Trends in the contract attorney market – Part 3: how to raise your profile, “brand” yourself, market yourself, and how to get published

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In Part 1 of our Trends series (click here) we provided some brief observations on trends we see in the contract attorney market and e-discovery market based on our conversations and meetings over the last few weeks.   In Part 2 (click here) we concentrated on going solo/freelancing,  and building a website/blog. 

Here in Part 3 we will discuss raising your profile, how to “brand” yourself, how to get published and how to market yourself. 

Note:  we are going to mention a number of lawyers, vendors and web sites below.  The Posse List receives no compensation or referral fees for these suggestions.  These are sources we have discovered via LegalTech and ABATech and by conversations we have had via Twitter and other social media venues, as well as personal contacts.  We provide links and other information so you can contact these sources directly and do your own due diligence. 

Raising your profile, “branding”, marketing and writing

Despite the universal concern over the current economic climate, there is justifiable optimism in the legal industry.   As we have discussed in previous posts, a downturn actually allows individuals and organizations to reposition themselves.  And this repositioning allows Posse List members to find more creative ways to serve their constituencies and to raise their profiles in doing so by making friends, rather than contacts. And technology is likely to be the catalyst for this renewal.

And in spite of all the challenges you will face trying to hit the “exit” button and get of contract legal work, be comforted by the fact that scores of Posse List members are doing it, and have been successful at doing it.  The best news:  we are working in a part of the legal industry that is unusual because it is open to sharing and collaboration, through publications, quality conferences, and trade shows, and peer networking organizations such as LegalTech (click here), ABATech (click here), the the ILSL Conference (click here). 

At all of these trade shows and conferences Posse List members have met with other members of the industry, provided resumes and simply networked (it costs nothing to troll the exhibit halls).

And there are scores of online “helpers” such as Carolyn Elefant, Julie Tower-PierceLisa SolomonGrant GriffithsAri Kaplan, Paula Black, etc.

So we start out with some “action items” and we will address each below:

1.  Join LinkedIn, Twitter, JD Supra, LexisHub and other networking, publishing, or directory services.

2.  Start blogging and build a website if you don’t already have one (we gave you pointers on how to do this in Part 2 which you can access here).

3.   Start writing for publications that actively seek out lawyers even if it means doing it pro bono because you can build your online presence that way and then actually monitor your presence and those with whom you want to connect via Google searches and Google Alerts and other analytics.

LinkedIn

At the 2009 ABA Tech Show this past April, Steve Matthews, founder of Stem, offered a presentation on the use of LinkedIn by lawyers.  Matthews revealed that there were 563,000 lawyers with profiles on the networking site, up from 406,000 in December and 118,000 a year ago. Of those half million-plus lawyers on LinkedIn, it is unlikely that many are using it to its maximum potential.   Ari Kaplan covered the use of LinkedIn in a story for law.com’s Legal Technology blog which you can access here.

Using LinkedIn enhances your personal “industry brand” by standardizing your online presence.  Use Linkedin more assiduously by adding to your profile and joining the multitude of LinkedIn groups.  We have covered LinkedIn extensively on our sister site The Posse Ranch (you can find the LinkedIn article by clicking here) where we have collected some of the best sites/links to get you started on “branding” and raising your profile.  

The Posse List use of LinkedIn: we have been able to connect with 10 new legal recruiters and have been able to post 40+ jobs for attorneys we would not have known about.  Plus, we connected with 15+ e-discovery vendors who have posted jobs on The Posse List and also have given us info/educational streams we would not have known about.

Twitter

We think it is becoming clear that there are many ways to use Twitter and many reasons to use Twitter.  Our primary use for Twitter is as a headline aggregator.  We get early notice of important news and case law and trends from all over the e-discovery community, plus job notices. 

But to us the best thing about Twitter is the fact that it provides us with a large group of contacts, professional acquaintances, and some total strangers and some technology superstars who all voluntarily serve as a “clipping service” for us with links to news articles, blog posts, product launches and more.  You can follow our Twitter stream over in the right hand column of this page.

For the fully skinny on using Twitter go to our Twitter article on The Posse Ranch by clicking here.

And speaking of Ari Kaplan ….

Ari has written a very cool, a very “this is what you have to do” book titled The OpportunityMaker: Strategies for Inspiring Your Legal Career Through Creative Networking and Business Development which is about how law students, lawyers and other professionals can stand out in today’s crap economy.  It is chock-a-block with marketing ideas.  And the book is less than 20 bucks on Amazon.

We have met Ari several times and we saw him do a pretty fabulous presentation last week at the FICPI Congress (the International Federation of Intellectual Property Attorneys).  He’s the principal of Ari Kaplan Advisors and trains law firm administrators, legal assistants, law students/summer associates, associates and partners on the mechanics of getting published, effective communication and networking.

The book: a treasure house.  He is a big, big fan of LinkedIn.  He thinks such sites as LinkedIn are the best web-based contact management systems, especially LinkedIn where you can create groups that combine various networks and realize the potential of the service and gain a reputation.  He also thinks attorneys should participate in the discussions of others and be sure to comment first or second to ensure that group members evaluate their viewpoint.

He is also big on lawyer-specific sites such as Legal OnRamp which are gaining in popularity because they are more targeted and less accessible.  Legal OnRamp, for example, requires an invitation to join and Martindale-Hubbell Connected authenticates each profile to ensure its reliability.

In his book he also talks about HelpAReporter.com (also called “HARO”) which is a great source of opportunities. This service sends a free email three times daily to 70,000-plus subscribers with requests from reporters and other media outlets seeking experts to comment on stories they are preparing.    You need to work the system.  The concept of being quoted as an expert is the cheapest and most effective form of advertising.  And many queries will be irrelevant to you since they range in focus from finance and law to travel and technology. Yet some may be directly on point.  But it is t is the easiest way in the world to make yourself look like a hero.

And his book has lots of other links/info on where to find writing gigs, how to prepare sample writing, how to find a mentor, how to self-promote, networking, etc., etc. which scores of Posse List members have followed with great success. 

Note:  Ari also has an eBook titled Getting Published (actually he has 50 eBooks because each is state-specific) which lists scores of publications/web sites for publication possibilities, tells you how to contact editors, how to making the pitch, publishing logistics, copyright, how to leverage your published work, etc., etc.  He is working with The Posse List and we will present a special offer next week to Posse List  members to provide his book The Opportunity Maker and also his eBook Getting Published.

JD Supra

By regularly publishing in niche markets, you’re not only grabbing the attention of your target audience, you’re also establishing yourself as an expert. If a LinkedIn profile tells people what you’re good at (by listing your professional credentials), an informative, on-topic article shows it by displaying your expertise as you digest, analyze, and present important developments in your field of practice.

Moreover, in this digital Age of Information, regularly publishing your written work has additional benefits with enormous impact on your marketing efforts.  It’s relatively easy to manage what people find online if they’re able to search on your name. Much harder: the job of being noticed in the crowd by people who don’t know your name but need your service. This is where Internet publishing makes all the difference in the world.

Your online written work will almost certainly be indexed by the major search engines (Google, Yahoo!, etc.). The more regularly you publish, the more chances you have of connecting with someone searching for the type of information you are providing. If the work connects back to you-well, that’s powerful marketing. That’s known as “Content Marketing.”

This model is at the heart of JD Supra, where legal professionals publish and distribute filings, briefs, articles, and other documents and connect the work to a practice-specific profile.

Content marketing is also one of the drivers in the popularity of blogging. It is no longer necessary to rely on the schedules and whims of busy editors; now, we can create and brand our own online publishing channels. For those who have time for it, blogging is a part of this strategy.

JD Supra lets you create an impressive online portfolio of your articles, newsletters, alerts, court filings, and presentations in minutes. Then, they help you get noticed (by prospective clients, colleagues and the media).  JD Supra creates a substantial, easily referenced, online archive of your expertise.  Upload filings, decisions, articles, newsletters, blog entries, presentations, media coverage with ease.  

We use JD Supra all the time and we notice all the Posse List members on it posting their work.  JD Supra distributes your documents to targeted audiences across numerous channels.  You can get syndicated by third-party resources like Newstex, Complinet and Justia and also streamed to LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, industry websites and blogs, etc.

We think JD Supra differentiates itself another way: by serving not only lawyers and law firms but also all of those service providers who have much interesting content to add as well.   This is why you see so many e-discovery vendors and other LP providers on JD Supra, too.   It is a level playing field. The content varies widely, but all of it is interesting – and has its own audience.

For more info on JD Supra click here

And a great source, Lexis® Hub

One of the most innovative sites we’ve come across is Lexis® Hub  which provides real-world career and skill building insights for young attorneys.  It tries to do exactly what it’s name implies:  act as a “hub” or center of all things legal for young attorneys and about-to-be lawyers.

It has a boatload of connections to help you such as practice area insights, legal news podcasts, links to free litigation CLEs, technology and the law, career guidance, building your skills, improving your research and writing, Twitter updates, etc.  You can follow them on Twitter:  @LexisHub.   

Their goal:  to be a one-stop resource for becoming a more productive lawyer.  You can create a free registration profile with Lexis® Hub to access a wide variety of resources, including videos and sample documents.  Just go to the home page (click here) and click on “Create an Account” in the upper left-hand corner.

And for those of you in the D.C. area ….

On June 24th Carolyn Elefant, Esq., author of Solo By Choice and the blog, MyShingle, and Julie Tower-Pierce, Esq., author of  Staying at Home, Staying in the Law: A Guide to Remaining Active in the Legal Profession While Pursuing Your Dreams and the blog, Darling Hill,  are repeating their “live” presentation Pinkslips, Detours and Rentry program which covers such topics as being laid off or between jobs, being on a career detour, dreaming about hanging your own shingle, feeling stuck in the law, etc., etc.  For full description click here.

We attended their first presentation (this past April) and one of the great things about the program — besides their real-life take on what to do – were the presentation materials.  Julie presented a great guide to starting a career in freelance writing with a phenomenal list of D.C.-area links for writing and getting published, plus pro bono work to build your profile.  Carolyn provided a copy of her eBook Social Networking for Lawyers: How, What, Why and the Importance of NOW.  And they provided a great “mindmapping process” for starting your own firm which you can access here.   For more information about the June 24th program click here.

And for a great podcast on staying marketable, staying connected and staying visible here is a link to a podcast in which Julie Tower-Pierce moderates a panel that includes Carolyn Elefant, Denise Howell and Ari Kaplan (click here).

 Some final thoughts/general marketing tips

For a good article on why marketing is critical for a solo practioner, check out Susan Carter Liebel’s article by clicking here

Every marketer, attorney and law firm is concerned about navigating the slowdown and searching for creative ways to find new business. The art of asking for advice is becoming an increasingly popular way to develop relationships. A recession makes people more inclined to meet one another and share guidance. For more junior professionals, this is an ideal forum in which to set the foundation for a long-term mentorship. For peers, it is often a safe and productive option to brainstorm with an individual whom you respect. In either instance, although you are asking for guidance on enhancing your career and business development prospects.

The irony of successful self-promotion is that it requires a coordinated campaign of connecting with others and finding ways to promote their success.  As Paul Lippe says (he is the founder of Legal OnRamp cited above)  “Collaboration is not an anomaly, it is the way the legal profession has been organized for most of its history.   We are lucky because technology is now at the center of the evolution in organic self-marketing.  Law has been sluggish in innovation because the business model has been stable and there haven’t been any significant
productivity-enhancing technologies that have come along. But in aWeb 2.0 world, doing great work and being seen as doing great work are much the same.”

A few concluding points:

1. Start with a written plan. And you can start that by read 10 Steps to Create Your Law Firm Marketing Plan” by Stephen Fairley (available for free at www.jdsupra.com/10steps).

 2. Most contract attorneys don’t have an existing (or former) client base.  So, go for the “lowest-hanging fruit” — your immediate network, family and friends. Legal business strategist David Lorenzo describes these people as your “natural network.” In How to Market a Small Firm for Less Than $500 (available for free at www.jdsupra.com/dlorenzo1) he writes: “Leverage this network to the hilt. Call everyone-your friends, relatives, and business associates-past and present. Let them know that you are on your own and explain to them the value you provide.”

3.  Schedule lunches with existing and former contacts, just to stay in touch.

4.  Create a network and then regularly call or e-mail your network; keep up-to-date with their news and share yours.

5.  Send a regular newsletter (by mail or e-mail), sharing useful information with your audience.

6.   And don’t just market yourself; be an expert. You don’t need to become an expert; you already are one in your field of practice. This requires an attitude adjustment more than anything else. At its core is the difference between reactive and proactive marketing. It’s an approach that allows you to be a passionate lawyer rather than a reluctant marketer. Instead of trying to get prime placement in the Yellow Pages or to compete for Google AdWords, look for opportunities to showcase your expertise. Make yourself available as a leading source of free legal information, both online and locally.

7.   Make yourself available as a lecturer for local trade organizations, clubs, or your bar association.

8.    Join an online conversation and start a blog and make comments in the blog posts of others whenever relevant or worthwhile.

9.  Pitch and publish articles, both off- and online (a point we have discussed above)

Your expertise is one of your most valuable marketing assets.

 

Coming up in Part 4:  working in Europe 

 

Gregory P. Bufithis, Esq.   Founder and Chairman, The Posse List

Follow us on Twitter: http://twitter.com/PosseList

 

About the Author Gregory P. Bufithis, Esq.

Gregory P. Bufithis is the Founder & Chairman of The Posse List. He has over 25 years of experience in intellectual property law and digital media in the U.S. and Europe.

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