For a long time, the three most important letters to lawyers on the internet were SEO. But now that everybody on the internet is an SEO expert New York criminal defense lawyer, and page 1 of Google hasn't gotten any longer, the cool word has changed to branding.
Establishing yourself as a skilled, hard-working lawyer based on what you do is, well, really hard. It takes not only effort, but time. Nobody can be bothered with the first or can wait for the second. The car payment is due, the kids are hungry and we need money now. So rather than make the long, hard, uphill climb to success, why not just create a brand that will make clients want you more than any other lawyer around?
Yes, yes, you say? Marketing guru Seth Godin explains how:
Apple's naming approach is inconsistent, it begs for lawsuits (offensive and defensive) and it shouldn't be the model for your organization. iPhone is a phone, iPad is a pad, iPod is a ... (and owning a letter of the alphabet is i-mpossible).
Procter and Gamble, on the other hand, has been doing it beautifully for a hundred years. Crisco, Tide, Pringles, Bounty, Duracell—these are fanciful names that turn the generic product (and the story we believe about it) into something distinct.
No, you dope. You don't want to rename your practice The Crisco Law Firm. You completely misunderstood Godin. Plus, it carries some unfortunate implications for lock-up that may not entice new clients to come to you.
So many lawyers are striving to find a way to distinguish themselves from all the other lawyers who have carefully crafted their online personas to bring in the clients, and frankly, it's damn hard. We're all pretty much the same on paper. Sure, some have been around longer than others, but an old fool is worse than a young fool, so that doesn't tell the full story. Some of us have higher Avvo ratings, but that just means you haven't figured out how to put inconsequential nonsense into your profile to fool the algorithm.
In some jurisdictions, lawyers aren't allowed to practice under a trade name. Those old men just don't get it. They are branding idiots, determined to make life miserable for anyone with a flair for the cool and enticing. They wouldn't know cutting edge if it bit them in the butt.
But even such archaic rules can be played. After all, hasn't Morrison Foerster become MoFo?
Worse still, if you've got the terrible misfortune of having an Anglo name like Smith, following in the footsteps of your father and grandfather, the naming options will kill you. Smith, Smith, Jones & Smith? You've got to be kidding. Google is going to slaughter you. Page 37 at best, and nobody will ever know you exist on the web.
At this point, you probably wonder how someone like me, avant-garde and all, plans to rebrand himself to take advantage of this vital and cutting edge marketing concept. While I've considered some of my options, like Curmudgeon Law, Scott "If you have to ask, you can't afford me" Greenfield and The Law Office of the Guy Who Writes Simple Justice, they've gotten a lukewarm reception. Apparently, my knowledge of the concept of branding is far better than my execution. I am so ashamed.
But just because I suck at branding doesn't mean you will. Go for it. Remake yourself into something far, far cooler than you are. One fanciful name will do the trick, and the next thing you know, you'll be rolling in dough. Brand, baby, brand!
If it works for laundry detergent, you know it will work for you.