I Don’t Know What You Do and It’s Your Fault
by Dana C. Palmer, Esq.
I conducted an experiment. I asked lawyers a very simple question: “What do you do?” A lot of lawyers clearly have not prepared an answer to that icebreaker question and it is a problem. Let me show you what I mean.
Here are some poor, but common, answers that I frequently get: “I do…“transactions,” “family law,” “personal injury,” “I am a litigator.” I get even worse answers from lawyers who do a bunch of things or have long-winded, unspecific answers. Because I am space limited I will leave those to your imagination, but you will need an extra drink coupon for some of them.
A bad response to the simple question, “So what do you do?” foregoes a real opportunity to differentiate yourself and develop someone’s interest in further conversation.
The real opportunity presented when asks what you do is to answer the questions: “If you could wave a magic wand, what could you do for me?” and “Why should I care besides simple politeness?” They are asking you to give them your “magic” statement.
Here are some of the best answers so you can see what I mean:
- “I fight to keep the cops hands off your blood!” - Bill Clanton, San Antonio.
- “I help my clients with their soap opera situations.” -Kimberly Wright, Dallas.
- “I help entrepreneurs do the deals they want without the taxes they don’t.” - Christopher Cunningham, Dallas.
Bill’s “magic” statement instantaneously associates the words “cops” and “blood” with Bill’s name. Any time anyone is confronted with—or even hears about—a cop taking someone’s blood they are going to think of Bill and call him if they are in trouble. His credibility is instantaneously established and people know he is passionate and will fight for them if they are in that situation.
So, how do you get a magic statement? Here are some basic rules:
- Ask yourself “Who do you help?” If you’re a transactional lawyer and you want entrepreneurs as clients, try “I structure deals for entrepreneurs.” If you are a litigator, try “I defend entrepreneurs who have been sued.” Use verbs like, “protect,” “defend,” “fight for” and “help.”
- Keep it simple. Lawyers tend to be complex and long winded. Boil it down and boil it down and boil it down. Be concise, to the point and interesting! Make it great for both lawyers and non-lawyers and say it the same way to everybody so it becomes conversational.
- Do a role-play. You have to practice saying your magic statement out-loud. Literally. Try it and refine it.
Remember, it is not a brochure, it is a hook. Your magic statement should get someone that you would want to do business with excited about doing business with you. It is also not designed to sell the service. It should be designed to create an image that triggers a memory of you in their mind. When they are confronted with a specific situation in the future a day, a week or a year from now, they will think of you.
One of the most important first steps is to PICK A NICHE! Other lawyers as well as lay people like lawyers with a niche. It is easier to remember. You get instantaneous credibility and every other lawyer in town can send you cases without worrying that you are going to take a case in their niche away from them in the future. Referrals multiply!
In my case, my answer once was, “I do personal injury, car wrecks, slip-and-falls, criminal defense (mostly DWI), divorces, write wills and occasionally do traffic tickets.” That answer was terrible! In the past, no DWI lawyers would send me any divorce cases because it could cost them a DWI client in the future.
Now, “I help people get a Soft Divorce℠…because divorce doesn’t have to be so hard!℠” I use it as a trademark and by the time I mention “softdivorce.com” in the follow-up conversation they smile and remember it forever.
Now that I no longer defend DWI’s, I get referrals from my DWI lawyer friends. I also fill a need for them because I send them my DWI clients and they have someone to take care of their divorce referrals. Win for me, win for them and win for the clients.
If you develop a great magic statement, then people will remember you. When fellow lawyers have a client who asks for a referral in your niche, your name will immediately come to mind.
So, “what do you do?”
Dana C. Palmer is the owner of the Law Offices of Dana C. Palmer, P.L.L.C. He can be reached at email@example.com.