Using an “image is everything” approach, attorneys develop their personal brands for today’s tough market.
Social capital. Self-promotion. Branding. Image. Body language. Etiquette. Color psychology. Not the typical jargon one would expect to hear coming from the conference room of a major law firm. But in today’s uber-competitive legal arena, many attorneys and top-seed law firms are realizing the importance of high-level image consulting for boosting careers – and profits.
One key issue facing law firms today is the transition of associates to partner status. Says one Phoenix law partner, “Associates are expected to stay focused on client work – to keep their heads in the files. But once they’re being considered for partner, all of a sudden they’re expected to transform into successful rainmakers, and that’s just not realistic. What’s desperately needed is a program that grooms associates for this transition and teaches them to be successful on several different levels.”
Through intensive interviews with attorneys and our previous work with law firms, we’ve identified key success markers that can launch attorneys to the next level, even in this tough economy. These include image or visual presentation, their personal brand, communication and social capital skills, presence, body language and the ability to read people.
Success also depends heavily on other factors such as wellness and smart career planning. Associates must be groomed for two critical career roles: firm ambassador and partner. The two go hand-in-hand. Associates who become savvy in the area of social capital and master the arts of personal branding and self-care become much more effective rainmakers. I've even gone so far as to accompany timid attorneys to networking and other A-level functions, mentoring them through the process of casting nets and navigating crowds to identify and build successful relationships.
One attorney client parlayed a passion for wine into a niche practice specialty. Another polished his image and learned high-level networking techniques that boosted his business by 41%.
Image consulting is also imperative for attorneys, their clients and witnesses when making courtroom appearances because nonverbal communication may never be more important than in court. The proliferation and significance of nonverbal messages in a courtroom can be missed by the unskilled eye. Therefore, attorneys must be vigilant about their own nonverbal communication and they must be highly skilled at reading the body language of the jury and judge. The wrong suit, hairstyle or color can wreck havoc on juror perceptions, as can distracting body movements like fidgeting, playing with one’s hair or avoiding eye contact. For example, the color pink should never be worn by attorneys – ever. Pink connotes softness, fluffiness, and cute little babies. It’s a definite pushover color that weakens an attorney’s visual impact. Surprisingly, I see attorneys wearing pink – suits on women and ties on men – more often than one would think.
The importance of image cannot be overstated - especially in the field of law where communication and visual presence can mean winning or losing a case.