Lawyers don’t have a clue about branding.
Some don’t advertise at all. They’re “too professional” they say. Others insist that, in order to be a successful professional these days, you have to run your practice like a business. Here’s where it gets a bit fuzzy for most lawyers. They don’t really know what business they’re in.
Most lawyers think of the legal services they offer as the business. So, to them, running a law practise as a business means “selling” legal services, and advertising those services is a necessary evil—and necessarily evil. It’s not surprising that lawyers who advertise their “services” often do a disservice to themselves, and the profession.
Believe it or not, most lawyers don’t understand that the professional services business they’re in is the business of the Trusted Advisor. Trust me, this book should be required reading for law students. It might be too late for lawyers.
In 2002, Robert A. Clifford, Chair, Section of Litigation of the ABA, put it in words a smart lawyer might understand.
We live in a world based on trust. Every day we are forced to trust strangers. We trust the school bus driver to get our children to school, the airline pilot to get us safely to our destinations, the hospital staff to administer the proper medication, the police officer to enforce the law, the other motorists not to drink and drive. Sometimes, though, we are let down. Lawyers are among those who can jeopardize trust, whether by not fully communicating the frailties of a case to the client or not being upfront about a fee. In any event, the lawyer becomes just another in a long line of those who do not follow through on a promise, and, with that betrayal of trust, however small, the entire profession suffers a bit.
Certainly lawyers are advocates for their clients, but, first and foremost, they are counselors. Maybe more than in any other profession, people turn to lawyers for their advice, their logic in seeing through a problem and perceiving issues, and their decision-making ability after examining all the options and likely consequences. Although consumers describe lawyers as greedy, manipulative, and corrupt, they also say that lawyers are educated, intelligent, knowledgeable, hard working, aggressive, outgoing, well spoken, and confident. These are traits they admire and even would like to emulate. It is on these virtues that those in need of legal services rely. On the basis of these strengths, each of us must formulate a plan to do our jobs better. We discussed and debated that very issue in the second part of the Town Hall Meeting April 25 in Faneuil Hall during the Annual Meeting.
Public confidence in our profession is critical in doing our jobs right. We must live up to that great responsibility, and how we handle it is what distinguishes us as true professionals. Lawyers must earn the right to be trusted once again.
Lawyers, as a profession, will never gain the trust of the public as long as they continue in their business practices to advertise like car salesmen and political candidates and talk like pirates.
This piece was written as a Guest Blogger’s post for the entertainment of lawyers and law students on Evan Schaeffer’s Notes from the (Legal) Underground, a lawyer’s weblog with a difference. It’s not so stuffy.