There is a debate among law firms about hiring sales professionals to drive the process of bringing in new clients. As a salesperson, I understand the need. As a lawyer, while I might welcome the help, I would never give up a role in the process.
You should use your law firm as much as possible to help you get in front of clients. If the client services, business development, or marketing department wants to help you do that, work with them as much as possible. If they are looking to replace your role in that process with the goal of simply bringing you new work to bill, run for the hills.
Sure, you can develop a strong relationship with the client once the work starts. In fact, this is your chance to really develop and show your expertise. However, have you ever heard of clients that want the name on the letterhead? Or have you watched a respected attorney leave the firm convinced their client will go with them, only to learn they would rather stay with the firm?
If you aren’t involved early with proving yourself irreplaceable to both the firm and your client, you commoditize your value. You are no longer unique and important. You are part of a larger standardized firm-wide message. Your contacts are kept in their database, you use their marketing materials, the client development person controls the sales process, and you are interchangeable with someone else who can do the work.
You become the opposite of unique and valuable. You are now replaceable.
If personal branding, a term that I dislike, has had any positive impact, it’s in the fact that it focuses on being unique. However, you can eliminate the term and focus on more substantive pieces than branding (or you can just wear a red suit, funny glasses, take pictures with your mouth open and think that’s enough). Establish an impeccable reputation, be visible, deliver on expectations, create a real relationship, and become an expert.
And please, hold on to your ability to establish that connection with a client early and often. Be the one they can’t replace.