(Note—This is the fifth in a series of posts taken from my recent presentation to attorneys and legal professionals at the DRI conference in New York.)

The last time out, I discussed the “Myth of Cross-Selling,” and how increasingly, corporate clients are looking to find and engage individual attorneys (not law firms as a whole).

So if institutional relationships aren’t the way to go, how should law firms and attorneys approach client development? In my experience, savvy legal marketers need to look beyond institutional branding and toward building the brands of individual attorneys.. Some avenues for brand-building include:

Well-written attorney bios with search engine-savvy terms and specific, detailed descriptions of practices. Too many attorneys try to cast the net too wide in their Web bios, for fear of leaving out a potential client. But what they are left with are overly general narratives that aren’t relevant to serious would-be clients. 

 Attorney-written blogs, again replete with search terms. Blogging is one of the best ways for attorneys to stake an ownership claim to a particular legal topic. For example, at Womble Carlyle, we have 18 blogs, 12 of them that are appropriately (in my evaluation) robust and active.  In particular, two of our attorneys write a popular blog devoted solely to the practice of furniture industry law. Become a source of valuable information and you will attract attention.

Social media, such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Such outlets give attorneys the chance to communicate directly and frequently with clients and prospective clients. Attorneys should seek out and “friend” like-minded individuals in order to build social media networks. Also, pass along useful articles and helpful hints from others, and leave comments on other people’s pages. Again, it is vital that the conversation be two-way. And don’t be afraid to throw in an occasional touch of your personality. Social media is about relationship-building, after all – relationships that have the supplementary benefit of feeding the Google algorithm.

Topic-specific articles and guest columns for trade journals and legal industry publications. There is no shortage of respected publications that want and need quality attorney-written content. DRI, for example, offers more than 20 topic-specific newsletters that are driven by content provided by attorneys.

Video. There are few more effective ways to build a personal brand than to speak directly to your audience. Thanks to social media tools, including You Tube, you don’t need a slick advertising firm or a big budget to effectively use video. The smashing success of the recent Old Spice viral marketing campaign raised the bar of just how effective online video can be. Imagine what the attorney equivalent of the Old Spice Man and how it could be a difference-maker in recruiting business.

So how do you know what to promote in your individual brand? For starters, narrow your focus. Adrian Dayton, a noted authority in using social media in a legal context, says that too many attorneys try to be “the legal version of duct tape: ‘You can use us for pretty much anything.’”

But buyers aren’t looking for Jacks of all trades. They are looking for specialists who know truly know their niche. Lawyers should build their personal brands around that which they do best.

Focus on your strengths –your competitive advantages -, both as an attorney and as an individual. At Womble Carlyle, we use Gallup Strengths assessments to help lawyers identify their strongest attributes. In selling yourself to others, place yourself in positions that will allow your best traits to be on display naturally. Also, by focusing on your strongest points, you mostly likely will find that you will work with a level of comfort, energy, and enthusiasm that is needed to make your individual brand-building efforts successful over the long haul. 

Next up, we will tackle perhaps the most important question legal marketers should be asking: What is most important to buyers of legal services?