It’s not just what you do, it’s how you do it, and how you convey your image to the public.
For example, let’s talk about the hotel/motel industry. At its core, the industry is based upon a simple premise: you give us your money, we’ll give you a temporary place to stay.
But within that industry, there is a wide range of options available. For example, last week I popped into the Ritz-Carlton Grande-Lakes Orlando. This is the entrance to the hotel:
Nice, huh? When you look at the picture, it creates an expectation of what you’ll find inside… Valet parking, a spa, golf course, and, to ensure that it attracts the right type of clientele, they also have a Presidential Suite.
Of course, it also sets an expectation for what you’ll pay. If you want to check in tonight, you can get a room between $299 (small room, bad view) and $819 (lakefront, executive suite) per night. Unfortunately, the Presidential Suite isn’t available tonight, and seems to be booked for the next few months.
By contrast, check out the Jayhawk Motel, which I drove past while avoiding the interstate and taking a back road towards the Hillsborough County Courthouse:
In case you can’t read the sign, it says, “*ADULT MOVIES* AC & TV DAILY & WEEKLY”
My grandmother said that back in the 40’s they used to call these types of places ‘hot pillow’ motels. I’d never heard the phrase before, but it made me laugh, because it does a great job of describing what you’d expect to find inside.
Doesn’t the entrance to the Jayhawk Motel also create an immediate expectation of what you’ll find inside?
Unfortunately, they don’t have a website, so I don’t know what you’d pay to spend a night at the Jayhawk, but I bet you could spend a month at this hotel for the cost of a single night at the Ritz-Carlton. And as for the clientele, here is the only review available on Yelp: “Hang out by the bus stop in front if you want to see hookers in velour and crackheads shambling about.”
Two businesses, both in the exact same industry, but with a world of difference between them as far as the types of clients they attract and the types of rates they can justify charging.
The same is true in the legal profession. We’re all trial lawyers, but there’s a world of difference between some of us. Depending on the image you present, you may be able to attract top-tier clients and command premium fees, or you may be bottom-feeding and struggling to survive.
As a trial lawyer, your image matters, too.
For private attorneys, the quality of the image you convey can affect the types of clients who come through your door and the fees that you command.
For government and corporate attorneys, the quality of the image you convey can affect the types of cases you’re assigned and your promotions.
Image isn’t everything, but it does matter. And it’s not just true for what happens outside the courtroom, it also affects what happens inside the courtroom.
It’s true that you shouldn’t win on style alone, but without some style, the jury will probably ignore your client’s story. If they ignore your client’s story, it’s the same as having no substance at all.