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13 September 2023

Developing a distinctive personal brand to enhance your professional growth

Published on 13 September 2023

Guest written article by Paula McMullan

Whether you’re a qualified lawyer or you’re just starting out in your legal career, it’s essential to create a memorable personal brand so that you stand out from the crowd in a positive way. In today’s highly competitive market, it can make all the difference when it comes to landing a training contract, and later on, establishing yourself as a successful legal professional. However, when I ask lawyers what their personal brand is, I’m usually met with a blank stare.

In this article, I’m going to demystify what a personal brand is so that you can create yours to reflect who you are and what you offer, so that the right people remember you.

What actually is your personal brand?

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is quoted as saying, “Personal brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.” Think about it. What comes to mind when you think about a colleague or friend? Whatever you answer, positive or negative, this is the personal brand they have portrayed to you.

Of course, if you haven’t given any thought to your personal brand, what people think of you will depend entirely on what that person experiences of you. This is why it’s essential to identify and live your own specific personal brand.

Define your personal brand

There are three elements to identifying your brand and what sets you apart from other aspiring legal professionals: your strengths, your values and your experience.

First then, assess your unique strengths. What are you particularly good at? What are you known for? What do you enjoy doing?

Often though, what really sets people apart is not what they do, but HOW they do it. The ‘how’ gives us insight into a person’s values – that is, what is important to them. Our values drive how we show up in the world and we usually have 5-7 core values. Here are some to get you thinking about yours:

  • Integrity
  • Cooperation
  • Curiosity
  • Competitiveness
  • Respect
  • Achievement
  • Responsibility
  • Loyalty
  • Helpfulness

Finally, consider your experiences and achievements. Given that you may yet embark on your legal career, or you may just be setting out to qualify, you may not know how to answer this question. I haven’t done much yet, you may be thinking, so what can my personal brand be?

This is what you get to decide.

Think about what you have done so far in life. Every experience we gain teaches us a lesson and gives us insight into how we operate and what we enjoy. So, what specific combination of skills, experience and achievements do you bring to the table? What do you do that makes you unique?

This unique matrix of knowledge, skills, experience and attitude is the foundation for your personal brand.

Work Out Your Story

Often, lawyers haven’t thought through what impression they want to give to the person they’re communicating with, whether that’s at a networking event, during an interview or in a job or training contract application. Your story is what you choose to share about who you are, what you do and how you do it that sets you apart from others and helps you to connect with your audience. Your story reflects your personal brand.

There will be parts of your story which are very important to you, but is what you want to share relevant to your audience? What’s important to the people you want to make an impression on? What are they interested in? How does what you have to offer align with what your audience needs and wants?

If you’re asked to talk through your CV at an interview, choose three milestones from your story that demonstrate why you’re now ready for THIS job specifically.

If you’re at a networking event and you want to encourage the person you’ve just met to stay in touch, tell them the parts of your story which will pique their interest so that they want to know more. For example, if part of your brand is that you are resilient and curious, you may want to tell a graduate recruiter about a setback which you addressed by coming up with a new way of solving the problem. If you want to demonstrate that you’re collaborative and up for a challenge, tell them how you turned around a team’s fortunes by getting everyone on board with putting in the hard work required for success.

Through your story, you’ll be sharing your expertise, experience, and unique perspective in a way that resonates with your audience, the person that you’re communicating with at the moment.

Build your personal brand online

In today’s digital age, it’s very likely that your first contact with a future employer will be online. To advance your legal career, it’s essential to reflect a memorable personal brand through your online presence, as well as in person.

The obvious first stop is LinkedIn. This professional networking platform is an immensely powerful search engine and your profile will act as a mini website, so make sure you’ve optimised your profile to reflect your personal brand (your headline, about section and work experience, in particular). That way, as soon as someone finds you on LinkedIn, they get a strong first impression of who you are and what you will bring to their organisation.

An overlooked and very effective strategy for finding opportunities using your personal brand is to interact with content published by employers you’re keen to work for and the people who already work there. This means more than simply liking posts as your scroll through your newsfeed. Draw up a target list of firms and follow their graduate recruiters and trainees. Comment on their posts (using your personal brand as a guide on your tone, language and content) by saying what you found interesting in their post and adding a point of your own. Follow up with a connection request so that they also see what you publish in their feed.

When it comes to posting on LinkedIn, think about the kind of content you can publish or share that will demonstrate your expertise, knowledge and interest in a particular area of law or business.

There are of course many other platforms. Many law firms have very active graduate recruitment Instagram accounts. The use of TikTok is also growing. Each outlet has different purposes and interactions, so you’ll need to adapt your profile and how you draw attention to yourself according to the platform you’re on.

To summarise the above

You can create an effective and unique personal brand by being clear on:

  1. What you’re good at
  2. What you enjoy
  3. How you do what you do
  4. The milestones in your story that demonstrate (1) to (3)
  5. What impression do you want to leave on the person you’re communicating with so that you’re memorable

To get started, have a look at these LinkedIn profiles and work out what makes up the personal brand of these lawyers, we've provided a wide range of different examples at different stages of their careers.