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The LexisNexis Aspire networking and professional forum met on Thursday 7th June 2018. Hosted by Sophie Gould, Head of In-house, LexisNexis, this session looked at building your personal brand, in-house counsel’s role in navigating a successful Brexit for your business and included an interactive 'in conversation with' senior counsel who shared thoughts on how best junior in-house lawyers can succeed.
Aspire meets 4 times a year and provides a free networking service which is a key life line to many starting out in their in-house legal career.
This is the first in our series of three posts sharing insights and learnings from the forum. In this post, leaders in the in-house community give their practical advice and top tips on how to build your personal brand.
The strength of storytelling
An ex lawyer and journalist, Dana Denis-Smith is the founder of Obelisk and First 100 Years. She is a TEDx speaker and won Legal Personality of the Year 2018 at the LexisNexis awards.
Dana’s time in journalism reinforced her interest in and understanding of stories; the need for a beginning and an end around a substantial middle. She sees herself as promoting messages, rather than herself. Dana’s advice is to consider what story you would like to be remembered why and work backwards from this.
With a varied CV, several projects/businesses and a family, Dana emphasises the need to focus in order to succeed; it’s very easy to take on too many projects and responsibilities and be unable to do all of them well. Focus on those most important to you, and drop the others. For Dana, she chose her business, her family and her project on women in law. Any more than that means falling short of what’s needed. Narrowing your focus also allows you to build your expertise in these areas. You should also prioritise those projects that are time-pressured – not everything needs to be done now, but some things do.
As for role models, Dana says nobody is perfect - draw inspiration from different people for different things.
Know your end goal
Mary Bonsor is the CEO and co-founder of F-Lex, an online platform connecting paralegals with law firms and general counsel for a flexible, on demand service. The service won awards for Legal Supplier Innovation at the Lexis Nexis Legal Awards 2018, as well as Legal Innovator of the Year at the Legal Business Awards 2018. Before launching F-LEX, Mary was a property litigation solicitor for a city firm.
For Mary, her personal brand is very much tied to her business. Many of us struggle with self-promotion – it’s a hard skill to get right – and using a platform such as a business is a good strategy.
When thinking about your personal brand, you should consider what it is you’re trying to achieve. What identity are you trying to present? In many cases, you’ll be aiming to encourage people to choose you and/or your services over an alternative; having a strong personal brand makes you recognisable, and enables you to build trust through visibility and accountability.
Whatever your brand, be genuine, honest and true to yourself. Demonstrate your personality, your passion(s) and what you believe in. Your online presence plays an important role, too: Mary is interested in people, hearing stories and learning different perspectives so she demonstrates this by ‘liking’ and promoting people, for example through F-LEX’s ‘Paralegal of the month’. Dana also supports her interests online by frequently sharing relevant articles and opinions.
Self-promotion needn’t be about bragging. Try to find other ways to promote yourself; Mary uses F-LEX, but you could write articles to build your reputation and expertise. This is also a good way of building your brand within an organisation, as well as externally.
Join Aspire today
Aspire is free to join and open to all in-house lawyers in the early stages of their legal career. If you wish to be informed about future Aspire events please register your interest here.
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