Branding: Yet Another Thing You Never Learned in School

First, a disclaimer: nothing contained herein is intended to imply that anything other than a dedication to hard work, honesty, and all the other requirements of our profession should be your norm.

And really, those things should be enough to make you a successful lawyer. But in the times we live now, they’re simply not. Here’s the thing: we’re all used to getting information quickly, and passing judgments on what we see and read with similar speed. And we forget information just as quickly. So to make ourselves memorable, it’s vital to give our viewers (clients, colleagues, partners) a quick impression of who we are. It’s a succinct and distinct identity, and should be a less-than-tweet-length description of ourselves. It’s a device that allows others to remember us, and to give them the opportunity, when they see us again, to say, “oh, right; he’s that guy.” This makes it in turn more likely that they will remember us when they have work to hand out.

There’s an infinite number of brands to choose from. You could be Sports Guy, which makes it easier to decorate your office. It also makes it simple for your secretary to get you a present for Christmas and your birthday. The problem with this approach is that you end up with a ton of things like Steelers luggage tags and Penguins mugs. How many mugs do you need?  A friend of mine is Golf Girl.  She’s a semi-professional golfer, so that’s her brand.  It’s somewhat limited, but it works for her, and clients always have something to talk to her about as they wait through mediations and depositions.

You could be Wine Guy. This is a fun one, but it’s somewhat risky because you could easily veer into being known as the alcoholic guy. Being Foodie Guy is also an option.  A partner in a major firm here in town is most definitely the Gourmand.  He travels the world and his social media is filled with pictures of food and wine in exotic locations.  It’s usually enormous plates of meat, and mammoth-sized goblets of full-bodied red, but he has a great time, and his brand is memorable.  He also weighs probably 300 pounds, so I’m not sure his brand should be your first choice.

Perhaps you could be Horses Guy, but that’s sort of odd. There’s also Monogram Guy, which again makes it easier for people to buy you stuff, but isn’t as easy from a personality perspective. What’s the monogram behavior? Is it Southern? Fussy, stuffy, preppy? But if that’s who you want to be, by all means make that your thing.

Personality branding is another way to go. One associate in my office is the Nice Guy. He talks to everyone. He eats lunch in the lunchroom. People are in his office all day long, talking about everything. As a result, he works late every night, but everyone loves him. That’s a good brand. By contrast, we also have the Gloomy Girl. Her brand is a lot less effective, and people tend to avoid her. If you ask her how she is, she will tell you exactly how she is. She is unhappy at the firm, unhappy with her pay, unhappy with her work. And everyone knows it. I wouldn’t recommend this brand.

I have a friend who is the Doesn’t-Give-A-Shit-Non-Lawyer Lawyer guy. Yes, he’s a lawyer. But he won’t admit it. His profile on dating sites lists him as a self-employed music theorist. Which I suppose he is, but in real life, he’s a successful lawyer, a partner at a large insurance firm. But his branding has been so successful that ten years later, his old secretary still insists that the only thing he wrote in her review one year was “she keeps it real.” He and I both know that he would never do such a thing. Although it’s a pretty badass hypothetical move, it would be a disservice to a valuable employee by failing to detail her abilities when it could really matter and result in a raise for her. But the take-away here is that she believes her own story because it conforms to the brand he’s built.

And what’s my brand, you might be wondering? Simple: I’m the guy with t*ts.

Now bear with me here, because I realize that this isn’t for everyone. But it works for me. I’ve never been the sort of girl who gets offended by sex jokes. I don’t require a safe space and I don’t mind having a guy check me out. But at the same time, I work hard, I know my stuff, and I don’t shy away from conflict. So I can hold my own; can, in essence, hang. My goal, which I hope I’ve achieved, is to be well-mannered with a healthy side of raunch. In this way, I’ve branded myself as part of the team.

Let’s be clear: I’m not recommending that all women suck it up and subject themselves to jokes and comments that make them uncomfortable. My point is merely that they don’t make me uncomfortable. I find them funny and I enjoy them. It’s who I am. And that is my brand.

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