The selling of "expertise" has always been a crucial element to legal marketing. Why else would lawyers with heavy billable targets take months of their valuable time to write a book? Expertise, even more than having years of experience, is a key measure of qualification and a tool used to grade the modern professional. So the question presents itself: Does an expert rise from the ranks and develop out of peer acknowledgment? Or, is an expert a created entity, carefully crafted by profile building and marketing? I contend that the answer is found in the "gray area" between those two theories. We all know exceptional professionals or academics who are well respected in their small circles, with limited exposure, and we all know the socalled experts who can best be described as "all sizzle and no steak."
The concept of "Thought Leadership" is hardly new, of course. Lawyers have become experts off-line in their fields for years. There are, however, a number of characteristics unique to the online space. First, the barrier to entry has been lowered. While in the past web technology was limited to those with programming expertise, newer software technologies -- such as blogs and social networks -- have leveled the playing field for exposing one?s professional knowledge and expertise. Second, the number of participants in these online conversations is not limited. Those with a willingness to get online and participate will benefit from increased exposure. And lastly, the web is a mix of both those who innovate ideas, and those who diligently spread the word. Success can be found in either capacity, but a balance between "subject expert" and "online rainmaker" is probably the best approach for most professionals.
Please note, this article was previously published in the January, 2008 edition of the Texas Bar Journal.
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