpstart your Legal Brand”:

#1. Start at the Keyboard (or the Legal Pad).  A lot can start simply by writing.  The great thing about writing is that the result can be turned into speeches, articles, blog posts, client newsletters, even audio and video presentations to add multimedia to your website.  And don’t think you need to write a treatise.  Short articles work great, especially if writing for the Web.  Objective:  You want your name to be wherever a potential client is looking.

#2. Take It On The Road.  Once you have something written, even in draft, there is no better way to put your article to work and hone it, than immediately getting out there speaking at seminars – whether they are run by a professional conference company, a state bar association, an industry event, or even your own sponsored program, teleconference or webinar.  Large or small, seminars are great networking events and great for honing your message.  Objective:  You want a clear message and an ever-growing contact list.
 
#3. Touch Base.  In an age where so much communication is delivered via email, old-style networking has more of an impact than ever before.  It’s important to pick up the phone for reasons other than to conduct business.  Picking up the phone just to check in on a contact or client makes them feel like they are more to you than a paycheck.  And if you’re lucky they really are.  Dropping by their office or letting them know you are in town or meeting them at an event are powerful ways of saying you value your connection.  Objective: You want to be top of mind when a client is thinking of assigning more work to an attorney they already work with. 

#4.  Call a Friend.  Some of the best networking out there starts at personal, rather than professional gatherings.  Everyone you know knows someone who knows someone who can use your services now or at some point in the future.  Objective: You want to leverage the power of connections to meet potential clients.

#5. Embrace the Web.  Take advantage of online social networks to keep in touch with your existing networks and expand them.  These sites are great ways to touch base with current and former colleagues, even law school or college friends, who might be a source of new business, if not some great stories.  Consider the growing new sites Lexis has developed for open sharing of content with firms, companies, government agencies, academics and more.  You can find out more about these sites at www.LexisNexis.com/Communities.  Don’t be afraid of blogging.  Even partners at firms are consulting them now.  One legal blogger reported to me that he was getting two to three solid client leads a week from his blog.  Objective:  With more than 80% of quick legal searches beginning on the free Web, you want to show up high in search results.

#6. Have a Networking Plan.  Like a professional sales rep – performing the right activities that lead to business is critical.  It can be a simple plan, such as “call ten clients just to check in” or “write the first draft of an article on X subject” or “call this conference company and tell them I want to speak or run a client event or custom teleconference.”    Objective:  Chance meetings are great, but don’t wait for chance.  Make your own luck by routinely reaching out.

#7. Pull It All Together.  Once you have content in the form of an article or series of articles, they can become a number of things.  We have taken one article and turned it into Web posts, press releases picked up by hundreds of websites (which is what you want to draw search engine traffic), client alerts and newsletters, article reprints (people still like paper!), teleconferences, conference speaking slots, and audio and video recordings that, in turn, become DVD or CD packages, promotional clips on the Web, and online CLE sessions via the Manexa platform – a service that powers many of the state bar association CLE sites.  Objective: Maximize the work you put into articles, papers and presentations and make it available in as many places as you can.  Let your work represent you 24/7.

And it can all happen by starting at the keyboard. 

Deploying a mix of old-school networking and relatively new techniques made possible through the increasingly sophisticated Web-based technologies and services are great ways to get your name and new operation out there among clients and potential ones. 

A great asset lawyers have is knowledge that matters, a great asset in networking.  I urge you to share it broadly.

Tom Hagy launched HB Litigation Conferences LLC on Jan. 1, 2009, itself a rebranding of respected litigation conference company Mealey’s Conferences.  Hagy is former publisher of Mealey Publications Inc. and vice president at LexisNexis.   He and his team support law firms in getting their names in front of potential clients.  Contact Hagy at tom.hagy@litigationconferences.com.