In today’s social-media driven culture, building a personal brand is more important than ever, even if you’re a GC. If you haven’t started to develop a personal brand online, where should you start? And what are some of the common mistakes you should avoid?

To get answers to these questions and expert advice on building your personal brand as a legal professional, we spoke with Alex Su, Head of Community Development at Ironclad. Over the past few years, he’s grown his LinkedIn audience to more than 80,000 followers, launched a newsletter about law and technology, and created video skits that have received over a hundred million views.

Read on to learn all about building a personal brand that will help you expand your network and propel your career forward as a GC.

Get the basics down, then start small

People often struggle with figuring out where to start, but before you do anything, make sure your LinkedIn profile is completely filled out and accurately communicates your career story. Once that’s done, you can start creating content by commenting on other people’s posts when you have something new or interesting to add to the conversation. 

“In the beginning, you won’t have an audience online, and it can feel like you’re shouting into the void. Finding places to comment is the first step, and as you do it consistently people will begin to notice you.”

Since people often struggle to speak about their work history (whether due to employee confidentiality or other issues), it can be a good idea to use your voice to speak about more general topics in your field where you can still lend your legal expertise while speaking more broadly. You can find your online “voice” by speaking about what interests you and what you know. Once you begin to see what resonates with people, lean into that while continuing to stay true to who you are.

At the end of the day, consistency is key. “It’s much better to post something once a week for an entire year than something every day for just a few weeks.”

Extend your reach through speaking opportunities

There are a ton of places that are eager to partner with smart, tech-savvy GCs to create content for conferences, webinars, blog posts, podcasts, and newsletters. By seeking out and applying for these opportunities, you’ll be able to expand the reach of your brand very quickly. 

“Partnering with an established company on marketing content (e.g., Ironclad or TechGC, for example) is a great way to get your name in front of a large audience very quickly.”

One unexpected advantage of doing speaking engagements is that you’ll be able to continuously practice telling your career story. Outside of job interviews, most people don’t spend a lot of time talking about who they are as a professional. As you continue to take advantage of speaking opportunities, you’ll become more of an expert at speaking about your career highlights and areas of expertise. 

When you’re starting out, it’s important not to turn down speaking opportunities for being too small. “Do as many speaking engagements as possible in the beginning. As you gain experience and become more well known, you can get more specific about what opportunities make sense for you.”

Being radically transparent is good…sometimes

When looking at LinkedIn in 2022, you might get the impression that everyone is being radically honest when it comes to work, even going as far as telling others that they’ve been laid off or why they left a specific company. But is this a good way to build your personal brand?

“It depends. There are ways to do it well, but you have to be careful. A few years ago, being vulnerable set you apart and helped get views on your posts. So now everyone’s doing it. These days, you want to be careful about not becoming the person who’s known for oversharing online. It really comes down to what your goals are.”

You can talk about nearly anything if it’s framed the right way. Be transparent if it’s going to help you tell your career story in the best way. But don’t get overly personal just because that’s what your connections are doing on LinkedIn. Everyone has their own goals. The way a marketer uses LinkedIn might be different than say, a law firm partner or Chief Legal Officer. As always, use your best judgment – if you’re still unsure, ask a respected peer to review posts you feel uncertain about. 

Mistakes to avoid and lessons learned

Regarding the biggest mistake he’s made while building his own brand, Su says, “I wasn’t being deliberate enough about what I posted, and I wasn’t thinking about how each thing I was doing was contributing to my overall personal brand. Trying to optimize for likes and views turned me into a character that’s quite different from who I am in real life.” 

Don’t forget that the goal of building a personal brand isn’t to amass the most followers possible; the goal is to present a polished, accurate version of yourself online so that people know who you are and what you’re good at. “You can’t just focus on gaining visibility, you need to also have substance and expertise behind what you talk about.”

If you invest the time to successfully build your personal brand, you’ll uncover new connections in your community, have a professional network to run your ideas by, and eventually, opportunities will begin to come to you. “Even though I didn’t do it perfectly every step of the way, putting myself out there on LinkedIn has made a huge difference in my career.” 

About Alex Su

Alex Su is the Head of Community Development at Ironclad, a technology company that helps legal departments create, understand, and manage their contracts. Earlier in his career, he was an associate at Sullivan & Cromwell and served as a law clerk to the Hon. Edmond E. Chang of the Northern District of Illinois. Alex graduated from the Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law in 2010, where he was an editor of the law review and the student commencement speaker. You can follow Alex on LinkedIn or Twitter, or sign up for his newsletter Off The Record, where he shares stories and observations about his journey from law to technology.