Lawyers often focus solely on external marketing; however, marketing yourself within a firm or organization is equally important. Internal marketing boils down to building a reputation and building relationships. Personal-brand building within one’s organization is rewarding for the individual and good for business.
Due to the nature of the positions, in-house and private-practice lawyers may have different outlooks and goals for career success.
According to Bill Gabovitch, vice president and associate general counsel at Staples Inc., for an in-house lawyer, it’s all about marketing yourself to internal clients — business people. Business people want to work with in-house lawyers who are personable, business knowledgeable, problem solvers, risk managers and others who work as hard as they do.
“It is very important for in-house lawyers to become trusted and respected by building a reputation for quality work and timeliness,” Gabovitch said.
With respect and trust come better assignments and greater potential for advancement within an organization.
For private-practice lawyers, it’s also important to market internally and develop a strategic plan.
According to leadership consultant and executive coach Rita Allen, president of Rita B. Allen Associates, “Lawyers should think big picture. Determine who you can be a resource to and who can be a resource to you. Determine how your similarities and differences can complement each other from a personality and practice perspective.”
Once you identify a list of potential resources, reach out to them. If the lawyer is in your office, schedule coffee or lunch with them. If you cannot meet in person, schedule a call or video conference.
Attend firm or organization events and network with colleagues. At events, don’t just speak with those you know; make it a point to meet new people. It is important for others within a firm or organization to know about your particular area of expertise.
Be prepared with a concise “elevator speech” to share about who you are and what you do.
Allen noted that phrasing your speech in a storytelling fashion can be an effective way to communicate what you do, so keep stories about your accomplishments in mind that you can tell whenever the opportunity presents itself.
Christine Watts Johnston and Mark Pomfret, labor and employment partners at K&L Gates, suggested that presenting at and/or attending another practice area department meeting, partnering with colleagues on external events, and collaborating with lawyers in other offices on projects such as articles or alerts are all ways to build referral relationships and earn trust from colleagues.
Follow up regularly with your internal contacts to develop and nurture those relationships. If you learn of an event that may interest a colleague, invite him to attend. If you see an article on a topic relevant to a colleague’s needs, send it to him. And be a connector: Introduce your colleagues to your contacts who are a good match. They will likely reciprocate.
“Be sincere, always practice professional etiquette, and make sure the relationship is mutually beneficial,” Allen said. “Think of relationships like planting seeds in the garden, nurturing them and watching them grow.”
Internal relationships are a way for others to get to know your practice, so when a client opportunity comes along, colleagues know and trust you and know how you can help the client. Continued relationship-building helps you stay top of mind.
Women’s Bar Association past President Deborah Hesford DosSantos said that, “in some ways, internal marketing is the proverbial ‘low-hanging fruit.’ You can do really good work for your colleagues and their clients, be very responsive to them, and gain a lot of ground in your own backyard and generate business. Don’t be afraid to remind your colleagues of what you do.”
In addition to individual outreach, private-practice lawyers should work with the firm’s marketing department to assist with initiatives such as marketing and business development plans, help with cross-selling initiatives, and promote accomplishments internally, such as speaking engagements, articles, client alerts and case accomplishments.
It’s important to remember is that relationship-building, developing a reputation and developing referral relationships all take time and don’t happen overnight. It takes a lot of hard work, and time is often limited. So develop a plan, be strategic and do what works for you.
Over the long term, your career will reap the rewards.
Ellen Keiley is a member of the business development department at K&L Gates in Boston. She is president of the Massachusetts Bar Association Women International Boston chapter board of directors and co-director of the Legal Marketing Association/New England chapter Sponsor Relations Committee. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.