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Clarissa Rayward explores the growing trend of online marketing for lawyers.

It’s no surprise that in less than a decade, social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest have ballooned in both popularity and influence.

No longer considered a passing fad for the millennial generation, social media is now a core marketing strategy for many successful businesses as consumers trawl the net for information, resources and products.

But can it work for a profession that’s often regarded as conservative and traditional?

At a recent Deakin Law School’s (DLS) alumni event, Queensland family law specialist Clarissa Rayward explored the social media ‘sandpit’ and its capacity for lawyers to build their personal brand and actively engage with potential employees and clients.

For 13 years, Ms Rayward – who is Director of the Brisbane Family Law Centre – has been navigating Australian families through the challenges of separation and divorce. With a strong social media presence, her website ‘The Happy Family Lawyer’ also provides a wealth of insight, advice and resources.

She has been named among the leading  Queensland family layers by Doyle’s Guide, was awarded as the Lawyers Weekly ‘Thought Leader of the Year’ in 2015, and in 2016 launched her new venture ‘Happy Lawyer, Happy Life’ which offers insights and resources for legal professionals.

Ms Rayward explained that when potential clients knock on the door of a lawyer’s office, they’re already armed with online research and knowledge.

‘And that’s been a big shift in terms of how we operate as lawyers. So how, in a busy competitive market, do we stand out?’ she asked?

One of the first challenges for lawyers, she explained, is to build a personal brand.

‘Personal branding is the art of building a unique brand around you. It’s what you stand for, what you believe in, what you’re great at. But to build a good personal brand you have to be authentic, consistent and mindful.’

Establishing a personal brand is important because not only does it create a strong, reputable presence in the online marketplace but it also bolsters career development, opportunities and business growth.

Interestingly, she said that compared to 20-30 years ago, clients and customers are now less inclined to do business with big brand names.

‘Research tells us that if we have a choice between doing business between a person sitting in front of us or a big brand we’ll choose the person. This is very important to consider in law. For many years law has focused on big brands - heavily about building a name around the brand of the firm. While that still has currency, what we’re seeing is that micro-people can have just as much currency with their own brand as the big firm. That’s a big part of why this is so important.’

She explained that the key to building a personal brand is to identify the points of difference – or strengths – then build a brand around it.

‘Many [law] grads have a genuine desire to change or help people but sometimes in our daily jobs we become disconnected and can feel lost and unhappy. If that’s what driving you, make that part of your brand. What do you want to be known for? If you can identify your strengths then that becomes your goal and you can build a brand around that. Your brand is your story and once you’ve worked it out, your job is to tell it.’

Ms Rayward said that social media platforms are the obvious and easy way to share a brand’s story with a broad group of people – a process she calls ‘building a brand picture’.

‘By using social media you can grow an audience, build a community, build relationships and importantly, bring business back to your signature store – which in this environment, is usually your website. You name is the core of your signature store.’

An important first step she advised is to first carefully research – and understand – the social media environment before choosing the most appropriate platform. The next challenge is to remain active and engaged online.

 ‘Click into any [social media] content and you’ll see engagement. Ignore the number of followers – look at the platforms and their uses. My website is like my shop. I’m constantly creating little sections that drive readers back to my website, and its resources. As a divorce lawyer it enables me to build a relationship with potential clients.’

Acknowledging that social media is here to stay, Ms Rayward encouraged DLS alumni to build their personal brand and explore the professional possibilities of social media marketing.

‘There will be a way and a platform that will work for you and that’s where your clients are. Give them the opportunity to know and like you, and as a part of that, they will learn to trust you.’

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For more information visit The Happy Family Lawyer.