Building a Professional Reputation: Attorneys as Experts and Business Leaders

In today’s world of online reputation management, it’s more important than ever for attorneys to be perceived as business leaders by their colleagues, clients and the media. In fact, in the increasingly competitive economic landscape, the attorneys who will achieve the strongest reputations are those who demonstrate acumen as a business leader and not only just as an attorney. It is also extremely important for attorneys to maintain a powerful business network. Clients retain your services not only for legal counsel but also to tap into your business contacts. Here are some key guidelines for building your reputation as a business leader.

  • Research your expertise. Consider what is trending among the business sectors that you serve.  Go beyond using Google for research, but do use Google & Giga alerts, twilerts and rss feeds as filters to stay current on all the news impacting the  industries where your provide your legal services.  Use the latest books, academic journals and white papers as a source for your writing, especially if you are writing blogs and original articles that speak to an audience broader than only attorneys.
  • Define your key influencers. Do more than make a list of the who’s who in your industry, the usual top performers, experts, and key media who cover issues relevant to your industry.  Make a list of people who are so famous in the field that they really do not have the time to get to know you.   Then find a way to be introduced to them.  (A good marketing team or P.R. consultant will help make the connection for you.)
  • How will you stay in touch with your key influencers?  You have many ways to communicate to key influencers: by email, alerts, social media, mobile, traditional letters, or face-to-face meetings.  Do not waste this opportunity to demonstrate your business leader prowess by using the same overused quotes of famous people like Albert Einstein, Gandhi or Oliver Wendell Holmes. If you want to be perceived as business leader, then you should be clever enough to come with your own original quotes.
  • Write good content. If you are intent on being perceived as a business leader, you do need to write content that is original, compelling and ground breaking. Don’t create the same old tired content that has already been said a thousand times.  Write for the layperson. Create articles that are informative, present a new perspective, and shed insight on developments that are relevant to the industries that you serve.  Publish your content in the most prestigious media outlets or peer review journals that accept your innovative way of thinking. It pays to be original and creative about forming your own business opinions and observations.  Perhaps, you can look at certain trends in a historical context. As an example, how is the emerging cannabis industry similar to the industries and businesses that were created during the prohibition era?  History has many patterns that tend to repeat themselves. Identify these patterns and use them in your writing so differentiate your from other attorneys who share your practice area. Also, keep in mind that writing content that covers history, celebrities or current trends, boosts your search rankings among the search engines.
  • To Blog or not to blog? If you choose to blog, then you must blog consistently. If you are not a writer, then do not start a blog.  Since you are an attorney, there is the assumption you have the requisite writing skill to blog.  Keep in mind, however, that you are writing for non-technical audiences. The tone of your writing should be compelling, conversational and entertaining. According to Technorati, 90% of all blogs are abandoned by their owners. Be honest with yourself. If you lack the writing talent, discipline or “big ideas,” then don’t blog. Instead consider hiring a ghost writer who can consistently articulate your ideas. You can also choose to be an occasional guest blogger for your colleagues blogs that have multiple authors.
  • Get Press Placement. Getting placed in the media is still a major way to gain credibility as a business leader in your field.  Reach out to the journalists who cover your field to let them know you are available for commentary when they need a source. Use services that will connect you with the press.  A P.R. consultant can provide this service for you. Be truthful about the best media outlets for your news coverage.  Don’t use video if you do not present well on camera. Don’t do radio if you don’t have a pleasing voice or can’t fluidly articulate your opinions.  Stick with the forms of media that are the most flattering to your overall persona and your expertise as a business leader. 
  • Leverage Social Media. Post your articles, posts and media placement to social media. The most surefire way of enlarging the audience for your writing is to post the links to social media, especially to the royal three: Facebook, Linked-in, and Twitter. There are many other social and sites specific to your field. Find them and use them.  One rule of warning, spend no more than 15 minutes a day on social media.  If you need help mastering social media, you can call on your marketing team or a P.R. consultant to offer guidance.
  • Get speaking engagements. Speak to key influencers and potential customers in your industry.  Only choose the best or most prestigious conferences and trade associations.  Unless you need to practice and hone your presentation skills, don’t waste your time with organizations that will not pay you a speaking fee. Exception to this rule: When you want to meet the people face-to-face who are attending the event, then it is worth to invest your time without receiving compensation.
  • Put in the time.  Becoming perceived as a leader in law and in business is not an overnight process. In fact, it is a lifelong pursuit.  You must commit yourself to an indefinite period of time (a minimum of five years) to build your reputation as an attorney who is also a strong business leader. It takes discipline, persistence and the right type of outreach to the key influencers in your profession.  Either you are destined to be a business leader, i.e., someone who really thinks about things and who they relate to the practice of law, or you are not.  Here is the test: Are you genuinely excited when you see a connection in history, science, art, technology or literature to new trends that are emerging in your practice of law?  If your answer is yes, then growing your reputation as a business leader might be right for you. 

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Patricia Vaccarino is the principal of the full service P.R. firm Xanthus Communications LLC that provides high-end, customized retainer-based P.R. and marketing services.  She is the founder of the internet company PR for People® that provides low-cost tools and services to get professionals press placement. She has been working with attorneys for over 20 years.  

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Patricia Vaccarino

Patricia Vaccarino has over 20 years' expertise working with a wide range of national and international clients, in all areas of public relations: managing worldwide campaigns for global companies and developing strategy for small companies, startup ventures, and individuals.


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