George Beaton Columnist

George is the founder and executive chairman of Beaton Research + Consulting, which provides advisory, performance improvement and trouble-shooting services to professional services firms. George's management experience includes executive director roles in advisory, consulting, communications and marketing research firms.

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Beyond partnership: Learning from Chrissie Lightfoot, a class act

Published 06 March 2013 11:02, Updated 06 March 2013 11:03

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Beyond partnership: Learning from Chrissie Lightfoot, a class act

Chrissie Lightfoot is the epitome of a professionally qualified woman who decided there’s a better way for her to build a career than working towards partnership. Photo: Markskeet Photography

You can’t miss Chrissie Lightfoot in a crowd or mistake her in the written word. She is a walking, talking, writing testimony to the success that her own advice brings. When you start to look at her achievements as an author of, among others, The Naked Lawyer e-book and Fifty Shades of Rainmaker.

But  I think you may be getting the wrong idea.

Chrissie Lightfoot is the epitome of a professionally qualified woman who decided there’s a better way for her to build a career than working towards partnership in a conventional law firm. Drawing on her experience in private practice she realised that her personal brand was a major and underutilised asset. By trial and error she worked out the essence of her own brand and set about using the online environment to build what is now a global consulting practice.

Yes, she has clients all over the world and doesn’t need to leave Yorkshire to coach them; her practice is virtual. They are individual lawyers who want to further their careers and who have come to recognise that their personal brand is a key means of doing.

Clients learn that the “naked lawyer” is a metaphor for themselves. The only things they have are their intellect, experience, energy and personality. They stand naked until they clothe themselves in a personal brand that positively differentiates them in the minds of their current and prospective clients. She does not advocate wholesale departures from law firms, rather than the individual practitioner needs to differentiate her and himself within their firm. Having a distinctive personal brand turns a generic practitioner into a go-to lawyer for clients.

By using lines like “RIP to XXX – How to Market, Brand and Sell YOU!” in social media, and through state-of-the art use of search engine optimisation, Lightfoot has built a very large global clientele that she serves virtually. If ever a professional services practitioner needed evidence of the truism that a deep specialisation widens the market you can reach, Chrissie provides it.

Last year Jordan Furlong, a leading Canadian blogger on all things about law practice, wrote an encouraging post about the many new types of new economy jobs opening up for lawyers. These included General Contractor (assembling the best team of legal professionals to achieve specific goals or solve one-off problems); Knowledge Tailor (creating customised banks of legal know-how uniquely designed for specific clients); Strategic Auditor (analysing organizations for legal risk, strategy disconnects, function variances and productivity leakages); Accreditation Monitor (reviewing other lawyers’ continued fitness to hold a law licence on behalf of regulators); Proficiency Analyst (periodically assessing an organization’s legal advisors for competence and client awareness); Legal Physician (providing individual clients with annual low-cost check-ups of their family’s legal health); and Informal Arbiter (delivering fast, brief, non-binding “judgments” of disputes to facilitate settlements).To this list Lightfoot’s form of global practitioner should be added.

George Beaton is a director of Beaton Research + Consulting and Beaton Capital, firms dedicated to professional services.

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