Over the years I have met many a lawyer who wasn’t into marketing or sales. The reason: the firm will do it. Well, the firm can’t do it. Individual lawyers must, because clients continue to hire lawyers, not law firms.

In a recent article entitled “How to Make It Rain By Marketing Individual Lawyers,” on Law360 the authors, John Hellerman of Hellerman Baretz Communications and Steve Bell, with Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice, take on the idea that firm branding brings in clients. In fact, they point out the error of Howrey’s extensive advertising and branding of the “Howrey” institution rather than “selling its top products” (naming specific lawyers). They don’t say that branding the law firm doesn’t have a purpose for certain audiences or is a bad thing. Rather, it’s just that “lawyer-level marketing (and sales), … actually bring in clients.” You can read more about their institutional viewpoint and how today’s forces heighten “the need for attorneys to focus on individualized marketing efforts,…” in their article.

My thrust here is on their tips on building your personal brand. Here are a few of my favorites from their 10 suggestions:

  • Define what you do. Not with a standard elevator speech, but rather, what you offer and the need you fill that differentiates you from others. I would add that a good way to ascertain what makes your personal brand different is to ask clients and your key referral sources;
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for referrals. As Hellerman and Bell state, “Referrals are the most effective marketing technique for lawyers,” and, in my experience, account for at least 70% of new business for law firms. Embarrassed to ask? Don’t be. Just tell them that you “are always looking for good clients like them”;
  • Speak to smaller groups. Rather than only look for opportunities to speak at a conference or convention of trade groups on a broad topic, look for opportunities to speak to smaller audiences in practice area specific settings; and
  • Tell stories about your successes. People like stories. More importantly, they like case studies that tell a “powerful story about how a specific lawyer helped a client brings that attorneys skills to life…”

The lesson in all this? Business development is up to you, not the firm.