What I learned in the fourth grade about marketing legal services

After my post, “What to say when someone asks, ‘What do you do?”‘ I read an interesting take on the issue at The Non Billable Hour. In, “The Haiku of What You do,” Matt Homann suggests crafting your answer using Haiku.

As you might recall from fourth grade English, a Haiku is a three line poem consisting of 17 words (or syllables), five on the first line, seven on the second line, and five on the third. Homann suggests structuring your response as follows:

  • Who do I help? (Answer in Five Words)
  • What do I do for them? (Answer in Seven Words)
  • Why do they need me? (Answer in Five Words)

The minimalist nature of Haiku lends itself well to an elevator speech. It forces you to get to the essence of what you do and for whom you do it.

Holmann offers this example for a personal injury attorney:

I help injured accident victims

understand their rights and recover medical expenses

from people who are responsible.

Here’s what I came up with for what I do:

I show attorneys how to

get more clients and increase their income

accomplishing more and working less.

Give it a try and see what you come up with. Post your results in the comments.

What to say when someone asks, “What do you do?”

The next time someone asks you what you do what will you say?

“I’m a lawyer”?

That doesn’t say very much, does it? It’s a good way to clear the room, however.

“I’m a PI lawyer”?

I used to say that but too many people wondered if I was a lawyer or a private investigator.

“I’m a personal injury lawyer”?

Getting better, but many people still don’t know what that means or how you can help them.

If you’ve ever found yourself searching for the right way to answer this question, help is on the way. All you need to do is follow these three steps:

  1. “You know how. . .?” Orient the listener to the problems you solve.
  2. “I help. . .”. Tell them what you do.
  3. “I’m a. . .”. State your practice area.

Examples:

  • Estate planning: “You know how people want to protect their kids and their spouse in case something happens to them? Well, I take care of everything for them so they never have to worry about that again. I’m an estate planning lawyer.”
  • Personal injury: “You know how people get injured in a car accident or on someone else’s property and want to collect money from the other party or their insurance? I make sure they get their bills paid and don’t get taken advantage of so they can get well and get back to work. I’m a personal injury lawyer.”
  • Small business lawyer: “You know how business owners need to protect their businesses and make better decisions? I help them do that with advice and legal documents. I’m a business lawyer.”
  • Family law: “You know how when people get divorced they want to protect their kids and get a fair property settlement? I take care of that for them so they get what they deserve and can sleep better at night. I’m a family law attorney.”

You can also add a few words about “what else” you do: “I’m a business lawyer. . . I also help business owners collect money that’s owed to them and defend them when anyone sues or tries to make a claim against their company.”

You get the idea.

Answering this way gives the listener a context so they can better understand what you do and how you can help them, or someone they know. It may still clear the room, however.

David Allen on how to handle distractions

I thought you’d enjoy this short video by David Allen, the “Getting Things Done” guy himself.

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How to read more and get more out of what you read

Attorneys read a lot. Still, there’s always more we want to read, if only we had the time.

I was reading an article, yesterday, “7  Tips for becoming well-read,” and it has some good tips for reading more, things like starting small (e.g., 15 minutes during lunch) and minimizing distractions. But I didn’t think the tips went far enough so I came up with my own:

  • Be ruthless in what you select to read. Spend a few minutes with a book candidate and decide whether or not it is worth your time. Read reviews, the book’s cover, excerpts, and ask the person who recommended it. A few minutes spent in this process could save you hours of wasted time.
  • Skim. You don’t have to read the entire book, cover to cover. The 80/20 principle tells us that 80% of the value of a book is contained in 20% of its content so look for that.
  • You don’t have to finish it. If you don’t like it, stop reading it. Don’t waste time on books that don’t resonate with you.
  • Learn to speed read. Why spend five hours reading something you could read in 30 minutes?
  • Subscribe to book summaries services. Their editors summarize the books for you. For most books, that’s all you’ll need but if you like what you see in the summary, you can put that book on your list to read in its entirety.
  • Delegate. An employee can read for you, present a summary, and/or bring to your attention those books or articles he thinks you would want to read.

This will allow you to read more by eliminating a lot of marginal choices. You’ll have more time to read the “best of the best”. When you do, here’s how to get more out of what read:

  • If a book is truly high value, you may want to read it more than once. When I was in high school, I read, “How to Read a Book,” by Mortimer Adler. He presents a process for reading a book several times, each time with a different purpose. I don’t think every book qualifies for several readings but when you find one that does, a second or third reading could have immeasurable value.
  • Highlight. If you think you might read the book again, highlighting passages will make the second reading faster because you can, if you choose, read only the highlighted passages. (If you don’t think you will read the book again, or use it as a reference, there’s not much point in highlighting). For the record, I use a yellow highlighter on my first read and, usually, a red or blue pen on the second read.
  • Take notes. You’ll learn more about what you’re reading if you think about the words while you are reading them. Put the ideas in context, ask yourself questions, speculate on the options, and write it all down. It takes longer but you’ll get more value out of what you read. You’ll remember it better, too.
  • Read (and take notes) as though you had to teach the subject tomorrow. This will force you to zero in on the essence of the material, and master it.

So those are my tips for reading more and getting more out of what you read. By the way, none of this applies to fiction. We read fiction to escape, to learn about exotic places, to solve a mystery, to feel emotions, to have fun, or to learn about the human condition. Not something you want to speed up or delegate.

Steve Jobs’ prescription for success and happiness–in his own words

In 2005, Steve Jobs addressed the graduating class at Stanford University. I’d never heard his remarks before today, but I’m glad I took 15 minutes this morning to watch this video. Jobs tells three stories, taken from his life experience, to communicate a simple but powerful message. It is one of the most insightful and motivating speeches I’ve ever heard. In light of his recent resignation, ostensibly for health reasons, it is also one of the most moving.

I hope you enjoy this as much as I did.

Here is a transcript of his remarks.