IDENTITY THEFT AND THE NEOPHYTE LAWYER (OR, MY PERSONAL BRANDING HELL)

THE NEOPHYTE LAWYER: YEAR ONE

 

DAY 66: IDENTITY THEFT AND THE NEOPHYTE LAWYER (OR, MY PERSONAL BRANDING HELL)

 

Photo: U.S. Air Force/Staff Sgt. Michael R. Holzworth

 

I am a victim of identity theft.

 

It’s true. The man in this photograph had the unmitigated gall to steal my name sixteen years before I was born.

 

Okay, so maybe it’s not identity theft. But it is a problem when it comes to managing my online presence. When people type “Lewis Black” into their search engine of choice, I’m not the number one search result. Go ahead, try it. I’ll wait.

 

See my problem? If a potential client is looking for me online, they won’t find me at the top of the first page of the search results. And I have read over and over that if you aren’t at the top of the first results page, you’re doomed. Nobody will ever hire you, you will die alone and unloved, and your mummified remains will be found at your desk, staring hopelessly at your phone. What is a poor Neophyte Lawyer to do?

 

Take Command of Your Online Presence

 

My paralegal (who is also my brother; it’s a family thing) is somewhat techno-phobic, and has a very strict “no online presence” policy. No Facebook, no MySpace, no Google+, nothing. His theory is that if you don’t post anything online, you will never post anything stupid or embarrassing online.

 

This certainly has an internal logic. But it overlooks one important fact: there is a lot of information out there in cyberspace about each and every one of us. If you don’t take command of your online footprint, all of that becomes your default profile.

 

Bearing this in mind, taking control of your online identity is important for several reasons:

 

  • It communicates your character to potential clients;
  • It allows you to demonstrate your expertise and differentiate yourself from everyone else in your field;
  • It increases your visibility, making it easier for potential clients to find you; and
  • It allows you to, as we say in the trade, mitigate the damages from embarrassing or damaging content not under your control.

 

Online Marketing Tools

 

There are a number of tools available on the Internet for creating and marketing your personal brand. More importantly for those on limited budgets, many of these tools are free (or relatively inexpensive). It’s beyond the scope of this particular entry to discuss these tools in great detail. But I can at least mention them. There are numerous articles out there on how to adapt them for your personal needs (I’d suggest visiting AttorneySync, JD Supra, and Lawyerist.com and searching).

 

Blogging – A blog is a great “home base” for all of your content. You can then post links on all of the other platforms, directing people back to your blog.

 

Facebook – Some attorneys (and others) have made Facebook a major part of their online marketing. To be honest, I haven’t done any kind of marketing on Facebook. My page is strictly personal.

 

Google+ — Like everyone else, I have just recently signed on to Google+. And like everyone else, I’m still not quite sure how to use it as a marketing or branding tool. I’m adopting a “wait and see” attitude. I’m cautiously optimistic, but I’m not ready to put all my marketing eggs into this basket just yet.

 

JD Supra – JD Supra is great for showing off your writing skills. If you write a really good article, memo, CLE presentation, etc., you can use it as an advertisement for your skills, rather than letting it take up space on your hard drive.

 

LinkedIn – Use the personal information sections to go into more detail about your education and employment history (the stuff that won’t fit on a one-page resume). Join groups and participate in discussions relating to your practice areas. You can even link your JD Supra and LinkedIn profiles, so that when you upload an article to JD Supra, it automatically uploads to LinkedIn.

 

Twitter – Twitter is another resource that I don’t use. I’m not sure just how you can use Twitter as a marketing tool for lawyers and law firms. But there are attorneys out there that do use it, so I’m probably behind the curve.

 

My (Partial) Success Story

 

Putting all this together, I have managed to take some control over my online footprint. I have a fairly decent LinkedIn profile (it still needs some work, but it shows promise). I’ve been networking on Google+. One article that I co-wrote is up on JD Supra (another one is forthcoming; I’ll upload it once it’s published in the next Utah Trial Journal). And Black’s Blawg is chugging right along. Some entries are better than others, and my writing still needs a little work, but overall, I think it’s a pretty good start.

 

And it appears that my efforts are slowly paying off. Go back to the Google search results for “Lewis Black.” I’ve been entering this in Google for over two years now. This week, for the first time, something related to me (and not that other guy) made it to the first page.

 

Of course, getting to the top of the search results is not the ultimate goal. That remains, as it should be for every lawyer, helping the client resolve his or her problems. It’s easy to overlook that while we are playing with all of the new gadgets, programs, and websites out there. But all of that is for naught if the clients aren’t happy. Don’t get so caught up in the intermediate goals that you overlook that. Always keep your eyes on the prize.

 

What are your best personal branding tips/horror stories?

 

NB: I’d like to take a moment to thank Jay Fleischman at Legal Practice Pro, Adrian Lurssen at JD Supra, Aaron Street at Lawyerist.com, and Gyi Tsakalakis at AttorneySync for all their ideas and support (even if they didn’t know they were helping me at all).

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About W. Lewis Black

W. Lewis Black is an associate attorney at Dunn & Dunn, P.C., located in Salt Lake City, Utah. His practice focuses on personal injury, employment law, workers compensation, and Social Security Disability claims. He is a past member of the Ensemble at Pinnacle Acting Company in Midvale, Utah. He can be contacted at wlblack@dunndunn.com.
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