Branding — Are you a better candidate than another lawyer?

A key to success in marketing is to have a clear brand strategy — to create an understanding in the marketplace about how your product is different from, and a better value than, another similar product.   Without a clear brand strategy, you will not be successful in the marketplace. This holds just as true for job seekers as it does for consumer product marketers.

Back the day, when General Motors was the leading car company not only in America, but in the world, each product line had a unique brand strategy. Chevrolet was the budget model. Pontiac was the fun, sporty model. Oldsmobile was the conservative model for our parents. Cadillac was for the rich. Over time, GM amalgamated all of its models, and you couldn’t tell a Chevy from a Pontiac or an Olds, and even Cadillac dabbled with less expensive models (remember the Cadillac Cimmaron? It was just a re-badged Chevrolet!). They were all parity products build on the same platforms, with the same look and same engines.

The result? Market confusion and a loss of brand identity. So what happened? GM lost its supremacy in the world market. It is not even America’s #1car maker anymore. Pontiac and Oldsmobile have disappeared. GM simply couldn’t compete against the other car makers whose products were easier to define and whose value was more apparent.   The same concept holds true for attorney job seekers. How is an employer supposed to tell the difference between legal job applicants who have the same experience in the same practice areas?  They can’t. This makes it much tougher for an attorney to prevail against the competition in the job market.

I have spoken with literally 20,000 attorneys over the last 20 years. That’s about 20 per week, week-in and week-out. They all claim to have the same core skills.   What are you good at? Write down 5 or 6 things on a sheet of paper, then come back to this blog article. (roll theme music from “Jeopardy) … OK, ready? Here’s what many of you will have said are your core talents:

1. research

2. writing

3. analyzing

4. problem-solving

5. advising

6. learning new things quickly

7. negotiating

If this is the best you can come up with, you need to do better. There is hardly a lawyer out there who cannot say that they lack any of the talents listed above. You can’t triumph against your competitors if you are making the same claims as they are.

I am not saying that these are not valuable skills. But you need to offer more. A Chevy and a BMW both have four tires and a steering wheel, and both will get you to work in the morning — but which would you rather drive?  If you think you are a BMW-level attorney, are you positioning yourself in the market as a Chevy?  If so, start doing some serious thinking about your brand strategy so you can gain a competitive edge in the hunt for a new job.