Personal branding is not a luxury: what luxury in-house counsel should know about branding

29 Oct 2021 , 4:34pm

Just as brands define luxury goods, they also define in-house counsel; Deborah Farone provides five personal branding tips for GCs to consider.

Chanel: timeless luxury, a white camellia and gold buttons on a black blazer. Loro Piana: gorgeous fabrics and luscious cashmere from goat kids. Louis Vuitton: a ubiquitous logo and travel to foreign destinations. 

If you are reading this article, chances are, you understand the vital importance of maintaining a strong brand for luxury products. You know intrinsically what a recognisable brand means in terms of driving image, reputation and revenue. Yet less is known about the branding importance of the chief legal officer or the brand of the in-house lawyer at a luxury company. Why does it matter what CLO Renee is known for, or what comes to mind when you mention the name of intellectual property lawyer Olivia?  
 
Whether trying to resolve a legal controversy or aiming to locate your next career move, reputation and personal brand make an enormous difference. While a study commissioned by GE stated that 81% of shoppers research their product online before purchasing, the same trend may be true before meeting human beings. Who of us hasn’t googled someone they expect to meet to find clues about their experience or personality? And almost all of us have gone on LinkedIn after meeting someone for the first time. We want to learn more about their background and connections we may have in common. Taking technology out of the equation, if you were dealing with someone outside of your company and learned a coworker had worked with them, wouldn’t you ask your colleague for their impression of that person? 
 
A personal brand can make a difference when positioning yourself for a move up the corporate ladder or simply when trying to leverage your experience to meet a business objective. Branding on a personal level is more than your title or authorship of a great memo. There is evidence that gossip, that “did you know?” type of information, serves as a more significant role in developing personal reputation than other formal methods of communication. 
 
Yet how does one define and refine their personal brand? Here are five ways to look at it:  

Think about how you want to be known

Intelligent, innovative and collaborative. One exercise I’ve used when I am coaching leaders of organisations is to ask them to come up with three adjectives that define how they want to be known. Once we settle on these, we consider how those adjectives are used in how they communicate in writing and in what they say. We think about their work product and how it may help to establish support for how they want the world to see them.  

Review what is out there already

Many people will experience you first online, by looking at your LinkedIn profile or by searching the web for your name. If they like what they find, that’s great. It’s important for lawyers to look at their own online profiles and take the opportunity to improve what people are seeing. For example, writing a bylined article and placing it in an industry journal will help your web results. Communicating on LinkedIn will also remind your contacts what you stand for, which causes are close to your heart and the business issues that matter most to you.  

Consider who you admire in your industry and why

While self-reflection is the essential part of any personal branding exercise, it’s important to take a look at those who have succeeded within your own or similar professions. Take a look at how they comport themselves in a business setting and how they handle meetings. Then, think about the traits you want to emulate. 

Write a plan

Having a written plan is essential to any progress. I often remind people that there is research that demonstrates that if you write down a plan, you are more likely to achieve its goal. The most famous of these studies was conducted by psychology professor Dr Gail Matthews at the Dominican University of California. In 2007, Dr Matthews led a study on goal-setting that found those who wrote down their goals were 42% more likely to achieve them compared to those who simply thought about them.  
 
Take small steps

It’s hard to change things overnight. But by breaking down your plan into small steps, you can achieve your goals and have the world view you the way you deserve to be seen.  

Deborah Farone, of Farone Advisors, is a consultant and author of Best Practices in Law Firm Business Development and Marketing