Don't Let Your Law Firm Be The Miley Cyrus Of The VMAs

In case you missed it, Miley Cyrus recently made quite the splash at the VMA rewards. The good news is that there are lessons that lawyers can learn from the debacle. The bad news is that for Miley, the damage has already been done. Although feedback was mixed, for the most part, the reactions of Will Smith’s family* pretty much sum up the consensus of most viewers:

will smith

So, what exactly can lawyers learn from Miley’s raunchy display of post-adolescent angst–a byproduct of her attempts to distance herself from squeaky clean “Hannah Montana” image? Quite a bit, in my opinion. In fact, there are 3 tried and true lessons lawyers can take away from Miley’s outrageously memorable performance.

1) It’s not easy to change your image

Miley’s over-the-top performance at the VMAs was no doubt her way of telling the world that she’s no longer the innocent, young teen star that many knew and loved. Now, rest assured she’s not the first to try to change her image in such a shocking manner. Many others came before her, including Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, and Selena Gomez, to name a few. Just as their rebellious transformations were predictable, so, too, was the public’s negative reaction. Sure, part of the reaction is due to remnants of a cultural conflict between “good” and “bad” girls, but I would argue that the overarching reason for the less than favorable reaction is people’s aversion to change.

Therein lies the lesson for lawyers: when you start a law firm, commit to your public image because people don’t like change. Do your research ahead of time and carefully choose your practice areas with the long haul in mind. When you establish a web presence, think through your firm’s branding and image. Make sure that your online profiles are consistent both on social networks and in online directories. Ideally you won’t make drastic changes to your branding over the years and will only make small tweaks to your online (and offline) presence. To sum up: don’t make the mistake that Miley made. Instead, take steps to ensure your firm will always be easily recognizable and memorable.

2) Don’t publicize your firm’s growing pains

Growing pains aren’t fun. If you’ve managed to block out memories of your own adolescence then look no further Miley’s performance at the VMAs for evidence of this fact. That being said, fun or not, growing pains are inevitable, whether you’re talking about a child phenomenon or a law firm.

But just because growing pains are a fact of life doesn’t mean you have to tell the world about them. Keep them to yourself and don’t be one of the many newly solo lawyers I’ve seen who publicly post on social networks and in forums about their financial burdens and lack of profits. Trust me, it’s a bad idea. Clients want to hire successful lawyers, not struggling lawyers. So put on a happy face and keep your firm’s growing pains to yourself. Your bottom line will thank you.

3) In the Internet age, think before you act

These days, anything you say or do, whether online or off, can be shared with the world and recorded in perpetuity. For starters, the Library of Congress is archiving tweets and anything you post on social media sites or that you otherwise share in digital format is fair game and can be instantaneously captured and distributed–whether you like it or not. After all, that’s one of the things that the Above the Law blog is famous for–posting about lawyers behaving badly. So try not to end up like Miley–who I suspect will forever regret her VMA shenanigans–and think twice before you act. Better safe than sorry.

*Ok, I know, I know. That photo is a bit misleading and apparently it was actually taken during Lady Gaga’s performance. But you’ve got to admit it’s still funny and summarizes how most people reacted to Miley’s antics.

–Nicole Black

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