Like it or not, popularity contests always seem to draw attention. Perhaps it dates back to our days as adolescents. Jockeying for position in our little playground social circles. And as ugly as playground popularity politics could get, we are all too familiar with how much more ugly these games can get when we get "all grown up."
Nonetheless, understanding how popularity works is an important component of building relationships, including professional relationships online. Unfortunately, despite so many efforts to prove the contrary, popularity is a lot more art than science.
However, popularity comes in many different forms and there are some general strategies that seem to help attract it.
At the risk of oversimplifying, there seem to be two common forms of popularity that are most valuable to a professional reputation.
First, the professionally popular are typically respected by both clients and peers. They are also mindful to reciprocate respect which makes them perceived as even more deserving of their popularity.
Additionally, "friendliness" is a critical part of building professional popularity. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that only the warm, fuzzy, and smiley can attain popularity. However, a person who openly expresses their dislike of others is unlikely to be liked by others. The two-way street of popularity is too often overlooked by people who are trying to build professional popularity.
While not necessarily as desirable as respect, humor can also be a valuable aspect of growing professional popularity. Being entertaining to others can be a very effective way to garner warmth from others. But be careful. Being seen as a clown or moron is much more likely to hurt your professional reputation than develop it.
For me personally, there are two characteristics that gain my respect above others: Listening and Professional Knowledge.
While it might seem intuitive that listening is imperative to having a success as a legal professional, it might not be as obvious why listening is so important to popularity.
It really comes back to the reciprocal nature of relationships. People want to be heard much more than they want to be told. When this fundamental human need is fulfilled, it really comes as no surprise as to why listening and popularity are so intimately intertwined.
Again, it is clear that professional knowledge is integral to success in the legal profession. And likewise, it is very effective for gaining popularity. As a general proposition, we celebrate those who have mastered their crafts. In this way, professional knowledge creates a cycle of success and popularity. It helps you serve your clients, which in turn, increases your popularity with them, with those they speak, and within your professional community.
So, if you're interested in increasing your popularity, the best things you can do are listen and be the best lawyer you can be.
While doing these two things alone won't necessarily make you the Aston Kutcher or Larry King of the legal profession, failing to do these two things may leave you as unpopular as Tony Hayward.