Expert on law firm marketing advises 'finding your brand'

By Elizabeth Jolliffe

DMBA President

Until I facilitated branding discussions at two recent events, I was skeptical whether ''brand'' is a relevant concept for lawyers or even for law firms. Compared to the word reputation as it relates to lawyers and law firms, brand seems an amorphous concept pushed by marketing consultants.

Preparing for the discussions, however, persuaded me that the concept of a brand does have relevance and value for lawyers.

Brand and branding have many different definitions. Put simply, a brand is the essence or promise of what will be delivered or experienced.


Lawyers should have a personal brand in the sense that you should figure out what the consistent experiences and expectations are that people have with you as a lawyer and what you want them to be. Ideally you want them aligned.

Lawyers do not need to have a personal brand in the sense of something you describe to someone else. You do not have to tell a prospective client your ''brand identity.''

For example, Nike does not say action, performance, excellence and success are its brand. But those words capture the essence of Nike athletic apparel and the image that Nike conveys in its marketing. By ensuring that its products live up to this image, Nike maintains its brand. The consumer knows what she will receive every single time she purchases a Nike product.

Capture the Essence

Like Nike, Apple, or McDonald's, consider what words capture the essence of you as a lawyer and the consistent experience you want people to have with you as their lawyer. Those words will not necessarily appear in your tag line, elevator speech, website biography or about the author notes. But self-reflection will better focus you on your strengths and core values as a lawyer, the services you offer, your reputation, image, style, real interests and fit with your best clients.

The Compelling You

With brand clarity you can create a more compelling website instead of using the same buzz words as every other law firm. You can revise your self-introduction to sound more like you. You can write a better personal business plan for 2012 or speak more confidently during your next evaluation.

The clarity and focus will help because you will realize what you do really well, what is important to you, how you connect with your clients and colleagues and why they keep coming back to you.

After you identify your brand, you can build brand awareness by raising your visibility and name recognition. Become known by your target market and potential referral sources for the consistency of the services and experiences you provide.


Getting focused and clear on your brand helps you attract more business, advance professionally and have more control over your career. Regardless of whether you are in a firm, corporation, government or elsewhere, a new lawyer or an experienced one, identifying your brand is time well spent.

The DMBA has worked hard to get focused and clear on what we offer. Through that process we developed the tag line ''Raising the Bar Through Networking, Practice Development and Community Service.'' We believe that by providing opportunities and value for our members consistent with this purpose, we are creating a more successful, closer knit legal community.

Elizabeth Jolliffe is a certified career management and business development coach for lawyers.

She practiced for 19 years as a business litigator and partner at Clark Hill PLC in Detroit.

Jolliffe can be reached at

BOSTON, MA -- A bill that would require employees to report suspected corporate wrongdoing internally before alerting the government has been advanced by the Capital Markets Subcommittee of the House Financial Services Committee.

The Whistleblower Improvement Act of 2011, H.R. 2483, was advanced by the subcommittee on a strict party-line vote of 19-14. The measure would require whistleblowers to report suspected corporate wrongdoing first to someone within the company with legal, compliance, financial reporting or similar responsibilities before reporting it to the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The measure would also change the range of possible whistleblower rewards from 10 to 30 percent to 0 to 30 percent, eliminating the automatic bounty.

Business groups and some employment attorneys have expressed concerns about the Dodd-Frank provisions, saying that the whistleblower and guaranteed bounty provisions incentivize employees to report possible securities violations to the government first instead of to the employer.

"For decades, companies have maintained effective internal reporting mechanisms to help them stop criminal activity early with the help of tips from anonymous whistleblowers," said the bill's co-sponsor Rep. Michael G. Grimm, R-N.Y, in a statement. "The overreaching provisions in Dodd-Frank make these internal programs obsolete, open the floodgates of claims to an already overburdened SEC and delay action on escalating crimes within a company."

But Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., ranking member of the House Financial Services Committee, blasted the vote to advance the bill, saying that the measure would weaken important whistleblower protections under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act, adding that many incidences of company corruption and security fraud violations that led to the financial crisis were reported by whistleblowers.

"It is as if Republicans have developed a case of mass amnesia, forgetting key causes of the financial crisis and thus seeing no reason to preserve laws designed to restrict them," Frank said in a statement. "But the financial reform law remains highly popular with the American public."

Meanwhile, according to a recent poll by the law firm Labaton Sucharow, 78 percent of Americans surveyed said they would report wrongdoing in the workplace, provided that they could do so anonymously, without retaliation, and claim a monetary award. The study also found that 68 percent of those surveyed said that they were unaware of the current whistleblower protections provided under Dodd-Frank.

Published: Thu, Dec 29, 2011


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