“The great difficulty is first to win a reputation; the next to keep it while you live; and the next to preserve it after you die, when affection and interest are over, and nothing but sterling excellence can preserve your name and your youth too.” – Benjamin Haydon
As a lawyer, you are only as good as your last case. This means that in this industry, your career is fully dependent on your reputation and the trust that it brings.
A good example this past year of the fallout from a loss of reputation can be seen in what happened to Bracton Law Society, the law society for the University of Exeter and one of the largest in the country at over 1000 members.
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The loss of reputation I am referring to was the recent release of private Whatsapp messages taken from two senior Bracton Law Society committee members where they stated:
“If they’re black send them back”, “if you aren’t English, go home” and “my speech will just be Enoch Powell’s river of blood” amongst the worst things.
The impact of the release of this scandal was immediate, with the suspension of the law society, major investigations into the society, the loss of jobs of both committee members involved in the scandal, the social media rating of the society falling from 5 stars to 1 and a permanent mark upon the society’s name which will take a lot of work to remove.
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Law firms and chambers are concerned when they hire someone that the person will bring value or loss to the company through their reputation, and so they go to great efforts to investigate them.
This reliance on reputation is nothing new to work-life in general; it is well publicised that over 50% of future employers look up their employees-to-be, checking the information available online to see if they match up with the image portrayed of them in CV or cover letters.
So now we know that a bad reputation can be highly destructive, how can we build a good reputation?
Learning how to improve reputation is a lifelong lesson. Two great teachers of mine were Ronke Lawal, Founder and CEO of Ariatu PR, and Steve Hooper, Managing Director of Law SEO.
What they stated was that online reputation fell into three main camps:
Let’s address ‘1’ and ‘2’ together. Information about you can appear in many places, but is more likely to exist on university websites, social media and company pages.
Some information you cannot control, such as media coverage, university statements, so on. However, how you are portrayed on social media is entirely up to you.
As a lawyer, your concerns are mainly how you appear in two groups:
For group ‘B’ the best advice is to never state anything you would not say to your gran and to check anything you send out, because you do not know who may be reading or seeing it. A comment online is permanent in a way passing remarks are not.
LinkedIn is entirely different. Assuming you have it, you will have noticed that LinkedIn is basically the CV 2.0. According to reports by LinkedIn, they show that it is the leading source of work in the legal industry, as well as the exclusive search source for 48% of employers. Suffice to say, LinkedIn is the big muscle of industry.
Now LinkedIn itself tells you when you sign up how to maximise your reputation through recording diverse experiences on it. Since its guidelines are clear, there is no need for me to give instruction here. What I will say is:
Want to know more about creating the perfect online presence? Read this!
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