Two guys walk into a bar…


When I was in high school I used to call a popular “joke line”. Most of the jokes were clean but the occasional salty joke made this teenager’s day.

The recordings were under a minute and rotated throughout the day. They were professionally produced, with an announcer and intro music. The call was frequently updated with new material. I listened to it for several years.

One thing always puzzled me. I couldn’t figure out how they made any money. There were no commercials or sponsors; nothing was promoted except the call itself. And no, it wasn’t a 900 or 976 number where you were charged by the minute or by the call.

So, what was the point?

Were they testing material for a stand-up act? Trying to find sponsors but never did?

I finally concluded that whoever did these calls did them for no other reason than to have fun.

I thought about this on my walk the other day and made a note to share it with you. To remind you to put some fun into your newsletter or blog or presentations. Not jokes, fun. Lighthearted observations or stories that put a smile on the face of your reader or listener or make them recall a happy time in their lives.

As far as I know fun is still legal in this country and God knows we can all use more of it.

Know what’s really fun? Getting referrals


Darth Vader would have made a terrible lawyer


You have a marketing voice and it can make or break you.

Your marketing voice is the personality you present in your writing, in your presentations, and in conversations. It paints a picture of who you are and what it would be like to work with you. Your voice either attracts people to you or pushes them away.

If you sound arrogant, overly aggressive, or overly formal, you push people away. If you sound weak or overly casual, you do the same.

People expect a lawyer to sound like a professional. Not too hot or too cold. They want you to be strong and confident but even-tempered. Friendly and approachable but not a pushover. They want you to speak to them, not down to them. They want you to be conversational, not academic.

A little toughness. A little charm.

Your marketing voice–on your website, in your newsletter, in your presentations–should resonate with your target market. It should attract them and inspire them to connect with you. It should make them trust you and choose you to represent them.

If your marketing voice is working for you, great. If not, get some help. Get a marketing pro or a writer to look at your writing and presentations and give you some advice. Or hire them and have them do a makeover.

How to write a report that attracts new clients


Fake news, fake reviews–does anyone really care?


I know you’re honest and only speak (and publish) the truth. You don’t fudge numbers, embellish facts, or exaggerate results.

At least not intentionally.

But guess what? All of your efforts to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth may be for naught if the truth you tell doesn’t appear to be true.

There’s even a word for it: verisimilitude, meaning “the appearance of truth”. When it comes to marketing, appearance is everything.

I’ve seen a lot of new books lately, by unknown authors, that have 40 four- or five-star reviews within a few days of publication. It doesn’t take a genius to see that these reviews are predominately fake, written by paid reviewers who haven’t read the book.

But even if every one of these reviews were real and honestly earned, many would doubt their veracity because there are too many, too fast and because they seem too good to be true.

Lesson: don’t fear negative reviews. If you’re getting mostly positive reviews for your practice (or books), the occasional less-than-positive review actually helps you because it makes the sum of your reviews more believable.

Lesson: look at your presentations and written materials with the eye of a prospective client. If something looks too good to be true, you need to do something about it. If you’re reporting great results in a case, for example, explain why and how you got those results (and that they aren’t typical).

In the short term, fake reviews can work. Just like fake news, they’ll fool enough people to get some short term results. In the long run, however, the truth–or the lack of verisimilitude–catches up with them.

How to write content that brings in more clients





In college, I had a professor who mumbled. I sat in the front row and could usually figure out what he was saying but sometimes he also spoke at a low level and I couldn’t understand him at all.

One time, I raised my hand and said, “Could you mumble a little louder?” Everyone laughed, including my professor. (All was okay. He later wrote me a recommendation letter to law school).

Now, as you probably know, I get a lot of emails from lawyers. To my chagrin, many of these professional communicators (that’s who we are, after all), are just as difficult to understand as my mumbling professor.

Frankly, they can’t write their way out of a paper bag.

It’s one thing to send an informal email to someone you know. You don’t always have to format properly or use the King’s English. But you can’t send emails that make people think, “What the hell did they just say?”

Clarity is right up there at the top of the effective communication mountain. If people don’t understand you, you can’t expect to persuade them of anything. They’re not going to learn what you want them to learn. They’re not going to get your jokes.

If your legal documents are muddled, if your closing arguments are a mishmash of thoughts, if your marketing documents and presentations are as mushy and boring as a bowl of oatmeal, you’ve got some work to do.

How do you improve? Read more. Find models of clear writing and study them. Write more. Write something every day and re-write it as often as necessary. You can ask someone to read and critique your writing, and maybe edit it. You might take classes or read books about writing.

You don’t ever want someone to wonder what you just said. As Robert Louis Stevenson put it, “Don’t Write merely to be understood. Write so that you cannot possibly be misunderstood.”

Clear instructions on marketing your practice



Nobody says, “Call my law firm”


When one of your clients gives your business card to a friend or colleague who might need your services, they don’t say “Call my law firm,” they say, “Call my lawyer”.

They have a relationship with you and it is you they are recommending. They may know and work with other lawyers in your firm, they may think highly of the firm as a whole, but you are their lawyer and you are the person they want their friend or colleague to speak to.

When I see letters or emails signed, “For the firm,” I shake my head in amazement at the lack of personalization. Why put distance between yourself and your client? You wouldn’t call a client and say, “This is Jones and Smith calling,” would you? You’d say your name. You would use theirs. It should be no different in writing.

Professional services are personal. Even if the client is part of a big company, you should nurture your relationship with them as an individual. It’s okay to send out a “Welcome” letter from the firm but that letter should be in addition to a personal letter from you. The client chose you as their lawyer, or if they were assigned to you by a partner, you should conduct yourself as if they did.

A law firm can advertise and build a brand, but when it comes to working with clients, the personal relationship is paramount. Don’t sign letters “for the firm” and don’t have a secretary or assistant sign for you. Personalize everything. Show the client that you are fully invested in your relationship with them. If you do, when someone they know needs a lawyer, your client will hand them your card and say, “Here, call my lawyer”.

Are you getting all of the referrals you want? Here’s how to get more


Um, could you be more specific?


I got an email today that had a link to an article with this headline: “Don’t make these 5 common legal mistakes”.

Not bad. It makes the reader want to know what those mistakes are so they can see if they’re making them. It appeals to curiosity and promises a benefit. It also invokes fear because if these are common mistakes, there’s a good chance, the reader thinks, that they’re making one of them, and because these are legal mistakes, they could cause serious grief and financial loss.

But while this is a good headline, it’s not good enough. Not today, anyway.

Most consumer and general business publications have this type of article and your reader has lots of other pressing things on his or her mind.

So no click.

The headline isn’t good enough because it’s not specific enough.

Let’s say I’m a good prospect for your practice and you wrote this article. If your headline promised to show me, “5 common mistakes made by California homeowners,” I might lean towards clicking because I am a California homeowner. Your article might earn my attention because it is obviously targeted to me, rather than “everyone”.

But it could be even more specific, and thus almost irresistible. If it promised to reveal “5 common mistakes made by California homeowners when filing their tax returns,” since that’s on my mind right now, I would almost have to read your article.

My point is that most headlines (email subjects, etc.) aren’t specific enough to cut through the morass of messages that come across everyone’s field of vision on a daily basis. Specifics will almost always get you more clicks and eyeballs.

It’s true that the more specific you are, the more you will appeal to a smaller number of possible readers, but that’s the point. The readers you do appeal to will be more likely to respond.

I’d rather have ten people read my article than 100 who thought about it but didn’t. I’d rather have five people who would make a good client for my practice read my article than 50 people who wouldn’t.

So, with all things marketing, as with all things legal, your challenge is to find the sweet spot so you can maximize your results.

You don’t need (or want) to appeal to “everyone”. You want to appeal to your ideal client, and you want him or her to immediately understand that that’s exactly what you’re doing. To do that, you have to be willing to give up everyone else.

This will help you identify your ideal client


Are you smarter than a fifth grader?


If you’re smarter than a fifth grader, your intelligence, and more specifically your vocabulary, might be holding you back.

How’s that?

If your write and speak at a post-graduate level and your audience is comprised of people with little or no college, your audience won’t follow everything you say, nor do what you ask them to do.

Does that mean you should dumb down your writing and speaking? Indubitably.

There, someone reading this might not know that I just said yes. They might deduce that from the context of my other words, but it might take a few seconds, and whether you’re selling ideas or legal services, a few seconds could cost you the sale.

When you use simpler words, however, all of your readers and listeners will understand you, including those with a bigger vocabulary or a higher education. In addition, simpler words make it more likely that your thoughts will be perceived more quickly and understood at a deeper level.

As Robert Louis Stevenson said, “Don’t write merely to be understood. Write so that you cannot possibly be misunderstood.”

By anyone.

Whether you’re writing an article for your website, an email to your clients, or an appellate brief, unless you have a good reason to do otherwise, it’s best to use plain language. Some experts recommend writing at a seventh grade level. Others claim fourth grade is the cut off. I say, use common sense and when in doubt, err on the side of simple.

Now I just used the world err. According to an app I just discovered, Simple Writer, err isn’t on the list of the 1000 most common words in the English language. But to my chagrin, neither is the word error or the word mistake.

The Simple Writer app tells you if the words you type are on the list, and if not, it suggests that you consider replacing them.

That doesn’t mean you have to.

When I typed, “The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog” into the app, it told me that “fox” and “lazy” aren’t on the list of most common words but to avoid using them would clearly be absurd for any audience. The point is to be more aware of what you’re writing and continually seek to make it simpler.

Because everyone understands simple.

There are nine keys to an effective website. Does yours make the cut?


Why can’t lawyers answer a simple question?


My wife wants to know what I want for lunch. A simple question, right? So why can’t I give her a simple answer? Why do I say, “I don’t know?”

Because I don’t know. I haven’t thought about it. I need to consider my options.

What did I have for breakfast? What time is dinner? Do we have any cool leftovers? What sounds good to me?

You’re a lawyer. You know the routine.

Oh, I’ll have an answer eventually. It’s just lunch, after all. But my wife is busy and can’t wait for me to go through my decision making process. “How about a turkey sandwich?” she’ll say, or even better, “Would you like turkey or roast beef?”

Smart girl I married.

She knows I think like a lawyer. Lawyers say things like “I don’t know,” “I need to think about it,” and “it depends”. And, just when you think we’ve finally answered your question, we go and spoil it by saying, “on the other hand. . .”

If you ask my wife about this subject, I think she would tell you that the most frustrating thing I do is answer questions with a question.

Why do I do that? I don’t know, why do you ask?

Holy crap, I must be annoying.

Okay, here’s the thing. If the people who love us find our lawyer ways difficult, what must our clients think? They hire us to answer questions and provide solutions. Hearing us say, “I don’t know” must be a little off putting.

What we need to do is school our clients and prospects so that they understand how our minds work. We need to educate them that when we don’t have an immediate answer, when we go back and forth with on the one hand and on the other, we’re going through a natural process of weighing the possibilities and reasoning our way to a conclusion.

We’ll have an answer for them. It just might take awhile.

It might be easier to keep all of this to ourselves and answer their questions after we’ve done our brain voodoo. Maybe send them a letter. But do we really want to make it look like our job is easy? They ask, we answer, done?

I don’t think so. For one thing, it’s not easy. Thinking is hard work. And there are lots of issue to consider. And we want our clients to know that. We want them to see that even though it might not look like it, we’re working hard for them.

But we should explain that we’re not avoiding their questions or trying to give them a hard time. We’re doing our job.

Someone once said that we shouldn’t let our clients see us sweat, and that’s true. But we also don’t want them to think that our job is easy. We want them to know that we put a lot of effort into what we do, because in addition to results, effort is what they’re paying for.

Got referrals? Here’s how to get more


It’s a blog about nothing


Remember the Seinfeld episode where George and Jerry pitch a show to a studio head? “What’s it about?” the boss asks. With a smirk and dramatic pause, George says, “Nothing. It’s a show about nothing!”

No they didn’t sell the show. That wouldn’t have been funny. Better we should laugh at our pals and their madness.

But we shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss the value of “nothing”.

In keeping with my assertion that you can write a blog post or email about anything, or nothing, I’m going to give it a shot. I’m going to take a random idea and see if I can fill the page with something interesting and useful.

First thing that pops into my head: shopping. Here goes.

I’m not a shopper. If I go to the mall with my wife, you won’t find me trying on clothes. In the past, you’d find me at a bookstore. Today, I’ll hit a computer store, but only for a few minutes. Mostly, I find a comfy chair, read and watch people.

Basically, I do nothing.

But that’s okay. What I like to do at a mall and what my wife likes to do are different. We’re different people. One person’s gourmet meal is her husband’s poison.

We need to remember this in selling our services.

Not everyone will see the need or the value of what you offer. Some will say yes, some will say no, and some will say, “Ah, get me out of here, there’s an attorney talking!”

We must also remember that the ones who say no do it for different reasons.

One prospect may say no to your estate planning services because she thinks you charge too much. Another might say no because she doesn’t see the need or the urgency.

I spoke to a young woman recently who had a baby eight months ago. I asked if she and her husband had updated their will (knowing they probably didn’t have one at all). She told me they were going to wait until after they had a second child before doing that.

Yep, that’s what she said.

If you are an estate planner, what would you have said in response?

The point is that you need to know the different reasons prospective clients say no to your proposition and be prepared to address them. You can handle an “objection” by presenting the information as part of the pitch or on your website, etc., or you can address it when they vocalize it. (NB: it’s better to handle an objection before it comes up.)

The point is that people are different and so are their reasons for saying no. If you want to sell more of your services, you need to figure out those reasons and do something about them.

So there you go, a post that started out about nothing and turned into something. Sweet! I’m calling my buddy Art Vandelay and letting him know.

What to put on your website


Get better at writing by invoking your inner couch potato


One reason I’m able to turn out emails so quickly is that I’m lazy. I get ideas from lots of sources but I primarily write what’s in my head.

I don’t slow down to do research, or spend time looking for graphics. I don’t stop to ask myself if I’ve addressed the subject before or worry about contradicting myself. I don’t spend time hunting down every typo.

I just write. Fast. You can, too.

It doesn’t matter if you said something before. This time, you’ll say it differently. But even if you don’t, no worries. Repetition is the mother of learning. Your readers might not have absorbed your message the first time, or the 31st time. Maybe this time, they will.

Your readership is constantly changing, too. Every day, new people come to your website or blog and subscribe to your list and they’re hearing your words for the first time.

Marketing isn’t solely about delivering information. That’s part of it, but an even bigger part is that you are regularly touching the lives of the people on your list. You know, the people who can hire you or send you referrals. Yeah, those people.

Write a few paragraphs and tell people what you’re thinking or how you feel. Share an idea or comment on someone else’s. Ask subscribers questions, ask them to do something, or just say hello.

Stay in their minds, and their mailboxes and they will hire you (again) and send you referrals and traffic and promote your events.

Write a lot, and write quickly. It will make you a better writer. Writing quickly allows you to bypass the filters in your brain that tell you what you should and shouldn’t do, or that tell you you’re not good enough.

Just write, okay? Don’t worry about what comes out. Emails aren’t briefs or white papers or reports. Nobody is expecting you to be scholarly or brilliant. Besides, you know more than your readers do and they won’t know if you left something out or got something wrong.

Stop trying so hard. Get lazy and write something.

Want ideas for blog posts and emails? This is what you need