I love movies. I really love lawyer movies. However, have you ever noticed that in-house counsel are almost always cast as the villains in Hollywood films? I was able to find a plethora of movies where private practice attorneys were characterized as protagonists: A Time to Kill, To Kill a Mockingbird, and My Cousin Vinny, just to name a few. The attorneys were flawed, yes, but they ultimately stood for morality, ethics and the greater good. What I was NOT able to find were movies where corporate lawyers were anything but antagonists. In fact, on Inside Counsel’s list of the “Top 10 Corporate Law Movies”, most of the movies highlighted portray corporate lawyers in an extremely harsh manner: North County, The Informant!, A Civil Action, and Michael Clayton.
What Hollywood neglects to address in their efforts to honor the underdog are the positive contributions corporate counsel make to their organizations. For example, what about the policies they develop to promote a safe work environment? Or perhaps the contracts they negotiate to protect both the company and the employees? Or the advice they give to business decision makers regarding legal risk? Clearly, movies are more fictional than not, but the negative portrayal of corporate legal organizations DOES impact the public’s real perception of corporate lawyers.
If you don’t have the budget to produce a widely released blockbuster, one way to help improve the perception of corporate lawyers is through social media. LinkedIn profiles act as professional brands; they heavily contribute to the perceptions that your audience (peers and clients) develops about you as a person and a professional. So why not manage that perception by depicting yourself as the protagonist? Here are a few recommendations for crafting your social media brand:
- Upload a profile photo that makes you look professional, content and approachable.
- Ensure your summary includes answers to the following questions: 1) What challenges can you solve, 2) What results do you achieve? and 3) How have you helped others? Here is an example of a summary: “Results oriented in-house attorney, who delivers high-quality legal services in an efficient and responsive manner. During my career, I have represented a broad range of companies, from a Fortune 100 company to small businesses. I am familiar with the issues that businesses face and their need for clear and practical advice.”
- Ask former colleagues for recommendations to show that people like and respect you.
- Share updates that highlight positive impacts made by you and other corporate counsels.
- Promote the community service in which you and your department are actively involved.
Corporate lawyers may never get the “good guy” roles in Hollywood, but they definitely don’t deserve to be pigeon-holed as the “bad guys”. In fact, I bet the big movie studios would be in a lot more trouble if their corporate legal departments weren’t around to protect them.