Do you need a nickname?

The Times carried an article last week by Nick Freeman, the lawyer known as ‘Mr Loophole’, whose stock in trade is representing clients facing charges related to motoring offences.

Freeman noted that in a crowded legal market “branding and marketing are vital tools with which to influence clients and lure stakeholders”. Scoring a nickname, he said, “is a hugely effective and remarkably cheap way to showcase a CV in one pin-sharp soundbite”.

Lawyer nicknames, that the public know, are fairly rare. Barrister George Carman QC, who famously secured an acquittal for Liberal leader Jeremy Thorpe, was ‘Gorgeous George’. Solicitor Fiona Shackleton, who was instructed by Paul McCartney and Prince Charles on their divorces, is ‘The Steel Magnolia’.

These nicknames proved helpful for Carman and Shackleton. But how do we feel about ‘Mr Loophole’? Car crashes have been in the news this week, and the presence of a small child in the car apparently hit by the Duke of Edinburgh – a crash that involved some force – is a reminder that this is an uncomfortable area to market your services in.

Should you want to be known for getting people off charges on technicalities? Certainly, other lawyers I know think the ‘loophole’ nickname gives the profession a bad name.

But then other lawyers aren’t his target audience – whereas footballers facing a driving ban are. ‘Differentiation’ is one thing managing partners of all size of firm all over the world say would make the biggest difference to their business, helping them to stand out in a busy market. In fact, building personal brand and finding ‘your voice’ is what I spend a lot of my time giving workshops on and speaking to audiences in the sector about.

So it doubtless has done him good – he has a book and a media profile to his name, and his reputation is marketed to, from his perspective, the ‘right’ people. Maybe the Duke of Edinburgh will be doing a Google search for Freeman’s contact details?

A few observations, though, for anyone trying to get known as ‘Mr or Mrs Get You Off For Murder You Did’.

Freeman can benefit from the nickname because he’s not in a big firm that’s trying to do other things. A firm that wants people to believe its social responsibility projects are core to its values likely wouldn’t appreciate him as a colleague.

He has probably also damaged any chances of winning elected office, even in this strange political age.

It’s also worthwhile bearing Freeman’s own advice in mind – that “the work should create the brand and not the brand the work”, and that clients “are savvy and an artificial construct is easy to spot”.

Being known as ‘Mr Loophole’ clearly works for him – he plays up to it and wears it with pride. But it wouldn’t work for everyone. If you’d like to talk about a strategy for standing out that would work for you, I hope you’ll get in touch.

Please email or call us if you’d like to know more about our workshops on building a personal brand.

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