On Being Different Instead of Better

Once a week, on my commute in to work, I listen to a podcast called Two Bobs that helps agency owners make their agency outstanding. More often than not, the concepts that apply to the highly creative and technical world of online marketing apply just as readily to legal.

“Sometimes it is better to be different than to be better” – David C. Baker

Lawyers have a very hard time differentiating themselves among other lawyers – especially from the perspective of potential clients. It’s not that it’s hard to do, it’s just that most lawyers wrap themselves in lawyerly imagery – scales of justice, gavels, middle aged white men with red ties etc. Most lawyers make the mistake of positioning themselves as…lawyers…or at best, in David’s construct…the “better lawyer.”

Quite obviously, being a lawyer is not a differentiator from which a prospective client can select among a sea of potential legal representation. Even being the “best lawyer” is hard to truly assess. This, despite the slew of award icons prominently displayed on legal websites – AV Rating, Avvo Rating, and even entirely fake and bogus paid awards like “Lawyers of Distinction.” In the marketing world, we call these “trust marks” – and they are a visual attempt to convey “best lawyer” positioning. The problem, of course, is that there are a myriad of these trust marks, most of which are completely meaningless to average Joe Consumer. Being “best” is simply a very difficult position to hold – especially in the awards arms race of legal marketing. This extends to the personal injury world where the arms race is self aggrandizing award boasts. “Over $300K recovered…more than a million dollars in awards…largest settlement…” Blah blah blah.

Being different isn’t difficult.

Being different is easy.

It requires courage to embrace the fact that lawyers compete not on the “best lawyer” continuum, but on the, “why should I hire you?” continuum. And the reality is that most prospective consumers know they can’t accurately assess “best” and instead try to answer the second question.

Being different is a positioning that transforms the lawyer selection process in the prospect’s mind from, “which lawyer do I want to hire?” to “which person do I want to work with?” And in the prospect’s mind, being different never has anything to do with evaluating lawyers on the lawyerly continuum. Try as they might, lawyers simply can’t be more lawyerly than other lawyers.

On the other hand, a lawyer or law firm can be an openly gay lawyer, the expert in self driving vehicles, the immigrant lawyer helping others follow in her footsteps, the city’s oldest law firm, the lawyer who used to be a cop/prosecutor/in-house at Allstate, the law firm supporting black lives matter, the state’s largest law firm, the athlete who organizes local road races and happens to practice law (h/t to Turkowitz), the tech nerdy paperless firm, the ex JAG, or the small town lawyer who grew up just a mile from his current office.

To the right prospect, each of these differentiators above is much more personally appealing than sifting through countless lawyer profiles trying to identify the better best bestestest most lawyerly lawyer lawyer.

Because, sometimes, its better to be different than better.

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