What does Sheppard Mullin have in common with Beyoncé?

I’m heading over to Berlin this week to speak at the Alliott Group event about building your brand online. Recently, I wrote about Beyoncé and how her distinctive social media strategy works for her (you can read that blog here) – but, perhaps unexpectedly, there is also an example far closer to home.

It’s not often that we get to draw a line of similarity between musical megastars and the legal world but Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton partner Robert Darwell has provided the perfect example of just how well this can work in law. The Instafamous Darwell, like Beyoncé, has eschewed Twitter and Facebook, and like Beyoncé, he has really grasped how the right social channel is the one that lets you be you.

You’re probably wondering by now what it is that Darwell posts on his Instagram. No photos of leotard clad dance performances or Snapchat animal filters like Beyoncé if that’s what you’re worried about. No, Robert Darwell was once a TGI Fridays server and his Instagram page – TheDailyServer – is all about that. At least once a day Robert posts an image of a ‘server’ to his 20k followers, either someone who has served him food in a restaurant or at a bar. While this might not be a workable concept for those of us who tend to frequent the same haunts day in day out, Robert’s servers are snapped in locations from Argentina to Paris. It’s a surprisingly compelling concept and one that attracts almost 400 likes per post.

Darwell says he started the social page after realising just how much his TGI training had prepared him for the rigours of the legal world. There, he learned to read people’s moods, an invaluable skill whether you’re dealing with a demanding legal client or restaurant customer. So, almost in tribute to the role of the server, the Instagram page was begun and has turned out to be quite the success – depending on your definition of it, Robert could be called an ‘influencer.’

But what does all this have to do with the very serious business of law? Well, it’s led to work for a start. Although not a direct source of instruction, the Instagram page has helped Darwell to distinguish himself in client pitches and meetings. He says, “people will ask me why I started it, and it’s a more natural way to talk about the importance of client service.” As the focus of the page is on the people serving the food – not your standard restaurant shot of a plat of artfully arranged sweet potato fries or whatever – it makes Darwell stand out as a lawyer with a creative streak and intelligent human interest. As Helen Bertelli, a vice president at public relations firm Infinite Global, says it also shows him to be “a nice guy.”

Images from the Instagram page are even going to be exhibited in Paris at the restaurant and gallery CO18 in the 18th Arrondissement. It’s quite a PR coup for Darwell and has helped him to build the kind of strong and authentic personal brand that attracts attention for all the right reasons. And, of course there are other benefits too – “I get a lot of free drinks,” he says.

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