New Year’s Resolutions for All Contract Nerds (2023)
Every year, I write an article outlining some new year’s resolutions for contracts professionals to help us do our jobs better, meet our goals, and have fun in the process. Last year’s article includes five resolutions that range from demoing CLM to engaging on social media.
This year’s resolutions are geared towards building your personal and professional brand as a contracts professional. Since we are in an uncertain market, ripe with layoffs, and prone to change, all of us will be better off if we have established a personal and professional brand that goes beyond our 9-5 jobs. I have personally witnessed the incredible benefits of creating a strong brand within the contracts and legal industry. Such as (lots of) job offers, more than one (monetizable) side hustle, increased confidence, negotiation leverage, human connection, and many more unexpected advantages. It is time for this to become the norm instead of the exception.
So I encourage each of you, whether you are new to contracts or a seasoned expert, to consider focusing on your brand this year. To get started, here are a few of my personal 2023 new years resolutions.
1. Identify what you want your personal and professional brand to be. Then, make sure they are aligned.
According to Charlotte Smith, in an article she wrote for Contract Nerds, “Personal branding is the conscious and intentional effort to promote yourself, in order to create and grow influence as an authority and leader.”
Your personal brand should reflect your personality and help you reach your personal goals. While your professional brand should communicate your expertise and status. Some people’s personal and professional brands are one-in-the-same while others may have two distinct brands. My pro tip is that my personal brand and my professional brand align with one another.
For example, my personal brand reflects that I value education and teaching, and it has helped me reach my personal goals of creating a business and becoming a published author. My professional brand reflects that I am capable of teaching, writing, and speaking about contracts because I am a contracts expert who enjoys building communities and creating quality content. I don’t post or talk about things that are off-brand too often. Like, my work involves more than just working with contracts. I also do CLM implementation, manage projects, and work on intellectual property matters. But I don’t post about the parts of my job that aren’t tied to my brand.
2. Reflect your brand in everything you do. Not just your LinkedIn.
To make sure you’re on the right path, or to get started building your brand, I recommend first asking yourself, “What do I want to be known for?” Then, identify three people that you respect in this space and would like to emanate from your branding. Follow them, study what they do, and interact with their posts.
After you’ve spent some time observing other people’s branding styles, you can work on creating your own. Your brand should be reflected in your title, posts, collaborations, speaking engagements, and podcast appearances…anything and everything you do should come back full circle to your brand. For example, I have two parts to my title. Part one is my day job title, and part two is my personal brand title. My LinkedIn title (which I also use for name badges) now reads:
Nada Alnajafi, In-House Counsel | Founder of Contract Nerds ???? ???? | Author of Contract Redlining Etiquette | Keynote Speaker
Many people I know who have already created a personal brand do a great job of representing their brand on LinkedIn. Christine Uri is one of those! She recently posted about five lessons she learned from posting on LinkedIn.
My pro tip is that I use my branding for my on-screen and off-screen persona. Not just LinkedIn. When I attend conferences and book signings, I wear red to help promote my book Contract Redlining Etiquette. When I travel on a work trip or go to a CLE or networking event, I try to wear an article of clothing from the Contract Nerds shop.
3. Create written content about contracts. Because words are (still) king.
Visualizing your content is great for engagement and breaking up the monotony of wordy posts, but I am not fully convinced that they are more powerful than written content. Especially when it comes to content about contracts. Contracts are deals reflected in words. So writing skills are one of the core skills of being a good contracts professional. And they’re also how we contracts professional like to learn and absorb information.
My pro tip is to write your content out first and then visualize it. So you have multiple ways of sharing the same content, allowing your audience to choose the medium of communication they prefer. You can use the written content as a blog post, article, checklist, or whitepaper. And you can use the visual version for social media posts, your website, etc. Sarah Ouis is one of the best visualizers I know and she posts regularly about how to create impactful visual posts.
4. Volunteer to speak on a topic that you want to be seen as an expert on.
Speaking in front of a large, live audience is one of the most effective ways of building your brand because it puts a face, voice, tone, and persona to a name.
For those of you who are concerned about the time commitment, I’m not gonna lie. It takes a considerable amount of time and effort to speak at an event, especially if you’re doing it in addition to your day job. As someone who has both a day job and multiple night jobs, my secret is that I only speak about one topic – contract redlining. Why? Because this is the topic that I want to be seen as an expert on, this is the topic that I feel most comfortable speaking about, this topic aligns perfectly with my book (personal brand) and my work (professional brand), and I can essentially reuse the same deck (with some tweaks) for each engagement. So my advice to you is to hold yourself out as a speaker for one or two topics and prepare presentation materials for those topics.
For those of you who are terrified of public speaking, I’ve got some good news for you! These days, you don’t necessarily need to build a deck or stand in front of a live audience if you want to share your message with others. You can be a guest on a podcast, organize a training session for your team, or lead a small breakout session. These forums are great for testing out your materials in relatively low risk environments. My very first speaking engagement about contract redlining was on the Negotiate Anything podcast by Kwame Christian. Nearly two years later, he wrote the Foreword to my book on Contract Redlining Etiquette.
Once you’ve gotten your feet wet with smaller gigs, then you can organize your content into a solid presentation deck. A good presentation will require an engaging PowerPoint deck, updated and accurate information, an organized and clear way of communicating the learning points, good-quality recording devices, and a few hours of preparation and rehearsal time. But the rewarding feeling of teaching someone who wants to learn more about contracts is priceless and totally worth it. Plus, once you’ve done a couple, your prep time will decrease and it will become easier to fit them into your busy schedule.
5. Attend in-person conferences about contracts. And really show up!
Now that the worst of the pandemic is behind us (nearly three years later), in-person conferences are back and they’re better than ever! I attended my first in-person conference a couple of months ago and noticed something a bit disappointing.
Many people who “attended” the conference did not go to all of the conference sessions. Some folks skipped out on important talks to hang with their friends at the bar, others had to duck out for work calls, and some people were on their phones the whole time.
My pro tip is that when I attend a conference, I am all-in. I go to the vendor booths to connect with the LegalTech folks, I sit next to a new person at each luncheon, I make rounds during cocktail hour, and I always connect with the people I meet via LinkedIn while I’m there. My go-to line is, “Can I look you up on LinkedIn real fast? I’d love to stay connected with you!”
In-person conferences you have to attend:
- Feb 16-17 – ContractsCon (Miami) [Use promo code NERDS10OFF FOR 10% off any ticket.]
- Mar 10 – CLM Simplified Academy (New York)
- May 15-18 – CLOC Global Institute (Las Vegas)
- Oct 22-25 – Association of Corporate Counsel (San Antonio, TX)
- Oct 18-19 – World CC Americas Summit (Dallas)
Our weekly Contract Nerds newsletter provides a list of free webinars and upcoming conferences related to contracts. Subscribe here for weekly tips and information straight to your inbox.
6. Don’t forget about your internal (9-5) brand!
Olga Mack, CEO of Parley Pro, has an incredibly powerful personal and professional brand with over 23k followers on LinkedIn alone. She recently published a Forbes article on the importance of building your internal brand. Olga defines internal branding like this: “Internal branding is about creating an image or identity for your company or department that will make employees proud to be a part of it.”
So while you are building your personal and professional brand, it is also important to work with your team members on creating your internal brand. For an in-house attorney like me, I want an internal brand that reflects my ability to balance business and legal considerations, review contracts efficiently, and collaborate with my internal clients.
Thank you for supporting me and Contract Nerds. I look forward to seeing some new brands and faces in the contracts space in 2023!