As visions of Avvocating still dance in my head, I wanted to share a theme that repeatedly came up at the conference: Establishing yourself as an expert. I’ve written about this before, but it will never lose its relevance. The reality is that delivering legal services offers few differentiation opportunities. Legal services are not like iPads or practice management software, which can be designed with any combination of marketable bells and whistles.
Instead, the differentiation any lawyer can offer is limited by what is permitted by the legal process. Yes, there is some creativity in it all; but lawyers are hired to deliver an expected outcome, and as such the differentiation is in the downside rather than the upside. In other words, the differentiation opportunity is similar to that of an airline or drug company – something to the effect of, “Use us because we won’t screw it up.”
I call this “disaster differentiation,” and the only way to succeed in this differentiation is to ensure prospective clients that the expected will occur (or, conversely, that the potential disaster will not). In the legal profession, the “expected” is that you to know more than any potential client regarding their legal issue and the legal system that governs it. You satisfy this by establishing that you have the expertise to avoid any downside – that, similar to a pilot, you will not lose control of the plane in a storm.
At Avvocating, three tools seemed to be the favorites for demonstrating (or do I dare say “advertising”?) your legal expertise:
1. Interviews by the press: Television, radio and print (online and offline) are all powerful mediums for establishing your legal expertise. If a credible news channel asks for your legal point of view, who will doubt your expertise? Unfortunately too many lawyers fear the media opportunity, which is why we have a periodic webinar on this very subject. Our new webinar schedule is not entirely complete, but please check back at the Avvo Blog and we should have the availability of this webinar posted shortly.
2. Blogging: Offering your opinions on a blog allows others to understand and reference your expertise. If many in the blogosphere, including traditional media outlets, are referring to your blog posts, your status as an “expert” is dramatically enhanced.
3. Testimonials and Endorsements: Politicians have used these for years, and lawyers are only now getting around to using them effectively. One of the reasons that sites like Avvo and LinkedIn have boomed is because they allow people to speak to and endorse the expertise of another. That’s powerful stuff. Anytime someone takes the time to compliment your expertise, it helps reinforce that you are in fact an expert.
For some lawyers, “advertising” their expertise feels too salesy. For others, it is a critical part of their marketing strategy, and they are out there every day turning their expertise into business. It’s ultimately your call; but, in an environment of limited differentiation, the only real choice is to market yourself as the expert that (1) you are, and (2) your potential clients expect you to be.