Don’t Block Your Brand

Last week’s meeting of the ABA’s Section of International Law offered a lot of interesting sessions, including one on the importance of branding. Life and career coach Diane Costigan led the session, discussing how to define a lawyer’s brand (his/her reputation), and how a lawyer can improve his/her brand (take responsibility for mistakes and work hard, among other things).

Diane also discussed “brand blockers”, which are behaviors or traits that block the positive parts of a lawyer’s brand. She listed stress, disorganization, poor communication skills, and time management problems as some of the most common brand blockers.

Of course, poor judgment and resulting faux pas can also block a brand. Diane regaled the audience with stories of some of the most notorious summer associate faux pas–from the sublime (accidentally hitting “reply all” to a corporate department email, and complaining about the boring corporate department attorneys) to the ridiculous (drinking too much at a recruiting party, jumping naked into a river thereafter, and then resisting arrest).

Even lawyers who are well past the summer associate years can block their brands; they, too, must ask themselves, “Am I engaging in behaviors that “block” the good aspects of my brand? Do any of my habits sabotage my reputation–and thus my professional success?”

Many lawyers don’t realize how their unflattering personal habits (like sloppiness, tardiness, and procrastination) really do negatively impact their professional reputation.  Even their behavior outside the office can negatively influence their brand.

During the session at the conference, I shared a story of one talented lawyer who sabotaged his success by behaving like a jerk outside the office; as an overly aggressive parent who yelled at referees during his children’s soccer games, he unwittingly lost the respect of the other parents–many of whom were prominent leaders in his community–and potential clients.  This lawyer had to be coached about how to dilute his negative brand as a “jerk” and regain the respect of his fellow professionals in the community.

Do you know whether you are engaging in brand blocking behaviors?  To find out, and as discussed in my prior blog post, ponder what would your clients say about you? Try this simple exercise for some answers.  Email more than a dozen clients, colleagues and co-workers and ask them to reply honestly with 5-10 words or phrases–positive AND negative–that describe you. The feedback may be enlightening–and you may uncover some big brand blockers that beg to be discarded.

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