Better than other lawyers? Could you be more specific?

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You want prospective clients and the people who can refer them to see you as the better choice. But saying you’re better, or your services are better, or your “service” is better, isn’t convincing. You need to tell them why. 

How are you better? What do you do other lawyers don’t do and why is that a benefit to your clients? 

You need some “better” adjectives. 

Here are a few to consider and the meaning behind them:

  • Faster (You get the work done more quickly; your clients can enjoy the benefits and peace of mind sooner)
  • Efficient (Modern methods, tech, allow you to deliver high-quality work product at lower expense)
  • Reliable (You don’t cut corners and put your clients at risk; highest standards, ethics, proven methods) 
  • Transparent (You explain everything and show your clients everything you’re doing, when and why, and invite them to ask you anything) 
  • Reasonable (Fairness: fees, costs, procedures)
  • Comprehensive (Your documents and processes are thorough and cover everything your clients need and want)
  • Simpler (Your documents, processes, fees, billing, are easier for your clients to understand; fewer questions, confusion)
  • Newer (New services, methods, content, partners, employees, offices, computers, and how your clients benefit. Careful, though; “new” implies risk, so make sure you address this.)
  • Guaranteed (No fee unless recovery, no fee unless satisfied; yep, money-back guarantee. If that makes you nervous, put a limit on it, e.g., first 30 days or “up to X dollars”) 

They all mean “better” but tell clients why you are better. Make sure you prove everything, however, by providing examples, specific numbers, and by answering FAQs and objections in advance. 

Stress-free legal billing and collection policies

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Hope and opportunity

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That’s really what you sell. Your legal services are merely a means to an end. 

Clients want their problems to be fixed. They want to recover their losses and be protected against future harm. They want their pain to stop and the pleasure they seek to start. 

And they want to know they have you by their side, fighting for them, defending them, advising them, and helping them achieve their goals.

Hope and opportunity. That’s why they hire you. And your presentations, articles, and conversations should feature these. 

Clients aren’t especially interested in how you do what you do. They want to know that you can and will help them feel better and sleep better and be more prosperous. Clients choose you because of how you make them feel. They stay with you and tell others about you because of how you continue to make them feel.

In your marketing, talk mostly about the big picture, the benefits, and not so much about how you do what you do. 

Other lawyers may point to their impressive track record, but clients will choose you because you did something those other lawyers didn’t do. 

You made them feel good about themselves and their future.

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I don’t know

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We tell clients that if they’re not sure about something, it’s okay to say “I don’t know”. In fact, we encourage it. But when a client or prospective client asks us a question and we don’t know the answer, we’re often uncomfortable “admitting” we don’t know.

Because we’re supposed to know. 

And if we don’t know and we should, or the client thinks we should, we look bad. So we avoid answering the question directly, change the subject, or stall. 

That can be even worse. 

It makes it look like you’re hiding something, aren’t the expert we purport to be, or want them to cough up more fees before we answer what the client believes is a simple question. 

What should we do? 

I don’t know. No, really, it’s one of those things that doesn’t have an easy answer. 

Is it a complex issue? Unsettled law? Unclear fracts? What is your relationship with the client? What do you need to ask them before you can provide a complete and accurate response? How much time is available to answer?

And, is it the type of question you ordinarily get paid to answer?

Clients don’t expect you to know everything. Or tell them everything. But you should tell them something. 

Tell them what you do know, or tell them some of the issues that make it difficult to answer on the spot. And then tell them you need to do some (more) research, ask them (more) questions, or give it some thought.

Or tell them there are issues that are outside the scope of your practice area and you need to consult with (or refer the client to) another lawyer.

Of course you could also just tell them you don’t know or you’re not sure and, say it with me, “you don’t want to guess”.

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Keeping it simple doesn’t make you a simpleton

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In your job as an attorney, one of your top priorities is to get people to understand you and see that you understand them. That’s true whether you’re negotiating, speaking on stage or in front of a jury, or writing a brief, a blog post or a demand letter. 

Generally, that requires being clear and precise, using simple words, and presenting your ideas in a logical order. 

But it can take some work to get it right. 

When I first started practicing, I thought I needed to impress people with a big vocabulary and a formal writing style. I wanted to sound like a lawyer but, looking back, I’m sure I either confused people or made them laugh. 

How did I change my wicked ways? First, by deciding it was important, and then rewriting, editing and polishing again and again until I found the right balance. 

I worked at it and still do today. Because it’s worth it. 

Unless there is a very good reason for using a formal writing style, or a ten-dollar word when a .50 cent word will do, don’t do it. It makes you look like you’re trying to impress people and makes people wonder why you feel the need to do that. 

Similarly, don’t dumb down your message, or use emoticons or the latest buzzwords just because all the cool kids do. 

You’re a lawyer. Sound like one. Just not one one who is overly impressed with themself. 

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I like pain. It feels so good when it stops. 

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Why do people hire you? Because you help them solve their problems and alleviate their pain. Or protect them from problems that could cause them pain.

Sometimes, they think they can do this themself. Or they don’t realize how bad things could get and they wait.  

You need to splash cold water on them and wake them up. 

Tell them why they shouldn’t try to fix things themself and why they shouldn’t wait. 

Tell them why they need to call you now.

Tell them they should at least find out their options (and risks), and give them examples of clients who didn’t do that and suffered. The clients who didn’t listen when you told them to have you review that contract before they sign it or ask you about their problem when it was small and relatively easy to fix. 

Talk about the pain this cost them. And then talk about the clients who took action, and how everything turned out okay. 

You know the drill. 

Of course “prevention” is a harder sell then “cure” so when you’re talking about what could happen if they don’t talk to you or follow your advice, be a little dramatic about what can happen—you’re doing them a favor.

Use their fear to motivate them to act.

One way to do that, especially right now, is to talk about the economy. Inflation, foreclosures, losing their job, credit card debt, the rising cost of feeding their family—it’s on everyone’s mind, especially the people who need to talk to you the most.

They’re in pain and afraid things will get worse. Agree with them, and then tell them how they can get relief. 

People do things (and hire lawyers) for two reasons: pain and pleasure.

Make sure you talk about both. 

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It’s not just what you say, but when you say it

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It’s called “staging” and it makes your written or spoken message more effective by putting your points in the most effective order. 

For example, you stage your material when you start an article or presentation with the problem, not the solution, and follow that by explaining the risks of ignoring the problem or choosing a poor solution. 

After you describe the risks, you build on that with examples of what might happen, the costs, delays, pain and suffering, and secondary problems that can occur. 

Now, you have your reader’s attention and the desire to hear the solution. When you then describe the solution, e.g., your services, they’re all ears and ready to know what to do to get this solution. 

You tell them what to do, e.g., call, fill out a form, etc., and to seal the deal, you tell them the benefits of taking that next step—clarity, relief, a proven plan of action, saving money, etc. 

That’s staging. That’s using a logical order to improve your audience’s understanding, build tension, and show them a way to release that tension precisely when your reader or listener is most likely to do it.

But staging isn’t just the order in which you present the elements of your message. It’s also about how you transition from one element to the next. 

Want an example? (There, “Want an example?” is an example of a transitional phrase that pulls the reader forward to the next element, in this case, an example).

Transitional phrases keep readers reading and listeners listening. They do that by asking questions and painting pictures in their mind with statements that get them to focus on an image or feeling, ready to hear more.

There are many ways to accomplish this. For example, you can ask, “What do you think might happen if. . ?” and letting their imagination do the rest. Or, “Imagine how you’ll feel when you no longer have. . .”. 

You can also use transitional phrases to transition to your call to action or close. 

A few examples:

“At this point, there are 3 questions you should be asking yourself. . .”

“When I show this to people, they usually tell me/ask me. . .”

“Here are your options. . . which one makes the most sense to you?” 

“If this describes your situation, here’s what I recommend. . .”

Think of this type of transitional phrase as a palate cleanser, making the reader ready for the next course. 

Anyway, this is just a brief introduction to staging and transitional phrases. You don’t need to be a marketing expert or copywriter to use them. But do pay attention to how others use them in their writing and presentations, and consider how you might use them in yours.

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It’s easy and well-worth doing

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We’re talking about “edification”—the art of making other people look good by saying nice things about them. 

When you introduce someone to a client or friend, or introduce a speaker to an audience, and edify them, the other person or the audience sees them as more valuable, worth listening to, knowing, or hiring. 

And when you edify someone, your kind words and the graciousness with which you deliver them also make you look good. 

It doesn’t have to be exhaustive. You can simply mention a few of the speaker’s or other person’s accomplishments. Tell them about their book, their business or practice. Tell them about an award they received or a notable victory they obtained, or quote what others have said about them, e.g., testimonials or reviews. 

What do they do that helps people? What is their mission? What is something about them you admire?

You don’t have to exaggerate. Just say something laudatory and true. 

If you don’t know them, you need to learn something about them you can use when you introduce them. Read their bio or their “about” page, or simply ask them what they would like you to mention when you introduce them. 

Of course, the best edification occurs when you’re able to relate your personal experience with that person, or what your clients, business contacts, or friends have told you about their experience with them. If you refer a client to another lawyer, for example, tell them what that lawyer has done for you or for your other clients. 

In short, tell other people why they should listen to the person, watch their training or presentation, sign up for their newsletter, buy their products, or hire them.  

One more thing. 

You should also equip your clients and contacts to edify you. 

Give them information they can use when they introduce you or refer people to you. Even better, give them the kind of experience as their lawyer or friend that makes them want to tell everyone about you. 

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3 keys to effective content

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The reason you publish a blog or newsletter, post anything on social media, or deliver presentations, is to achieve a desired outcome. You’re not merely exercising your fingers or your voice, you want to inform or persuade people to do something. 

If you do, your content is effective. If you don’t, you might want to make some changes. 

There are lots of things you can do to improve your content and make it more effective. Editing, formatting, optimizing for readability and search, and more. But there are 3 things your content should always be or have:

  1. Clarity. Nothing you write or offer will do you or your readers any good if they don’t understand it. Your message must be clear and easy to follow, with sufficient detail and precision so that readers know what you want them to know or do. Explain terms, provide examples, and show them what you want them to see. If you maintain a publishing checklist, make sure “clarity” is at the top. 
  2. Helpful. Your message should help readers be, do, or have something they want or need. Your message should give them a reward or benefit for taking the time to read or listen. Teach them something important or useful, get them to think about something, or help them make a better decision. And if you can’t write something helpful, at least write something they will find interesting. 
  3. Next. Tell them what to do with this information. How to start, how to do it better, where to go to find additional information. End your piece with a “call to action” so they know exactly what you want them to do. That might be to call you, share your content, fill out a form, sign up for your webinar, or download your report. Tell them what to do, and why, i.e., how they will benefit from doing that. 

Make your message clear and easy to follow, provide helpful or interesting information, and tell them what to do next. These are the keys to effective content.  

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Some lawyers are weird

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It’s true. Some lawyers have strange interests or hobbies, extreme lifestyle choices or political views. But most people know this because most lawyers do a good job of keeping their personal life to themselves. 

Other lawyers do the opposite. They tell too much about their personal views and lifestyle. If you look up the phrase “over sharing” in the dictionary, you might see their photo. 

Of course, neither extreme is advisable. 

The thing is, most lawyers lean towards not sharing any personal information. Not on social media, on their blog or in a presentation. They may be great lawyers, but they look and sound like every other lawyer in their field (except the weird ones).

And have a hard time standing out or being remembered.

I get it. They want to maintain their image as a hard-working, dedicated professional, who works night and day to serve their clients. Anything personal might make them look weak or is at least irrelevant to their job. 

But clients know their lawyers are humans and they like them that way. They like knowing some things about their lawyer and what they do when they’re not working.  

The solution? Share a little personal information, but not too much. 

Do you have kids? Tell people about them. People like people who have kids. And all you have to do (if you don’t want to do more) is refer to them parenthetically. 

“I picked up my daughter from ballet class the other day. . .” tells your readers that you have a child and you are involved in their life. You don’t have to say more. 

But you can if you want to. 

When I took my daughter to ballet class years ago, I had trouble putting her hair in a bun and asked one of the moms for help. That added detail makes the experience easier to picture and might make it more relatable to parents who have had a similar experience.

Don’t over-share (especially if you’re weird), but do share some details of your personal life. Clients want their lawyer to fight for them and deliver good results, but they also like their attorney to be normal.  

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FOMO

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When we want someone to do something we usually tell them what they will get if they do. We tell the prospective client the benefits for hiring us, the visitor to our website what our newsletter will help them learn and be able to do, and this is often enough to get them to take the next step. 

But there is something that is often more persuasive than telling people the benefits they get for doing what we’re asking them to do.

More powerful than telling people what they gain if they do something–telling them what they lose if they don’t. 

We tell the prospective client what might happen if they don’t have a lawyer protecting them from the insurance company, or they don’t choose us as that attorney. We tell the client what might happen if they don’t settle, or what might happen if they do.

We invoke their innate “fear of loss” (or Fear of Missing Out) and it often seals the deal. 

Because humans fear losing something already in their possession.

Fear of loss is often much more motivating than the desire for gain and you should use it in your marketing and in working with your clients. 

When you do, don’t limit your message to the big things they might lose (or gain). Sometimes, it’s the little things that close the deal.

For example, some prospective clients might choose your firm instead of another not because you’re demonstrably the best choice but because the picture of what it’s like working with you appeals to them. 

They like your personality, the way you write your articles, the causes you’ve talked about, or even the great Christmas parties you throw. 

And they don’t want to miss out on that. 

Make sure you show prospective clients the whole package that is you. Because if you don’t, they might not see the one thing that tips the balance in your favor. 

And hire someone else. 

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