More often than not I agree with Kevin O’Keefe, but not today. I think Kevin’s off in his recent post, Telling lawyers to build a personal brand may be a big mistake:

I’ve presented at law schools, bar societies, bar associations, and association conferences of legal professionals talking about building one’s personal brand. I’ve talked about the importance of creating a personal brand – and of making yourself indispensable by doing so. I’ve talked about the importance of using blogging and other forms of social media as tools in building one’s personal brand. I was as passionate about the topic as I was talking with a jury in a closing argument. But as with juries, I often received a hollow response from some of the folks I was speaking to. Maybe it was my treatment of lawyers like they were Cialis – something Eli Lilly and Company works hard to brand. Rather than talking of personal branding, I’d actually be more comfortable categorizing the below practices for lawyers as expressions of humanity and integrity, as opposed to forms of ‘branding.’

  • Build a reputation by doing good work.
  • Put that work where others can judge its value.
  • Contribute to the success of others, and credit others generously for their contributions to your success.
  • Never promote for its own sake.

I’ve learned a ton from Doc Searls over the years. Today it’s “Building trust and maintaining a reputation matter. Calling both ‘branding’ is a categorical error.”

I don’t disagree with Kevin’s four bullet points, but I will argue that building and maintaining a personal brand is important. Lawyers come to marketers daily with the request to “differentiate” them from their competition. Usually this is impossible because their competition also graduated top of their class from a similarly ranked university, top of their class from an Ivy League law school, and are AV-rated, Best and Super-duperist with their competition who practice law across the hall, down the street, or on the other side of the country. Having a personal brand is what differentiates you from your competition. Your personal brand is what you stand for. It’s based on your reputation. It’s what you’re known for in the marketplace. It’s what comes to mind when someone says your name. We all have a brand. We all have a reputation to maintain and manage. However, where reputations are earned, a brand can be built.