What’s Your Brand?

Interview stand out personal brand

Please welcome back Keri Clapp, professor and tutor for the Law School Toolbox and Bar Exam Toolbox, to discuss establishing, developing, and promoting your personal brand in a competitive legal environment.

Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts? Lexis or WestLaw? Washington Post or Wall Street Journal? You probably have a quick response to each of these questions based on not just on specific experiences, but also on how you identify the brand of each of these products.

Take coffee, for example. Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts both sell coffee, but have distinct and differentiated brand attributes. These successful businesses have spent a lot of time and money deciding on their target customer profile; their marketing efforts—from packaging to product to location—are primarily directed to what that customer base will appreciate. This type of strategy doesn’t get derailed because some people will get coffee at home or at the gas station convenience store; a well-differentiated brand does not try to be all things to all people.

In a competitive legal market, spending some time creating and marketing your personal brand is a strong move. What qualities do you want to project when you meet someone? What attributes do you want to jump out on your resume? In sum, what do you want people to associate with you when they hear your name?

First, Do Some Soul Searching and a Thorough Skills Inventory

To get an internship, a clerkship, or a job, you need to convince someone that you will add value to their organization. To do this, you need to identify what unique strengths and experiences you bring to the table.

Look at your daily life. Think about what environments or situations play best to your strengths—where are you a valuable player?

  • Are you the one that classmates come to see if they are confused by a convoluted class lecture?
  • Are your outlines considered the gold standard among your peers?
  • Are you effective at getting a consensus in a group about what legal argument prevails, what evidence to present in moot court, or where to go to dinner?

Think about the traits that these scenarios might suggest: you absorb information accurately and synthesize it quickly, you present complex ideas clearly and completely, or you are the good negotiator or mediator.

If you are stumped about your “brand,” call in some experts. Talk with a classmate or brainstorm with your career services office. The point is to think about what makes you a unique candidate and be able to articulate it, first to yourself, and then to others.

Second, Package Your Brand

Once you have identified your skill-set or strength, think about how you can reinforce that brand. Be purposeful in choosing to get involved in organizations and activities that showcase your skills. Good grades are part of your package, but your goal is to differentiate yourself so that you are memorable. Colleagues, professors, and potential employers should be able to see the intersection between hard work, passion, and experience.

Focus your efforts on activities that play to your strengths. If you are strong at oral advocacy, consider moot court. If negotiation is your forte, seek out opportunities in a transactional or mediation-based clinic. Once you identify your strength, you need to build your brand.

Third, Be Consistent.

Forbes says that your personal brand must have the three Cs—clarity, consistency, and constancy. Remember that everything you say and everything you do can have an impact on how you are perceived by peers, by professors, and by prospective employers. Pay attention to your professional attire, your attitude toward classmates, and how you present yourself in every interaction.

Spending time crafting your personal brand can help find a place that will appreciate and utilize your skills where you can thrive professionally.

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About Keri Clapp

Keri Bischoff Clapp is a law school and bar exam tutor for the Law School Toolbox and Bar Exam Toolbox. Keri’s love for writing led her to journalism school and then directly to law school at Penn Law, which she absolutely loved. Keri was an executive editor and published author of the University of Pennsylvania Law Review.

After law school, she learned many life and professional lessons by clerking for a woman federal District Court judge in Philadelphia. Keri then joined a large Philadelphia law firm as a litigation associate and later worked as in-house and trial counsel for a U.S. government office.

The next act of Keri’s career brought her into the classroom to teach undergraduates and law school students. Among other courses, she has taught business law, legal research and writing, and bar exam preparation.

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