Who fights for 30 minutes and goes home with hundreds of millions of dollars? Mayweather maybe? But how about all those fights happening in our neighborhood, who has given them a kobo? Ajegunle probably has better fighters than Mayweather but no one will be paying them millions of dollars anytime soon. Why? Personal branding, I believe.
Back to law; I have a friend who just changed career paths within the legal profession. Recently, we had a brief discussion about personal branding and I challenged him to create a name for himself in the new career path he has chosen.
This is something that you and I were not taught in Law School, nevertheless, it is essential to our careers.
What is personal branding?
Nowadays, when you hear a new name, one of the first things you do is run a Google search on the person, especially if the person is someone you might consider doing business with or making a purchase from. If there is no information about this person online, your first thoughts might be to tread cautiously.
In this digital age, unless I know someone personally or can find someone I know to vouch for them, if I can’t find any information about them online, I refrain from dealing with them. That information I find on the person is the result of their personal branding exercise.
Personal branding is what others think of you, what they think you can do, what they think you can say, or where they think you’re going. All of this makes up your personal brand. Everyone has something to sell.
Why does a lawyer need personal branding?
Visibility and credibility
The legal profession in Nigeria is a highly saturated one. Effective personal branding sets you apart from the crowd chasing after opportunities. When done right, it makes you visible, increases your credibility and brings opportunities to your doorstep. Being good at something no one knows about like they say, is like winking at a girl in the dark.
I still remember when I was desperately looking for a job last year. I sent out few applications but I never got a response. Fast forward to this year, I get offers from people I’ve never met to take up full-time positions at various organisations. These people were able to find me because of visibility that came about as a result of aggressive personal branding efforts.
Imagine a situation where a recruiter looking to hire is considering two options with equal qualifications and interview performance. The determining factor could be the person’s perceived worth in the marketplace, which is a result of personal branding. Employers these days are becoming increasingly unlikely to choose the candidate who doesn’t have a LinkedIn profile for instance. They would rather choose the one with well-crafted online bios, a couple of write-ups about areas of interest and consistent activities in the legal space.
It’s not only in the job market that visibility and credibility give you the upper hand, it also helps when you make applications for career-related scholarships and sponsorships. Let’s assume National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) is organizing a conference and has made a public announcement for persons to apply to speak at the conference. You can be sure that if you apply to speak at the conference, some precious moments will be spent researching you online. Woe is you if what they see doesn’t impress them.
You can build an audience and in turn, increase your client base
When you produce content, it is for an audience. When you have an audience, you have people you can sell to because you have gained their confidence. Your tribe, or if you prefer, your audience is listening to you because of the value you offer. And usually, building an audience always has a domino effect. When you come across a Facebook page with 500k+ likes, you’re more likely to also like that page. After all, a page with almost 1m subscribers must be doing something special!
You remain at the forefront of people’s minds
Personal branding is not a one-time life transforming magic potion. Like the polyjuice potion, if you wish to maintain the new appearance, you have to remain consistent. Personal branding is a lifelong continuous process. Give value, interact, rinse and repeat. As you continue giving your audience relevant content consistently, you’ll remain top-of-the-mind. You’ll be the first person they think of when they realize they need services in your field.
You go from participant to special guest/speaker
How to know whether personal branding is working for you? You start getting invited to events, either as a special guest or speaker. That’s a stamp of approval that you’re on the right track with a clear view of your desired destination. Lawyers like Afe Babalola SAN, Wole Olanipekun SAN, and Gbenga Oyebode MFR probably turn down invitations daily. They didn’t get to this stage without doing something about their personal branding.
It’s subtle marketing
Since we’re still labouring under the analog Rules of Professional Conduct, lawyers in this part of the world are barred from advertising their services. But with a personal brand, you can do subtle marketing which isn’t against the Rules. After all, if you just published a post about a new law on tax and how it affects companies, even without ending your article with a call to action to contact you for consultation, a prospective client reading the article will be confident enough to approach you to bring his company into compliance.
Winter is coming
Yes, the Stark House (Game of Thrones fans will understand) words are true for the legal profession. The robots are coming! Fortunately, while artificial intelligence (AI) will never replace human intelligence (HI) no matter the level of automation we achieve, the fact remains that those who cannot catch up will be left behind. Having a personal brand is one way to catch up and future-proof your legal career. Remember, winter is coming.
I’ll end with these words from Jason Hartman “your personal brand is a promise to your clients… a promise of quality, consistency, competency, and reliability“. Pay more attention to it.
Faith Obafemi is a digital lawyer and digital entrepreneur who loves showing lawyers how they can leverage technology in transforming their legal careers. As a true ‘Federal Nigerian’ she has been to at least one state in the North, South, East, and West. She also had her secondary and tertiary education at federal schools, Federal Government College, Port Harcourt and the University of Benin respectively. You can follow her on Twitter (@FaithObafemiEsq.) or reach her on LinkedIn.