Ask the Coach

  • April 09, 2009
  • Gary Mitchell

Q: "How do I go about getting published to raise my profile?" — Senior Associate, Regional Firm

A: This is a very good question and a very good way to raise your profile within your target audience.

The first thing to understand is that the people you will approach (editors) are always looking for new sources of content.

The second thing to know is that they are really looking for reliable and professional people to help fill their pages with interesting and relevant material.

So your first step is to get a clear understanding of what that ‘interesting and relevant’ material is. The better you can get at helping them do their job, the more often they will rely on you as a source. And that really is your number one goal—becoming the ‘go to’ source for information in a certain area or for a certain subject. So how do you do that?

Identify your niche

Consider this carefully and with intent, as it will be the area you will be considered an expert in.  Understand where this aligns with your firm’s messages. Don’t know? Ask the person in your firm who is likely to know (i.e. a partner on your management team, or marketing professional if you are working at a larger firm, or managing partner if you are working at a smaller firm). Make sure that your profile goals are not in conflict with either your firm or other lawyers at your firm.

Do your homework

Research the publications that target your audience. Find out the readership and coverage. Find out what topics would be of interest to their readers. This can easily be done by asking your current clients what they read and why, and what they would find most interesting.

Also reach out to some of the more senior lawyers at your firm. What have they written and for whom? What has been the response? Based on the information you have gathered, create a list of potential topics or subjects you can and want to write about.

Then create the storyboards for each subject. A storyboard addresses, at a high level, three things:  Description of the target audience, three key messages, and outcomes you’d like the reader to consider.

Next contact the editors of these publications and pitch them with your list of storyboards. I recommend this approach so that you don’t go spending time writing a complete article that they won’t publish and you get sign off and approval of content right up front. Once they have signed off on the outline, write the article.

Note: These publications all have deadlines. Right from the start you want to have a reputation for meeting or beating these deadlines. I know most lawyers are procrastinators so don’t let yourself get caught missing a deadline. You don’t want to give the editors unneeded stress. It could defeat your purpose.

Follow up

Once you are published, follow up with the editor a couple of weeks later to see what feedback they have received on your article. Ask for a copy of the final published version (so that you can use it to send out to contacts and prospects later on). See if there would be interest in a contribution from you on a more regular basis (i.e. monthly or bi-monthly).

Profile building is about frequency and repetition. So the more you can get your ‘mug’ and name attached to your desired content, the better it is for your profile.

Then, look for ways to repurpose your articles. Are there some topics that could be expanded into presentations, or minimized for the use on a blog? When you are taking the time to create material, get in the habit of considering how else you can use it.

Become a ‘go-to source’

Once you have been published a few times, contact other editors of similar publications and offer up your services as a source. Having already been published, you will now have some public credibility in addition to the credibility you have built in your practice area. Let them know specifically how you can help and what you are qualified to comment on.

Final thought

For senior lawyers who find themselves too busy to write entire articles, approach some of the junior lawyers at your firm to do the upfront research or content building, then you edit and create the article-co-authoring it and sharing the recognition, thus saving you time.

Likewise, for junior lawyers that feel they may not have enough credentials to get published, approach your senior partners to see who would be interested on co-authoring. Getting published regularly can be one of the most valuable tools in your profile building client development toolbox.

Gary Mitchell is the Managing Director of GEM Communications, where he leads an international team of consultants and coaches who help lawyers and law firms prepare for and profit from transformation in the legal industry. GEM’s services include strategic planning, marketing, media relations, and a suite of coaching programs that address the talent development needs of law firms. Gary can be reached at or 604.669.5235