Think about the lawyers in your firm or other lawyers you know in the community. Now think of the lawyers that seem to be a cut above the rest. These lawyers are trusted and appreciated by their colleagues in the legal industry, in their communities, on the boards they serve, and by their state and local bar associations. Colleagues seek out and truly value their opinion. They are genuinely kind, selfless people who are constantly giving to help others. These lawyers are true leaders who can inspire others to follow them in new directions. In short, people believe in them.
Following is simple marketing guide for future lawyers to begin the process of laying a foundation to become one of those true leaders in the legal industry.
MANAGEMENT IS AN IMPORTANT SKILL TOO
Lawyers who are managers are great at developing systems and processes for litigation efficiencies or effective execution of corporate transactions. They manage a group of associates and other lawyers by sharing what they have learned and by overseeing each team members’ responsibilities until the work is completed. Managers are very mission-driven, and their goal is to accomplish the tasks at hand and move onto the next deliverable to conquer.
BE A LEADER – YOUR MARKETING EFFORTS DEPEND ON IT
Some fortunate people are “natural born leaders.” If you were not born to lead, fear not. You can learn the skills necessary to become THAT lawyer people want to be with; THAT lawyer whose opinion is sought after; THAT lawyer who commands the trust and respect of their colleagues. The following ideas will help you uncover your innate skills as a leader and build important leadership skills that will form the foundation you will build your future practice on.
When someone (a partner or colleague in your law firm, your bar association, or a community group) asks you to do something, step up and say yes. Leaders develop their reputations by engaging in the world around them – not cloistered away in their offices.
SERVE ON A BOARD
Nonprofit boards are always looking for lawyers to bring their knowledge and experience to the table. Board involvement will help you refine your leadership skills by taking an active interest in the board(s) you serve on. Prepare for meetings. Ask great questions. Volunteer to serve on a committee. If you say you will do something, do it. Promote your organization on social media and become “tied” to the organizations you support.
BE ACTIVE IN YOUR BAR ASSOCIATIONS
For other lawyers to see you as a leader, you need to actively participate in your state and local bar associations. Attend the meetings and meet new people. Take the pressure off yourself by genuinely trying to learn more about the person you are taking to. Ask great questions to show you are listening and are interested in what they are saying. Work your way up the ranks by volunteering to serve in a position of leadership. Then, show up! Make your bar association activities a priority EVEN when you are busy.
When establishing yourself as a leader, put yourself out there by offering to speak. Once you begin speaking on a regular basis, new opportunities will find you. Speaking builds leadership skills because you engage with the audience. Draw them into your topic by providing many examples to demonstrate your points. The more speaking you do, the better you will get!
You build your leadership skills by writing articles because you are demonstrating your subject matter mastery. You are generously sharing tips and ideas to help educate your readers on topics of interest to them. The more writing you do, the more people will see you as a leader, and the more you will be asked to speak and write articles. Talk about positive momentum!
BE A LEADER IN YOUR FIRM
Remember leadership is about how you engage with people and inspire them to follow you toward reaching a common goal. Volunteer to serve on committees in your firm like diversity, marketing, law school recruitment, and myriad other committees that make your firm tick. Try to have a personal relationship with every person at your firm. Have conversations, ask questions, and listen. Leaders are respected and adored by those around them. But you must “walk the walk.”
PRO BONO WORK MATTERS
Many firms have official pro bono programs, while most rely on the lawyers to meet the guidelines established in the Rules of Professional Responsibility. To be a leader, you need to be selfless and look beyond what’s in it for you. Pro bono legal representation can provide a personally rewarding way for you to give back and help people without the means to hire lawyers of their own. Adding your pro bono opportunities to your biography will show you are a lawyer who is not just focused on billable hours or fees.
KINDNESS AND RESPECT
Because leadership is about the gravitational pull you have on others, you must treat people at all levels in all organizations with kindness and respect. Smile at people in the hallway, say hello, check in with your peers and colleagues to see how they are doing. The ultimate compliment as a lawyer is, “Sue is the best lawyer we have AND she is a really nice person.” No one is too busy to show common courtesies to others. Like with everything else in life, it can be the small things you do that have the greatest impact on others.
Some people are born natural leaders, but others, with a commitment to building leadership skills, can do so. How? By showing others you care about what’s important to them, and that you are willing to spend some of your valuable time helping others achieve their goals. While you will also need to develop strong management skills, it is your leadership skills that will draw people to you, create trust and loyalty with peers and colleagues, and offer the most personally and professionally rewarding aspects of your career. Terrie Wheeler