Many years ago when I was the Construction Law Practice Group Leader at my firm, we had a practice group retreat at a ranch about an hour from Dallas. After dinner, one of my junior partners, who had been drinking a great deal, paid me what he believed would be the ultimate insult.

He said:

Cordell, you are not a real lawyer, you are nothing but a salesman.

I wanted to respond, saying something like:

That’s a good thing. If I wasn’t a salesman, you wouldn’t have any legal work to do.

I bit my tongue. . Instead, I thought about what he said. I thought that in his eyes real lawyers are ones who do excellent work and then wait for the phone to ring.

I hate any sentence that includes the words sales and lawyers. I hate to be sold anything and I know clients do not want to be sold.

Yet, as a lawyer you are salesman. In the end, you are selling yourself and your firm.

How can you do it?

I believe a lawyer has to build his or her profile or brand. I also believe it is important to be the “go to” lawyer in some area.

One of the books I recommended the lawyers I coached read was: Never Eat Alone written by Keith Ferrazzi.

In chapter 23, Ferrazzi talks about building your brand. He argues and I agree that perception drives reality. He further suggests that good personal brands do three highly significant things for your network of contacts:

They provide a credible, distinctive, and trustworthy identity. They project a compelling message. They attract more and more people to you and your cause, as you’ll stand out in an increasing cluttered world.”

Then, Ferrazzi says:

In terms of branding, then the bottom line for everyone comes down to a choice: to be distinct or extinct.

How can you be distinct and build a brand?

You can’t sell legal services by “cold calls.” The only way to build a brand and approach a potential client without an invitation is to find a way to add value and give it away. You could write a book, an article, or create a blog post on a topic the potential client would value and would likely show up in a Google search of the topic and cause the client to come to you.

Seth Godin wrote a book called: “The Dip. Can you create a “dip” between you and lawyers with whom you compete that is so wide that it is more likely they will quit before they catch you?

There are many other valuable ideas in Never Eat Alone and I recommend you read it, or find a summary of it. For now, what is your brand as seen through the eyes of your clients?