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5 Things Lawyers Need to Know About Branding

This article originally appeared on Dec. 18, 2015 at www.attorneyatwork.com

When most people think about “branding,” the first thing that comes to mind is the visuals: logos, images, color schemes. But branding is much more than visual elements. It’s the connection a human being has to a product, service or even another person — and it’s the main factor influencing consumers to do business with that product, service or person. Essentially, branding is a huge reason why you give people money for stuff.

The most effective branding focuses on the psychological and esoteric components — the root level, where the synapses that create the mental connection between a thing and wanting to give up your money for that thing actually form.

Lawyers Need Branding (Yes, You Do)

Here are five things to get you thinking beyond the superficial, and more about branding on a deeper level for your law practice.

1. Branding is good for you. Love it or hate it, you need branding. Why? If you are a solo or part of a small firm, you need to be able to differentiate yourself from all the other lawyers who are just like you. Why should someone choose to hand over his hard-earned money to you instead of someone else? People need a reason to choose you. So give them one. And if you’re with a big-ish firm, guess what? You need branding, too. It’s just in this case, you need to use the branding of that big firm to your advantage! That firm is already a brand itself, most likely with its name, the genre of law, the caliber of lawyers (and clients) it hires, just to start. Those are the things that have built its reputation and define its values. If you don’t align yourself with some part of that brand, you’ll just blend in and you definitely won’t be operating at your potential.

2. It makes a human connection. With all the lawyer jokes, it is not surprising that there is dissociation with the idea of lawyers being humans with real feelings. But lawyers are people, too, of course! So when you think about your brand, put yourself in your clients’ shoes. If you were a client, what would you want? What would you look for in a lawyer? How would you be feeling about your situation? Sympathy and empathy can go a long way here because they affect how you treat clients and other lawyers … which creates your reputation and represents your values, which in turn have a direct effect on what your brand is all about.

3. It’s not “marketing and advertising.” Marketing and advertising may certainly be components of branding and help in the development and reach of the brand, but in a vacuum, they are not branding. Think about it like this: Branding is a pull mechanism while advertising and marketing are push mechanisms. Branding pulls people into something; advertising and marketing push out information. Good advertising and marketing campaigns will push out information or data about the brand, which, if successful, help tell the audience about the brand and why they should do business with the brand. But it is the brand itself that pulls people in for business. Once the ads and marketing push out the information, the relationship with the brand might strengthen or weaken. If it strengthens, the brand pulls people in.

4. Branding is everything. I always say, “Branding is the ribbon that runs through everything that you do.” It runs through all of the things you do in your legal business — including your work product and how you treat clients — and for your legal business: Your marketing and advertising campaigns, your writing, your logo, your images, your public speaking, the way you dress, the things you choose to blog about. Your brand ties everything together. Everything you do must reflect your brand.

5. It’s not as hard as you think. Many lawyers avoid branding because they don’t know where to start. With the right information and right tools, branding is not as hard as you think. Admittedly, it is probably more complex than you think, but that doesn’t make it hard, necessarily. Passion, personality and persuasion are the keys to branding.

LOMAP’s 5th Annual Super Marketing Conference

Come join me at the Super Marketing Conference!

Each year, the Super Marketing Conference gathers together nationally prominent legal marketing experts who provide the latest tips and tricks for attorneys looking for an edge in a hypercompetitive environment. Lunch will be provided, as well as ample networking opportunities, through which you can meet presenters and colleagues, new and old.

The conference is on June 4th, and runs from 9:00 AM to 5:30 PM. It will be held at Milstein Hall, MCLE, Boston.

You can find a link to the conference website here.

Registration is only $60 for new lawyers (admitted after 2012, pending admittees, and law students).

Takeaways From My Fifth ABA TECHSHOW

Originally posted on Legal Technology Today on April 27, 2015 by Julie Tolek

This is the fifth ABA TECHSHOW I have attended. I met someone this time who recognized that I have been coming to TECHSHOW since I was a law student. Sometimes it really blows my mind when I am reminded of just how much I have learned and how many amazing people I have met over the past five years.

It’s amazing how much I have learned in one year of actual practice, not just substantively, but also operationally (which includes using technology and manning the firm and running the business). This TECHSHOW, I found myself very introspective about what kinds of things I did well, what I could do better, and what I should abandon all together.

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What follows are some of the things that got me thinking this time around.

General Observations

This year, I spent more time listening and analyzing in sessions instead of furiously taking notes; I still created a notebook, but found that I wasn’t as determined to write everything down. I think this is for two reasons: first, I am more comfortable in running my practice than I was last year (it was my first year in practice!), so I was better able to filter the information that I find useful and only write those items down. Now I trust my brain more to absorb what I need and just go with the flow.

Second: I know a lot of people now! I have made so many friends over the past four years that I don’t have to worry about feeling alone or out of place or awkward. I found myself bumping into familiar faces constantly! I am so appreciative of being welcomed into the TECHSHOW community; I feel like one of the “cool kids.”

Even though I know a lot of people, I met even more new people this time. It’s really a small world and I really love how everyone is connected. You never know who you are going to meet. I met the people from Attorney at Work—one of my favorite blogs—just by chance at a Taste of TECHSHOW dinner!

I feel kind of like a jerk for saying this, but I am kind of tired of having to keep up with all the social media of being at TECHSHOW. I love following everyone, but the thought of tweeting and posting constantly throughout the conference seemed exhausting to me this year. I feel guilt about that as it’s always been “my thing,” but this year, I said no and I focused on just being present and soaking it in.

Highlights From Day One

The Name Game: How to Manage and Organize Your Digital Documents

I am not an organized person. Like, at all. Running my firm has forced me to get organized. For a while I was terrible at naming things, but since I became Of Counsel at Skylark Law & Mediation, PC, I’ve had to learn to name documents the way the firm does. And I have applied that nomenclature to my own practice at Think Pink Law. It was super helpful to hear more ways to organize and name files and documents, especially because now it actually made sense to me!

So You Want to be an LP Author

I always wondered how attorneys got into the publishing world of the American Bar Association. This session was super informative and the process was explained very well. Definitely inspiring!

Accelerate You Practice with Microsoft Excel

I hate numbers. There, I said it. And for better or worse, I have never had an occasion in my life to have to use Microsoft Excel. This session included a cheat sheet with the most commonly used tools in Excel, and might have been the session I learned the most from this year.

Highlights From Day Two

Litigator’s Toolbox: Top Tech Tips for the Active Attorney’s Practice

Here is one where I mostly listened, but I did learn about creating a photo album in PowerPoint with all the images I want to use in trial, which is actually something I never thought of doing.

Internet Legal Research on a Budget

This was pretty useful to me since I am a solo and a startup and I want to spend as little money as possible. For example, I learned that I could use the Legal Technology Resource Center as a starting point for journal searches as secondary sources (shame on me, I should have known this). However, the second half of the presentation focused on legal research software that is available through a bar association membership (not to be confused with the being a member of the state bar for your license to practice). For me, in Massachusetts, bar association membership is not mandatory, so I found that these options did not apply to me. I did, however, win Carole A. Levitt and Judy K. Davis’ book, Internet Legal Research on a Budget, for being the most recently barred attorney in the room (2013 baby!).

How to Digitize Your Signature and Use it Responsibly and Effectively

I have been curious about digital and electronic signatures for a long time. This is a session where I took a lot of notes, and now I have a starting point and a game plan to start making and using digital signatures. I just wish someone would research all the different softwares and tell me about each of them! Maybe there will be a more in depth session about this next year.

How to Do More in Less Time

I listened so hard in this class, I think I strained my ear muscles. The concept of having “Do Not Disturb” time in the office is so obvious but seems rarely implemented. I am pretty good at isolating myself to only one task, but it takes me a good twenty minute warm up to get into my groove, and if I get interrupted, I have to refocus all over again. I thought I was the only one with this issue since I am a new attorney, that it was just a growing pain of sorts. It turns out that it is very common. It made me feel better that I am not alone.

Alternative Fee Arrangements

It was so interesting to hear about shifting away from the billable hour and to alternatives when, in my practice, I am currently trying to shift back towards the billable hour. I generally love flat fees because it gives the client some reassurance of what to expect as a bill.

For me, the problem I faced being a new attorney is how to effectively use flat rates so that I’m not charging too little for too many hours. I think this is probably my biggest learning curve so far. When you are first starting out, you have no idea how long it’s going to take you to do something. Now that I have a better idea, I am better at flat rates, but I am trying to move to the billable hour for those things with uncertain time frames. Contrary to popular belief, most of my clients have not minded a billable hour and a retainer. Most even expect it. However, I do still offer all options, so it’s good to know what type of billing method works well with certain types of cases.

Social Event Highlights

The welcome reception provided me with two free drink tickets, just like last year. I am allergic to beer and wine (seriously), so I was afraid I would not be able to use my tickets and have a drink, but this year they had mixed drinks! I was so excited! The finger food was a little weird—corndogs and popcorn, like a carnival, which did turn out to be the actual theme of the evening. By then I was starving, so I had one gin and tonic and three(!) corndogs.

Clio always has an after party, but I had never been to it until this year. It was at a really cool club called Cuvee in Chicago, pretty close to the hotel. Let me just say that Clio knows how to market and to make people feel special (I talked about this in my post about the Clio Cloud Conference). From logos on the bar itself, to logos sprayed onto drinks, to logos on the walls,to pillows with the Clio logo, the vibe of exclusivity was off the hook! Some people turn their noses up or roll their eyes at so much self-promotion but I eat that stuff up and I loved it!

Here’s a low-light, if you will: lunch on the second day. I swapped my roast beef sandwich on brie for a veggie wrap, and it was much better. Why aren’t there ingredient lists on the signs by the food? This would be helpful and probably prevent some allergy issues.

Overall, as usual, ABA TECHSHOW was fun, informative, and energetic. It is always a positive experience because everything there is really passionate about what they are doing. I will be there next year again for sure!

The Magic of Mentors

This post originally appeared online on May 12, 2014 on American Bar Association’s Legal Technology Resource Center here

On any given day, at any given time, I usually have about four hundred things going through my head. I am slightly obsessive over things that matter to me, and that pretty much means I never stop thinking.

As a relatively new attorney (newer than most people think), this hamster wheel that is in my brain has to also learn the practice of law as well as run the business and do the marketing and the relationship building at the same time. Many times all of this is very overwhelming, especially since law school doesn’t really teach you about the practice of law at all, unless you are involved in one of the special clinics which allow you to work on actual cases. I never took any of those clinics, and the small amount of work I did for a civil litigation firm while I was sill in school was not nearly enough to teach me anything about how to file divorces and the motion practice and procedure that would be involved.

I am lucky that I have cultivated a few mentors to whom I can ask questions when I have them, although sometimes I feel bad because I ask a LOT of questions and I am sure that can be exhausting for the mentors as well. I started with one mentor, and now I have about three so I can share the insanity/love with all of them.

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Not only is it important to have a few mentors so they can help you and so you can run your ideas by them, but also because each mentor might have a different perspective or way of explaining something that might click with you better than another one of your mentors.

Some of my mentors I found just by serendipity. I was at the right CLE at the right time, and asked another attorney who was presenting (who happened to be one of my professors from law school) if she had any mentors she could connect me to. Sure enough, there was a mentor right in front of my face. Turns out he is a great teacher and at this point, we have also become good friends.

Many people have asked me how to find mentors if they don’t know anyone. My first response is always about the importance of connecting with people and networking and building relationships and if they aren’t doing that already, then they should start immediately.

My second answer is to not be afraid to cold call attorneys and see if they will help you. Most attorneys who are fellow alumni are always willing to help other young lawyers. I used my school’s career services office for this purpose: there had been a career fair a few months prior, and all of the alumni contact information and background summaries were bound in a booklet that was handed out to all attendees. I did not attend the fair, but the career services office gave me the booklet anyway and suggested I reach out to some of the attorneys listed.

I emailed one attorney and to my surprise, I actually heard back from him. Notwithstanding the fact that he was super busy and he said his responses might be slow, he was totally open to helping me as a mentor. I haven’t reached out to him again thus far, but it is nice to know that there are people out there who are willing to help you – all you need to do is ask.

Another option is to reach out to your professors and ask them if they can connect you to someone – and every student knows a few professors, so there is no excuse as to why you can’t reach out to them. Every chance encounter (and planned encounter) is an opportunity to talk about what you do. You can’t be shy about this because if you are shy, the people you meet won’t know how they can help you.

It is also good to remember that maybe you can help them in some way. These are the most rewarding relationships I think. Be open to thinking about the bigger picture of how your relationship with your mentor can grow and don’t let yourself get caught up in focusing on your present need for answers from them.

Don’t get me wrong, if you need immediate help, then of course you should focus on the issues you need help with. However don’t forget that there is a lot of potential for a longer term mentor-mentee friendship, and if you find a mentor like that, I can promise that those relationships will become one of the many highlights of practicing law.

Volunteering with the Prison Book Program with The Boston Bar @bostonbar & @ThinkPinkLaw

Last week, Attorney Michael Sugar organized a group through the Boston Bar Association to volunteer with the Prison Book Program out of Quincy.

The mission of the Prison Book Program is to provide free books and educational materials to incarcerated prisoners throughout the United States. It is a grassroots organization that has been sending free books to prisoners since 1972. They are affiliated with the Lucy Parsons Bookstore, which accepts book donations from the public (see the website for requirements for donations).

As you guys know I am involved with several organizations (including Habitat for Humanity and Crittenton Women’s Union) and am passionate about community work. Volunteering at the Prison Book Program was really something amazing. To read the letters from the prisoners asking for dictionaries so they can learn to speak English (and even other languages!) better, books about Europe so they can learn about the rest of the world, books about photography and art and history, to name a few, really exemplified the strength of the human spirit.

On Saturday, we packed for shipping all the books that were already chosen by the previous group.

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As one prisoner wrote:

“Books have been created by humans to enter another state of mind. Books are learning devices and time machines. Books are records of what our ancestors thought. They are records of historical events and glimpses of far away places, people, events, real or imagined. The information contained in books can bring comfort to suffering people and inspire others into changing the way they live their lives and interact with other people. People from small towns can learn about the great wide world that exists out there. Lonely people, gays for instance, can realize they are not alone, there are others like them that have gone through the same things they have. Minorities can see that people from similar situations they grew up in have gone on to create successful lives for themselves. Sometimes, characters in books can become friends in a lonely persons mind and heart. Books are physical manifestations of the imagination.”

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Listen – I don’t like politics and I don’t get political about anything. Some readers may think that these prisoners don’t deserve to have these books. I am not here to argue about who deserves what.

I volunteered with this organization because I am passionate about educating anyone and everyone. It does not concern me that I am sending books to prisoners or strangers or different ethnicities or to different states or whatever. I would send books to aliens if there was an organization that did that.

This is about human beings and having passion for life, and one of the ways to have passion and to understand what passion is, is through education.  I don’t care who you are or where you are or what you are doing or what you have done – humans as individuals are constantly developing and evolving and without educating and without books, that is not easy to do.

Books allow these prisoners to learn and to activate their imaginations and stay sane, and maybe even eventually return to society able to function better than they did before.

Special thanks to Michael Sugar and the Boston Bar Association and Michael Sugar for organizing the event.

Check the Prison Book Program for events, volunteer times, and donation requirements.

Almost an attorney as malpractice claims rise [infographic] @lexisnexis @lexisnexisMH @LNLawSchool @ABAesq

As I prepare to become a practicing attorney, I’ve been running around planning and plotting what my next step will entail. I have a few options but no matter what I do, if I am going to practice law, I need to get malpractice insurance.

For some stupid reason, I thought we would get some packet or goody bag with details about malpractice insurance options and next steps etc. Kind of like orientation at school, where you get a bunch of useless crap, except for one little thing that’s useful like a highlighter or something. I don’t know why I thought we would get a goody bag – it seems so silly now. Why would an institution that uses scare tactics to teach you how to teach yourself the law supply you with any kind of useful info just to make it a little easier to start practicing? But I digress.

So while I have been thinking about searching for malpractice insurance, LexisNexis posted this infographic about malpractice claims. According to the American Bar Association (ABA), malpractice claims are on the rise. Great. Because I have nothing else to worry about, such as actually earning an income.

At least it’s fun to look at because it’s an infographic. Thank you, LexisNexis.

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See the full article and infographic from LexisNexis here.

MA bar results are in, and they are good!

After a few days of sheer terror and stalking the mailman, my bar results finally arrived.

And I passed the MA bar!

I went for a 6 mile run in the morning to get fresh air and calm my nerves. After I came home, I waited until 1pm before I went to check the mail. The front desk was supposed to call at 1230 so I started freaking out (naturally) when I hadn’t heard from them

When I went down to the mail room, the mailman had already set aside the letter. He heard me coming and poked his head out and said he thought he know what I was waiting for, and handed me the envelope.

Of course, I started crying immediately. I didn’t know what to expect honestly. I had struggled to finish the MBE questions and it was just all terrible.

As I opened the envelope in the middle of the lobby, I started shrieking, “OMG OMG OMG I PASSED I PASSED.” I covered my mouth in shock and awe and disbelief as I read the letter….then I asked the mailman to read it because I thought I was hallucinating or read it wrong or skipped the part that says, “sorry, but no.”

He looked at it and told me hopefully they don’t start the bad letters with “Congratulations!” too.

And so my friends, I will be swearing in on November 26.

What a huge accomplishment. Those who know me know that I worked my ass of for this and I earned it with my blood, sweat, and many, many tears. I’ve learned that anything is possible if you dedicate yourself to making it happen.

I called family and friends and first they thought it was bad news since I was still crying. I like to have fun with things like that. 🙂

Xo

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pics from my run, before I got the good news!

MA Bar exam Results this week!

Did you know there’s a bar exam gossip/forum circuit??

People must really be twisted masochists to read and post things online about the bar exam. For example, http://all4jds.com/ has forums about when people think the scores are mailed out, venting anxious nerves and frustrations, and stories about people calling the bar examiners office FIVE TIMES A DAY to ask if results have been mailed out.

So anyway, I heard that results were mailed out TODAY (October 22). Thus, I will be babysitting my mailbox tomorrow. I live in a building where the mail usually comes at 3:30pm. For the past two weeks I have been throwing up in my mouth a little every time I checked the mail. Hopefully tomorrow I will scream in joyous delight instead of hurling all over the mailroom in disgust.

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Photos and Links from Radio Show on WSMN 1590 Nashua with @byebyedwi Attorney Mark Stevens

As many of you know, I was on the radio in Nashua on WXMN 1590 on September 13, 2013.

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My friend Attorney Mark Stevens invited me to be a guest to talk about the bar exam and other random law stuff, including some weird legal goings on in Brookline, where I live.

It was my first time ever on the radio and it was so much fun! Although I have to say it was strange to listen to myself afterwards.

Here are some photos and a link to the radio recording for those who missed it.
Click here to subscribe to Mark’s Podcast via iTunes (you can listen to my show from there as well).  You can also go to Mark’s blog, http://www.byebyedwi.com and Mark’s site http://www.nhcrime.com to find some really useful tips on DWI and other criminal law.

Enjoy!

Click here to link directly to the audio/.mp3 file of the radio show.

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