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  • 1. 1.800.973.1177CAREER COUNSELOR’S CORNERPAGE 1 continued on backAt the outset, it is important to realize thatmuch of what I am saying goes against the“traditional” view of the law as a profession.Obviously, the law is a profession. Notwith-standing the use of the word “profession,”though, you can still get fired, not advance,or find yourself in a dead end job. Your skillsor specialty can quickly become irrelevant inthe marketplace. You can also find yourself ina geographic location where there is no work(i.e., “business”).The problem with attorneys and the legalprofession in general is that no one seemsto take the time to consider that the law is abusiness and that their careers are busi-nesses as well. Be a good business personand your career may go far. Ignore thebusiness realities and you are likely to runinto trouble. I have been a legal recruiterfor several years and have seen countlessattorneys “go out of business” because theydid not run their businesses well. In fact,this is something I see on a daily basis whilereviewing resumes of out of work attorneys.This article examines the following businessrealities of your legal career. First, I examinethe fact that your legal career, like any busi-ness, needs to have a marketable product.Second, this article looks at the importanceof your “brand” to marketing your product.Third, this article concludes by exploring howto market your product for the maximumpossible success. While this article has beenwritten specifically for attorneys, most of thematerial here also applies to individuals inother roles within the legal profession.A. Your Legal Career, Like Any Business,Needs a Marketable Product1. Early Product Qualities Will DetermineHow Much You Can Sell Your Product For andWhereEvery business needs to have a marketableproduct in order to succeed. While busi-nesses can sell all sorts of things, your busi-ness is going to be selling yourself. This is aproduct that will need to be carefully man-aged throughout your career. Shortly intoyour legal career, you will begin developing a“brand” and taking on your own particular at-tributes that will characterize your “brand.”The importance of having a marketable prod-uct begins very early in your legal career. Inorder to enter the legal profession, you needto take certain steps. If you are an attorney,the steps should be fairly obvious. First, youneed to obtain an undergraduate degree. Thequality of university that you graduate fromand how well you perform there will have animpact on whether or not you get into lawschool as well as the quality of law schoolthat you can attend.Once you are in law school, you need toperform at a level appropriate to the type ofposition you want when you get out of lawschool. Along the way you will presumablydo certain things, such as work on a journalor your school’s law review. These will allbe additions to your product. In taking thetime to go to law school, you are making aninvestment of both time and money in yourproduct. Depending upon how much moneyyou spend and how hard you work in lawschool, that product will be viewed in a cer-tain way the second you get out of law school.Initially, these things will also determine howmuch you can charge for your product andwhere you can sell your product. If you go toa top law school and do very well there, youcan sell your product for a lot of money in abig city. If you go to a local law school that isnot as highly regarded, you will likely not beable to do this. If you do exceptionally well ata local law school, though, it may not be anissue.The next step comes when you take an exam(i.e., the Bar Exam) in order to get a licenseto sell your product. Once you have beenadmitted to the bar of your jurisdiction, youare now formally able to do business in yourstate.By making the decision to enter the practiceof law, you have made a series of decisionsthat have essentially led you to open yourown small business. Sure, you may be anemployee of a law firm, corporation, or thegovernment. However, when all is said anddone you are running a small business. Yourearly brand will consist of where you went tocollege and law school, where you summeredand what practice area you chose to get into.Coming out of law school, you may be a “hot”brand and very marketable or you may not. Ineffect, it does not really matter because yourbrand and its marketability is something thatwill evolve throughout your career.2. You Must Remember That In Order To StayTreating Your Legal Career Like a Small Business[A. Harrison Barnes]One of the largest mistakes that many legal professionals make is to not carefully consider the business implications in how they are conducting their career.Here are some things to think about that will affect where your career is headed.
  • 2. 1.800.973.1177CAREER COUNSELOR’S CORNERPAGE 2 continuedIn Business You Must Always Have a MarketableProductAs a business person and operator of a smallbusiness you are going to be faced with count-less decisions as to how you operate yourown business. You need to remember thatevery decision you make will determine yourmarketability.What is so interesting about the practice oflaw is the myriad choices that are availableto attorneys in terms of how they operatetheir businesses. They may brand themselvesas a big firm lawyer, small firm lawyer, solopractitioner, government attorney, in houseattorney-you name it. Whether an attorney isworking on his or her own or for a large firm,he or she is still always in charge of his or herown career.There are aspects of your product that willnever change. Wherever you are in your legalcareer right now, you simply cannot changethe things you have done in the past. This in-cludes your choice of law school, performancein law school, the first firm you worked at (orsecond, or third) and any variety of things thatyou have done in your career. However, if youlook around, there are literally thousands ofsmall businesses operating. The pedigree ofthese businesses does not matter so muchas whether they are in business and how wellthey are operating.You need to look at the legal field like thebusiness world as well. Whatever type ofbusiness you are running, it must have amarketable product. If you are doing personalinjury law at your own solo law firm, you havea product. You will be able to sell your productin certain areas and with certain audiencesbetter than others. The list goes on and on.Everything is about having a marketable prod-uct throughout your career.The point of any business is to survive and,for many businesses, to grow. You need toconsider what needs your business has andrun your business accordingly. As an attorneywhat you are marketing is a particular skillset and the ability to solve problems. One ofthe most important aspects of running yourbusiness involves the type of work you do. Ifyou are a litigator, you will help people dealwith lawsuits in one way or another. If you dotax law, you will help people deal with tax is-sues. In operating in a certain practice area, itis important to understand that certain prac-tice areas have more appeal (to the market)than others. Your objective is to get businessand the decisions you make in this regard areimportant.There are certain specialties that may be badbusiness to choose. For example, railroadlaw used to be a popular practice area, butyou would have a difficult time running asmall business now that focused on suchan antiquated type of law. Less than threeyears ago, corporate work was enormously indemand. Currently, however, this market isdoing horribly and corporate attorneys fromtop 10 law schools who performed well both inschool and in high profile firms have, in somecases, been looking for work for more than ayear. For many small businesses/attorneys,corporate law would be a bad choice for themto get into because there is no demand forthat product. In this current economic climate,bankruptcy would be a more prudent venturefor the business-minded attorney.Likewise, the geographic area you are in, thestability of your current employer and youropportunity for advancement at your currentfirm are all factors to keep in mind in operat-ing your small business. These are all thingsthat will have a bearing on whether or not yourbusiness will succeed.B. The Importance of Your “Brand” to Market-ing Your ProductAs the operator of a national search firm, Iknow that it is part of any recruiter’s job torecognize the type of brand of the attorneysthey are working with. While you may not havespent some time on the BCG Attorney Searchweb site (www.bcgsearch.com), you shouldknow that a lot of the information on the site issimply about how attorneys can manage theirbrand to be marketable to large law firms. Asimilar collection of articles could of coursebe accumulated for running an in house at-torney brand, or a small law firm brand.When you are working in the practice of law,you need to have a good brand. If you are op-erating your own law firm, the quality of yourbrand will determine how many clients you getand the type of clients you get. If you are prac-ticing in a large law firm, the quality of thework you do, your interpersonal relationshipsand a variety of other factors will determinethe strength of your brand. The point is thatall brands have certain attributes and overtime you will develop a certain brand.Companies spend an inordinate amount ofmoney both protecting and developing theirbrands. There are certain things that cometo mind when you think of any brand. Forexample, the thought that comes to mind isdifferent if you think of BMW or Chevy. Like-wise, RC Cola creates a different thought thanCoke. A brand is developed over time. Theplaces you work, your practice area and all ofthe aforementioned factors will have a bearingon the quality of your brand.Generally, better brands can charge more andhave more interest in them than poor brands.All of the rules of the business world apply tomanaging your own brand. You always needto be cognizant of how you want your brand tobe viewed by the outside world and potentialemployers. Think through what type of brandyou want carefully and ensure that you man-age that brand the best you can.C. How to Market Your Brand and Product forMaximum Possible SuccessAs an attorney, consider hypothetically that
  • 3. 1.800.973.1177CAREER COUNSELOR’S CORNERPAGE 3 continued on backyour salary is $100,000 per year. Also considerthat you are being billed out at approximately$200 per hour and expected to bill 2,000 hoursyear in the law firm you are working in. Thismeans that your small business is generating$400,000 per year and out of that amount youare “netting” $100,000. This is not bad from abusiness standpoint.As a legal recruiter, I am not surprised thatmost attorneys want to go to the law firmsthat pay the most money and have the mostprestige associated with them. These are allbusiness decisions. Over time, you presum-ably would like the amount of money youmake to increase. You would also like thepercentage of the money you collect fromyour billings to increase. For example, if yougenerate $400,000 from your work, you wouldrather make $200,000 than $100,000, as in theprior example. You want to become a partnerand earn more. The business game continues.Everything that happens to your legal careeris the result of selling your product on themarket place. The amount of money you cancharge (e.g., that the market will pay) willbe influenced by the type of brand you have.Hypothetically you could go to a horrible lawschool and start out in a horrible law firm.This is something thousands of attorneys doeach year. Then, several years later, manyof these same attorneys may be earning inexcess of a million dollars per year. To stuffy(sorry!) big firm attorneys this may seem likean aberration. Nevertheless, this is not anaberration and it happens all the time. Thereason this happens is because of how theseattorneys market their brand.Marketing is the single most importantthing you can do for yourself as an attorney.Marketing is about how you package yourself,the things you say and the value the marketperceives that you offer. That said, you maynot want to market yourself to a large lawfirm. In addition, you may not want to work forsomeone else at all. Instead, you may simplywant to open your own practice and marketyour services there.The point of this essay is not to act as adiatribe on marketing; however, a few com-ments on marketing should make a helpfulpoint. When you market a product, you needto appeal to people on both an emotional andrational (cost) level. When marketing personalservices-which your legal skills are-peopletend to want to deal with people like them-selves. It is for that reason that large lawfirms prefer a certain type of attorney, smalllaw firms prefer a certain type of attorneyand certain types of clients (rich, poor and inbetween) prefer dealing with a certain type ofattorney. We have a tendency to want to dealwith people like ourselves. Thus, your productis likely to be well accepted in some areas andnot others.I remember when I was clerking for a federaljudge and had the opportunity to see differ-ent trial lawyers come into court and conducttrials. I also spent a year trying to write a bookabout personal injury attorneys several yearsago. The one thing I noticed about the mosteffective personal injury attorneys was thatthey were nothing like big firm attorneys andalmost never had big firm experience or toplaw school credentials. What they did knowhow to do was market themselves and theirclients’ grievances to like-minded jurors.They also tend to be quite flamboyant in theirmarketing efforts-but that is another story.In small towns all across America, there arevery successful attorneys. In most cases,these attorneys grew up in the area and arelike the people they do work for. What ismost significant about the attorneys who aremost successful from those who are not insmall towns is their marketing ability. Theyfraternize in local clubs and bar associations.Stories circulate about their successes. All ofthis is marketing.The same thing occurs in large law firms inbig cities. Here, the marketing is confinedto the law firm and getting clients to cometo your law firm as you advance in senior-ity. What is most significant, though, is thatthe marketing component and what theindividual’s brand represents are always atthe forefront.The issue then is how you market yourself andadvance your own career. While this may notbe obvious, a large part of a legal recruiter’sjob is helping attorneys market themselvesto employers. They know what the employ-ers want to hear and how the attorney shouldsay it. Virtually every week at BCG AttorneySearch we get attorneys jobs at firms that Iknow they could not have gotten on their own.That is because we “packaged” the attorneyand told him/her what to say in order to por-tray the particular brand the firm is interestedin.What is so interesting about the work we do atBCG Attorney Search is that none of what wedo is dishonest. In fact, it is just knowing themarket and the particular brand of the firmand what makes an attorney marketable tothem. Attorneys need to be themselves, butalso be aware of what the particular customerwants.As an attorney, if you are looking for a positionyou need to keep the idea of marketing at theforefront of what you do and how you thinkabout everything. You have a product to selland in order to sell your product you mustbrand it and package it in the right way. Inorder to sell your product, and get the highestprice for it, you also need to have the largestpossible market. Everything I have done in mycareer is geared towards helping attorneysmarket and package themselves. One serviceI recommend any attorney look at is LegalAuthority (www.legalauthority.com) whichcan assist you in marketing yourself, help youprofessionally package yourself and get thehighest price for your product.LawCrossing is also quite similar. Here, youcan be aware of the market at all times and
  • 4. 1.800.973.1177CAREER COUNSELOR’S CORNERPAGE 4know exactly what is going on and who is hir-ing. LawCrossing is your personal barometerof the market and shows you where you canmarket your product. The benefit of knowingthis information at all times cannot be over-emphasized. Think of your career like a prod-uct. You have invested a tremendous amountof time and expense in creating your product.You may have spent upwards of $100,000 onlaw school and college to get to where you aretoday. If you had that much money in the stockmarket, my guess is that you would want towatch what is going on in the market at alltimes. Your career should not be any differ-ent. Do not lose your investment. Do not allowyourself to go out of business.D. ConclusionsYou are a product. Your legal career is a smallbusiness. Run it like a small business andrealize the importance of your brand. Mostimportantly, realize you always need to havea market for your product. If you rememberthis, you will be well served throughout yourlegal career.