How to be more persuasive in your writing and speaking


When I was in law school I helped a friend with her divorce. I prepared the Petition (yes, under supervision) and served it.

In those days, even though there were no children or real property and the matter was uncontested, she had to appear in court. I went with her to the hearing in downtown Los Angeles and we waited in the hallway for the courtroom to open.

I’d never seen my friend so nervous. She had never been in a courtroom and was afraid she wouldn’t know what to say. I told her this was a very simple case, the judge would ask a few basic questions and everything would be over in a few minutes. I kept talking, trying to calm her down, but nothing seemed to work. She was visibly shaking and barely able to speak.

Finally, I said, “Oh, here comes the judge.” I was looking over her shoulder behind her. She turned to look. Coming towards us was a shabbily dressed old man with dirty, unruly hair and an unshaven face. It was not the judge of course but a homeless man and the sight of him shuffling down the hall made her laugh.

A good laugh was exactly what the doctor ordered. My friend was able to get through the hearing and soon, we were on our way home.

In the car, she thanked me for helping her and especially for helping her to calm down enough to get through the hearing. It meant a lot to her that I cared enough to do that. We are still very good friends today, more than thirty years later.

So, why did I tell you this story? I could have simply made the point that your clients want to know you care about them and really do appreciate the little things you say or do.

Telling you that story was a better way to make that point, don’t you think?

I talk a lot about using stories in your writing and presentations. You’ve often heard me say, “facts tell but stories sell” and I’ve explained why:

  • Stories have people in them and the reader or listener can relate to them and their experiences.
  • Stories have a dramatic theme; people want to know, “what happened next?”
  • Stories have verisimilitude; they “show” instead of “tell,” and are often more persuasive than a logical argument
  • Stories appeal to human emotion. When you make people feel something, you connect with them on a deeper level.
  • People remember stories long after the facts are forgotten.

As you read my story, I hope you were you able to see my friend and me in that hallway and you could relate to the experience of trying to comfort a nervous client. If you could, then my story did double duty–it made the point about showing clients you care and it showed you why you need to put more stories in your writing and presentations.


Do you make these mistakes in marketing your law practice?


There are two mistakes you can make in marketing your law practice and unfortunately, most attorneys are guilty of both.

What are the two mistakes?

  1. Not having a marketing plan, and
  2. Not executing that plan.

As a result, most attorneys don’t do any marketing, at least not with any consistency. Let’s face it, if you don’t have a plan–a list of projects and tasks and a schedule for completing them–any marketing activities you do will be sporadic and isolated. You’ll never generate momentum or sustained growth.

Having a cool web site (or any web site)  may be good for your ego but if you don’t have any traffic to it, that’s all it will be. Traffic doesn’t happen by itself. You need a plan and you need some activity or that traffic will never materialize.

Don’t get down on yourself. The problem isn’t you. It’s not a lack of self-discipline, poor organization, or bad habits. You aren’t lazy and you don’t need to get motivated. What you need is a better plan.

You need a plan that is

  1. Simple (so you can do it), and
  2. A good fit (so you want to do it).

If you want to do something and you believe you can do it, you will do it. You won’t have to force yourself to do things you don’t want to do, you’ll do it because you enjoy it.

In his remarks to the 2005 Stanford graduating class, Steve Jobs said, “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.” A friend of mine puts it this way: “When you love what you do and do you what you love you’ll never work another day in your life.”

If you don’t enjoy being a lawyer, common sense says to either change careers or find some aspect of practicing law you do enjoy. That might mean a different practice area, different clients, or a job with a different firm. If you don’t, you’ll never be happy and you’ll never do “great work.” The same can be said for marketing.

The good news is that there are lots of ways to market legal services and you only need one or two. You don’t have to be good at networking AND writing AND seminars AND getting web traffic AND social media AND referrals. Pick something that sounds good to you or feels right. For once in your career, put logic aside and listen to your gut.

Maybe nothing feels right or maybe you don’t know enough yet about the different options. That’s okay. Make no decisions, take a step back and simply learn. Read, observe, see what others are doing. Soak it all in and eventually, you’ll find something that’s a good fit.

And then, you need a plan. We’ll talk about that tomorrow.