Branding and Positioning

What do you want? Yes, that’s a pretty big question for lawyers since most would start by explaining… “That depends…” I think Forbes contributorBruce Kasanoff who ghostwrites articles for entrepreneurs, and speaks about bringing out talent in others has a great bit of advice. Kasanoff explains…

“To paraphrase a bit, a professional recently wrote me to say that he was capable of being a VP, but that he was happy in his job, but he didn’t do such a good job of representing himself, but he was proud of his accomplishments, but he thought he should probably improve his skills, and what did I think?

I think he should have written: can you help me become a VP this year?

To get what you want, you have to be coherent, both inside and out.

This means you have to be clear, simple and focused in how you communicate with others. It also means you have to be clear, simple and focused in how you think. If one day you want to be VP, and the next you aren’t sure that you want to work harder or travel more, then you will never be a VP.

Perhaps you don’t want to be a VP. That’s ok— but to get what you want, you need to know what you want.

Once you decide, stick with it.

Wake up every day with your goal in mind. Simplify your language so that you can hold your goal in your mind and be prepared to share it with others. Be ready to deliver your elevator pitch whenever appropriate.

Your elevator pitch is what you will say to whomever has the potential to help you get what you want: a colleague, friend, neighbor or potential employer.

You need to make it easy for other people to help you. 60% of the people I meet do not do this. Instead, they share a sort of “stream of consciousness” slice of their feelings, emotions, experiences and ideas. I’m often left wondering whether the other person wants to be a magician or a doctor. In a perfect world, I would have days and days to get to know what’s in that person’s heart. But in the real world, I may only have a few minutes.

Just the other day, a young man wrote to say he actually wanted to be a doctor, but that he had been sidelined by financial and personal issues. He seemed more focused on those problems than on his goal of being a doctor. That’s understandable, but if your goal is to be a doctor, focus all your energies on that goal, so that any problems or obstacles pale in comparison.

I know this may sound trite, but that is how successful people operate. They know what they want, and they focus on that goal. The goal grows and grows until it block out most other things. They see the result in their mind, so clearly that they can describe it in powerful terms to others. At that point, it becomes exceptionally easy for other people to help. Why? Partially because they understand the goal, but also because it is human nature to want to join a winning team. When we sense that a person has fire in her belly and is destined to succeed, we want to help her out.”

Lawyers… take note that focusing on why you can’t do something, and focusing on the obstacles, doesn’t really get you where you want to go. Be clear and focus on your goal with blinders on and don’t let the naysayers rain on your parade. It’s your career and your life, stay in the driver’s seat! 

If you would like help figuring out what you truly want, drop me an email.

To be a strong business developer you don’t have to be a shark… but meek won’t do either! People hire those that are confident in what the do and know, and make no apologies for it. Inc. magazine’s staff writer, Abigail Tracy attended the National Association of Professional Women conference where the keynote speaker was Barbara Corcoran, entrepreneur, real estate mogul, ABC’s Shark Tank fame and as Tracy puts it, “a wildly successful and unapologetic businesswoman.”

Tracy passes on Ms. Corcoran’s wisdom…

The meek shall not inherit the earth. After entering the New York real estate business, Corcoran quickly realized that what her mother taught her and her siblings during their childhood didn’t necessarily hold true in the big city. ‘I found as a real estate broker that people really respond to how you look–especially in a town like New York,’ Corcoran said. ‘If you act and look successful, people will make the wrongful assumption that you are.’

That was a lesson, she said, that she stumbled upon by accident during the first real estate recession she experienced. On a whim, a desperate Corcoran totaled up all the sales that she made that year, found the average apartment price, typed up the results, labeled the document ‘The Corcoran Report,’ and mailed it to The New York Times.

‘I didn’t expect anything good. I didn’t expect anything bad. I was just trying everything,’ Corcoran said. Shortly after, she opened up the newspaper and saw that her off-the-cuff report made the front page of the real estate section. It was a turning point for The Corcoran Group and changed the way she did business.

‘If you want to be a somebody or you want to grab a market that you didn’t have before or you want to look bigger than you are–go brag about it before you have it,’ Corcoran said. ‘Its not illegal. I have used that technique again and again and again on anything I have wanted.’

It is important to remember that you must market for what you want… NOT for what you have. That creates a dilemma for some lawyers. True, you may not be an expert at this chosen practice. But, can you do it? Of course you can. That is all you have to state. Did Corcoran miss represent her sales? No, she just stated the facts in a bold way… ‘The Corcoran Report.’ With this approach, soon, like Corcoran you will be the expert. You have to feel successful in order to be successful. If YOU don’t believe it, you will never convince others.

If you would like a little help with this process, let’s talk! Shoot me an email today.

Last week I made a speech about making a speech. I first asked the audience to raise their hands if they give speeches on a regular basis, how many do it occasionally, how many lead meetings, how many share their expertise with their colleagues and clients. As you can imagine more and more hands were raised until it was everyone in the room… because we all share our expertise with our colleagues and clients. So even though “giving a speech” may sound intimidating, most of us practice the basics each and every day. Speaking is a powerful tool for business development, and here are 7 key strategies to make you more effective (or help you get started!)

  1.  Can you simply share? We do it everyday, but when we think of delivering a speech we elevate it to lofty academic pearls. Yes, there are times that would be appropriate but most of the time it can simply be the act of sharing what you know, as you do every single day.
  2. Is your message clear? Make sure your message is crystal clear. Get rid of acronyms and insider terms.
  3. Does your audience care about this topic? If not find a connection that will make them care or pick another topic. Just because you think they NEED to know about this topic doesn’t mean they care.
  4. Be a storyteller. Tell a compelling story that will resonate with your audience. This is the best way to be memorable.
  5. Repetition, repetition, repetition! Get in front of an audience again and again. The more you speak the better you’ll be, and the better you are the more fun you’ll have, and the more fun you are having, the more your audience will engage with you and your message!
  6. You can do it your way. There are many ways to be a successful speaker… so do it YOUR way. Do what feels comfortable, if you have a great sense of humor… use it.
  7. Strive to be real… not perfect! I’ve saved the most important for last. REAL trumps perfect every time. An audience wants to see you, not a performance.

Here is a great TED Talk by Joe Kowan, How I Beat Stage Fright, that will engage, inspire and make you laugh!

We all know the lawyer who walks into a room and and owns it. There is no mistake that his body language is saying… “I’m in charge.” So, what if your body language isn’t as commanding… can you change it? Well, according to Harvard professor and researcher Amy Cuddy, the answer is… YES! And a pretty emphatic yes if you ask me. She says, “Don’t fake it till you make it. Fake it till you become it.”

Body language can influence what others think about us, but can it influence what we think about ourselves? Have you ever felt like an impostor? Like you don’t deserve to be here? How many times have you walked into a meeting feeling that pain of not belonging? What if you could do something to change that and feel more powerful? Cuddy tells us how…


Are you mad at me? That’s a pretty eye-opening question to be asked, especially if in your opinion there is no basis to think such a thing. That is exactly what happened to Adam Bryant, a contributor to LinkedIn and writer of the column Corner Office for The New York Times.

A colleague I had worked with over the years came up to me in the hallway and asked if we could talk in a conference room. Sure, I said, wondering what was up. We sat down, and the question came out of the blue: “Are you mad at me?” Of course not, I responded immediately, since I had to no reason to be.

I was puzzled, but I realized later what was going on. As an editor, I faced a lot of tight deadlines, and I would often have just a short window to get a story into shape for the next day’s paper. I’m guessing I was thinking hard about some story as I walked through the newsroom one day — probably furrowing my brow, my mind a million miles away — when I briefly locked eyes with my colleague, who was startled enough by my body language to later pull me into a conference room to wonder if the air needed to be cleared between us.

That colleague did me a huge favor, because I learned a memorable lesson that day about how people can read so much into subtle, and often unintended, cues. From that moment on, I found myself making much more of an effort to be aware of my body language, particularly with the team of reporters I was leading, and to always show energy, confidence and optimism, even if I was on a tight deadline and wrestling with a difficult problem.

Many of us have similar stories. People can’t read our minds, but they do try to read our body language. Sometimes they’re right and sometimes they’re wrong. When they’re wrong is it because we have given the wrong message?  It is very important to identify situations in which you may be giving unintended cues. Bryant has an example of how to avoid this type of miscommunication.

Many CEOs have told me similar stories about moments when they realized how much they were, in effect, constantly under the bright lights of a stage, intensely scrutinized by employees who often pay more attention to the non-verbal cues than what their leaders are saying. Do they look concerned? Is something up?

It’s a challenge that every leader faces. Here’s a smart tip that Jeffrey Swartz, the former CEO of Timberland, told me he learned from his father:

“I remember him saying, ‘Pick a face. If you want to be serious, then you have to be serious all the time. Because if you’re serious one day and happy the next, people will be confused. They won’t be able to figure out where you’re coming from and that’ll be threatening.’”

Pick a face. Ever since that colleague asked me the surprising question about whether I was angry, I’ve tried to pick a face – no more furrowed brows – and be consistent. If leaders are consistent, then their employees can spend more time focusing on their work, and less time searching for clues in the boss’s body language.

I believe the real question here is this. What face do YOU want to be known for? Friendly, approachable, and happy or distant, unapproachable and angry? Ask yourself… What’s really in my heart? If it is, friendly, approachable, and happy, then show it. It’s as simple as that. It’s your choice. The more you show it the more you feel it. It builds on itself, and it makes a real difference to the people around you. 

Everyone has had an experience with someone who has given service that delights you. Someone who went beyond the call-of-duty. AND it is an experience that you remember, and often talk about over and over again. So I ask you… are you delighting your clients or are you simply going through the motions? Merrilyn Astin Tarlton has Five Big Surprises, at Attorney at Work blog. They are a must if you want to delight your clients… and have them recommend you to their colleagues.

1. Go calling. You may think you know what your client’s day-to-day life is like. After all, this isn’t your first time at the lawyer-client rodeo, right? But all it takes is one spontaneous drop-in visit to realize that your cloistered law office is like Alpha Centaurus when compared to the world your clients inhabit every day. First, you’ll find it invaluable to your ability to help solve their legal problems once you really understand what their enterprise looks, feels and sounds like. Second, who ever heard of a lawyer who makes house calls? Imagine their surprise! And delight. (Oh yeah, don’t bill for your time.)

2. Pay a genuine compliment. I’m not talking about the false, exaggerated or gratuitous kind of compliment. Make it genuine. Clients grow so accustomed to lawyers finding fault with everything (that is, after all, what they pay you to do) that when you do offer praise, it feels particularly remarkable. “You seem to have a surprising grasp of the legal principles at work here” can send a young businesswoman out of your office several inches taller. “You always know the best restaurants for lunch” may seem meager praise, but it immediately grants respect and acknowledges familiarity. Who doesn’t like that?

3. See the big picture. Yes, the client came to you with another crappy little wrongful termination suit. It didn’t take much to handle because you’ve done it for him dozens of times. This time, talk to him about how to prevent it from happening again. Develop policy. Suggest supervisor training. (Heck, offer to teach the supervisors yourself.) Show your client that you feel it’s your job to help him succeed, not to just clean up messes.

4. Under-promise and over-deliver. When somebody asks exactly when you plan to show up, do you do that thing where you don’t want the person to get irritated so you say, “I’m leaving in five minutes”? Even though you know it’s going to take at least 30 minutes to finish the document … and that you have to send off a bunch of emails before you can leave? What happens? You not only arrive an hour later than you promised, but you prove yourself an unreliable witness. This is a really easy and well-intentioned way to destroy someone’s trust in you. Why not do it in reverse? Promise you’ll have the documents ready by Friday, but call Wednesday to schedule time Thursday morning for the client to come in and sign. Surprise!

5. Say thank you often. That client doesn’t have to choose you. There are plenty of other lawyers out there. So don’t get confused about who is doing who a favor. Say thank you when she returns your call promptly. Say thank you when you are referred to someone she knows, and when you are paid, and when you are complimented … even when she thanks you. “No. Thank you. It’s been a pleasure to work with you.”

BONUS: Ask how you did. When it’s all over, that’s when you want feedback. And don’t get all balled up in thinking that since your client isn’t a lawyer he isn’t really a good judge of your performance. (Read what Roy Ginsburg says about the one thing clients can judge quite accurately.) Because it doesn’t matter whether the feedback is an “accurate” assessment, it will be the truth about what your client thinks. And what he thinks, rightly or wrongly, is what will make him come back again … or not. And boy, will he be surprised when you ask!

These principles may be common sense… but do you put them into practice 100% of the time? No! Not because you don’t want to or because you’re basically a rude person. No, it’s because you get busy and laser focused on the matter you’re working on.

I worked with a client this morning, and he observed that the most valuable thing that he’s learned while working with me is that business development is equally as important as the legal work. “Before you, I thought it was secondary… when and if I had time.”

I tell you… there’s nothing more important then to dazzle your clients with whatever means you can… brilliant lawyering, a smile and a thank you… or just doing what you said you would do! Do it in such a way that they will tell the story over and over again to anyone who will listen. That is what business development all about.

At the end of April, I was on a panel at the ABA Annual Litigation Conference in Chicago with Laurel Bellows (the ABA President), Sofia Lingos, Damian Thomas, Paul Lehner and practice  management expert Ann Guinn. We spoke to solo and small firm lawyers on the subject of creating a successful practice. I encouraged the audience to… Dare to dream. Redefine your practice in YOUR way. Something unique that will set you apart from the rest.

This week my friend Cordell Parvin had such a powerful blog post that I feel I must share it with every lawyer I know. Cordell writes…

 I love this Oprah Winfrey quote:

‘I’ve come to believe that each of us has a personal calling that’s as unique as a fingerprint – and that the best way to succeed is to discover what you love and then find a way to offer it to others in the form of service, working hard, and also allowing the energy of the universe to lead you.’

Take a minute. Think about 5 years from now, 10 years from now. Describe what would be your dream law practice. What kind of work are you doing? Who are your clients? I did that in 1978 at a point where I was just doing the work other lawyers handed me.

I realized that my future and happiness practicing law depended on me creating a compelling future-something that would energize me even during the most difficult times.

Many years ago in the early 90s I read Anthony Robbins book: Awaken the Giant Within. I got many ideas from the book that I have used personally and suggest you consider reading it.

If you only have time to read one chapter, read: The Magnificent Obsession-Creating a Compelling Future. In that chapter, Robbins describes many lawyers I know:

Many people (lawyers I know) in life know what (career and client development activities) they should do, but they never do it. The reason is that they’re lacking the drive that only a compelling future can provide.

Later Robbins says:

You’re not lazy! You just have impotent goals!’

Describe your compelling future. If, it is indeed, compelling, then you will have the motivation you need to go after it.

Well put Cordell. So often the dream is left out of the equation, when in fact it is the spark that will ignite your vision, your spirit and your enthusiasm. Just because there is no precedent for your dream doesn’t mean that it is invalid. Discover what you love and live it!

GCs are using social media to hire law firms. Could it be? The answer is YES according to John Cory, the founder of GreenTarget. The big takeaway is… blogs are a credible source of information, and Linkedin is a place to connect and create relationships. If you are focused on General Counsel, take the time (8 min.) to watch Lee Pacchia the host of Bloomberg Law, interview Cory.

In the legal profession there is no lack of critics. I was at a Bench and Bar Conference and heard comments like… “I didn’t think the conference had enough substance.” “I think there were too many breakout sessions and not enough time to network.” “I don’t want to waste my time networking, I came to get CLE credit and I will do networking at another event.” So, whom do you listen to? The critics or those that matter? Seth Godin has some insights…

For the one person who didn’t get the joke.

The fabled comedian is killing it at a club that seats 400. One guy in the back, though, isn’t laughing.

Miles Davis was shunned by a few people in the audience, even at his coolest.

The theater critic at the Times might not like this play, the one that made people cry and sold tickets for years.

And just about every blog post and book listing collects a trolling comment from someone who didn’t like it, didn’t read it or didn’t agree with it (or all three) and isn’t shy about speaking up with a sharp tongue.

For those people, the message from the creator of the work is clear: ‘It’s not for you.’

Unanimity is impossible unless you are willing to be invisible. We can be unanimous in our lack of feedback for the invisible one.

For everyone else, though, the ability to say, ‘It’s not for you,’ is the foundation for creating something brave and important. You can’t do your best work if you’re always trying to touch the untouchable, or entertain those that refuse to be entertained.

‘It’s not for you.’

This is easy to say and incredibly difficult to do. You don’t have much choice, though, not if you want your work to matter.

Who’s your core audience and what do they want? What do you want them to think? How do you resonate with them? If you don’t know the answer to these questions then ASK them! For those member of your audience that matter… make adjustments. For those that don’t matter, don’t waste your time worrying about it… say “thank you for sharing” and move on with your day.

Building a personal brand requires that people remember who you are… simple, right? Well, maybe not so simple. Inc. Magazine ran an article by Jessica StillmanA Simple Trick For Being More Memorable. Stillman writes…

Being memorable isn’t hard. But being memorable without seeming like a crackpot or a shameless self-promoter is trickier.

Sure, showing up with a ridiculous hat or boasting about your many, many amazing accomplishments will probably ensure that most folks you meet, no matter how busy they are, will remember you. The obvious downside, though, is they will remember you for being insane, ill dressed, or simply annoying.

But perhaps one can channel the same principle that makes the oddly attired and bizarrely brash stand out in our minds. That’s according to a tidbit of wisdom in the business book Dinosaur Brains: Dealing With All Those Impossible People at Work unearthed by Farnam Street, a consistently interesting blog dedicated to hunting down just these sorts of fascinating ideas in out-of-the-way places.

People are more memorable when their names and faces are linked to stories or experiences. The more associations your new contact has for you, the more likely you will get permanently lodged in his or her long-term memory. This, according to the U.K.’s Guardian newspaper, is the same technique author Joshua Foer used to learn an obscure African language in all of 22 hours--he associated vocabulary with elaborate images or stories, making it easier to recall.

How can you put this insight to use at your next business function? Dinosaur Brains spells it out:

Assume that when people think of you, they will store your name, a mental picture of you, a few words they associate with you and a few stories about your behavior. From this they will make all the decisions they have to make about you.

Name association is a good start for promoting yourself because you can do it in a self-deprecating way. Decide what you want people to remember when they think of you. Then say things about yourself that create those images.

You can say,

‘I’m just an old war-horse. I’ve been around here forever.’


‘Back in 1967, when I started managing in this division …’

In short, give people pithy and relevant context to help them remember you, and their memory banks are more likely to light up for the right reasons when you follow up later on. (According to 42Floors founder Jason Freedman, it also doesn’t hurt to simply remind busy people of the context in which you met them.)

Storytelling is a sure fire way to be more memorable. This is especially important when you attend Bar functions with hundreds of lawyers, the most important aspect next to your name is your practice area. Tell a short story that will help the person remember your specialty. Tie it all together with what makes you different from others in the practice area. Tell a story and be more memorable.