BigLaw: A Long Investor In The Branding Market

The BigLaw Brand

In our age of competition and connectedness, law firms face an unprecedented challenge of branding, and BigLaw – the world’s biggest and most successful law firms – tend to play the long game. For BigLaw to “win”, it must continue to enhance its business brand in order to attract and retain its clients and its lawyers. The question is: Are its lawyers playing the same game?

The Personal Brand

In today’s mobile job market, many lawyers may be shorting the market. And they have the tools to do so; the very same, standard equipment that BigLaw issues to each lawyer when she joins the team. Any lawyer intent on “winning” quickly learns to use those tools to build expertise in an area(s) of market opportunity plus a personal brand to market it.

Personal Brands Distinguish Attorneys

At Penn Law School’s Inaugural Women’s Summit, approximately 200 members of the Penn Law community gathered to celebrate the leadership and trailblazing work of Penn’s national and international women lawyers. As the Summit made clear, Penn Law’s women have a lot of wins, branding and otherwise, to celebrate.

The agenda included a session captioned “Building Your Professional Brand, Online and Offline”, during which panelists and attendees shared the significance of individual branding as a business development tool. They discussed the importance of creating a specialty practice, and the many ways in which to declare oneself an expert – by blogging, posting articles on LinkedIn and Facebook, posting pictures on Instagram, hosting personal and professional websites, tweeting, speaking at conferences, and participating in trade events.

In addition to developing business, branding helps attorneys take control of, and effectively own, law practices. Consequently, personal branding plays an important role in accelerating a lawyer’s journey to professional achievement, increasing her value within the law firm, and contributing to the firm’s financial success. It is no wonder that BigLaw supports its lawyers in developing their individual brands – those brands are as important for individual attorneys as they are for the law firm.

Personal Brands Support BigLaw Brands

Diverse and robust personal branding creates exciting and dynamic law firms. Each BigLaw brand represents a collection of talent that inspires and attracts lawyers and clients alike. BigLaw pays a myriad of expenses related to its lawyers’ executive coaches, seminars, and extensive professional development programs. BigLaw fully supports its lawyers in the effort to create and maintain personal brands.

From its perspective, helping lawyers develop distinctive expertise and specialized skills both elevates its lawyers and brings new clients to the law firm, where – in addition to receiving top quality legal services – these new clients will come to value the law firm’s brand. In fact, the more numerous and the stronger the brands of individual lawyers, the healthier and more productive the law firm and the more effectively it can attract clients, grow, and cross-sell its services. As a result, each branded law firm is full of branded lawyers – in the ranks of both partners and associates.

Business Versus Personal Branding: Which Is The Best Investment?

To the extent that personal brands distinguish one lawyer from another and build recognition for professional excellence, they increase a lawyer’s value within the law firm – and without.

There is now a perfect storm of attorney attrition and increased personal branding (indeed, social media makes personal branding easier than ever before). Personal branding allows lawyers to maintain a web presence on both law firm websites and personal websites, and to carefully curate their respective brands on each one.

Is it wise for BigLaw to continue assuming that its business brand will trump the personal, portable brands of its lawyers?

To win the long game, BigLaw can’t lose its all-stars to another team. To the contrary, its all-stars need to acknowledge personal achievements but place a higher value on the team’s success. The BigLaw brand will remain strong only if its lawyers are able to merge, yet also maintain ownership and autonomy over, their distinct brands.

There will always be competition among BigLaw brands, but there should not be competition among any one BigLaw business brand and the personal brands of its lawyers. By banding – and branding – together, just like Penn Law’s women, everyone has a win to celebrate!