Get Your Name Out There: Top 5 Ways to Build a Reputation as a Young Practitioner
For a young practitioner, it can be a challenge to build a reputation, get your name out, and become known in your field. Establishing credibility is difficult, since new lawyers generally cannot rely on a long track-record of practical experience or recognized credentials that are available to seasoned veterans. Yet gaining that experience and reputation is a key part of a rewarding and successful career in law.
Fortunately, there are clear, easy, and high-value steps a young practitioner can take to get started.
- Provide reliable and effective service: As lawyers, we have a duty to serve our clients as effectively and efficiently as possible. While it may go without saying, it is important to remember that consistently doing good work is one of the best ways to build and maintain a reputation. Clients (both internal and external) will remember and appreciate a job well done, and are the main source of referrals. Consider both technical legal issues, but also basic customer service. For example, in-house counsel may not appreciate an overly long, theoretical memo. So if you can deliver the same legal advice in a short and business-oriented email, you’re already setting yourself apart in their minds.
- Create and maintain an up-to-date online profile: Your online profile is the most likely place a potential client will learn about you and start to form an opinion about you. It should be a one-stop stop for a comprehensive view of yourself as a legal professional. It should be kept up to date with your legal experience, industry practice, and main areas of work (such as in litigation, transactional work, agent/prosecution work, regulatory compliance, etc.). Most law firms provide individual webpages for their professionals, but if not, or if you’re working in-house or run your own firm, you should create a personal website. You should also have a LinkedIn profile, and may want to use other social networks if those are relevant to your industry and practice area. No matter how many profiles you have or where they are located, ensure that they are all current. Your reputation will not be helped by a LinkedIn profile that still refers to you as an articling student or which lists law school achievements when you’ve accumulated more recent and relevant experience items!
- Write and publish texts: Writing and publishing texts such as academic articles, bulletins, or blog posts is a great way to build a reputation. It can provide you with an opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge of a given area of law or practice in deeper and more sophisticated way than a profile or resumé might. Publications also tend to show up more highly in search engine results than your online profile, since they’re typically loaded with many relevant keywords. Academic publications could also lead to future citations by other lawyers or even judges, but might not be read by businesspeople in your area of practice. Publishing in trade journals or blogs might put you in front of readers who are potential clients, but fail to attract attention among fellow legal professionals. Very few publications are read by everyone, so you’ll want to publish in different contexts depending on your goals.
- Attend and present at conferences: Attending conferences will keep you up to date on the latest trends and issues in your field. Conferences also provide a venue to meet new people, hand out business cards, and put your name out for potential future referrals. Much like writing texts, presenting at conferences will further raise your profile and help build your reputation by providing an opportunity to put your knowledge and name on display. Conferences have the added advantage that you can then interact directly with the audience, either by answering questions or by chatting informally after the presentation. This personal connection is not available with traditional publications. If there are no relevant conferences that fit your needs, consider whether video presentations would be an effective format to get your name out to clients and fellow professionals. YouTube is an increasingly important platform for business development, and may be the right fit for younger lawyers in particular.
- Join industry groups and legal associations: Active membership in an industry group or legal association (like IPIC or the Canadian Bar Association) is a great way to stay in touch with developments and needs of a given industry. These groups need not be focused on law. They can be about any specific area of business, such as technology, health or entertainment. As a member, you will have access to resources and opportunities for networking. Charitable and social groups are another good way to raise your profile while doing good at the same time. Note the importance of the word “active” before “membership”; merely joining these organizations will not necessarily raise your profile on its own. Instead, attend events, contribute to publications, and join committees so that you are seen to be an effective and efficient contributor by fellow members.
Hopefully, these tips will assist you in establishing, improving, and maintaining your reputation. It can take time, but as a young practitioner, starting early will lead to better results in the long run.