Lawyers: How to write emails that get results


In my previous post I talked about email mistakes to avoid. Today, I want to share some basic but nevertheless vital ideas for writing emails that get opened, get read, and get results.


Your email may be powerful and persuasive but if people don’t open it, they won’t read it. The key to getting your emails opened is your subject. It is the “headline” for your email message. It has to stop the reader who is skimming his email in box and get them to click. The more effective your subject, the more often this will occur. Also, an effective subject “pre-sells” the message contained in the body of your email, making it that much more likely that the recipient will respond to your request.

  • Be specific. Effective subjects are clear and precise. They tell the reader what your message is about.
  • Include a benefit. What will the reader gain (or avoid) by reading your email? Why should they read your message?
  • Use their name. Although using the recipient’s name in the subject is overdone in some circles, it is still an effective way to get their attention. It can also convey urgency, e.g., “John, please call me as soon as you read this”.
  • Include key words. Specific nouns and active verbs communicate. Project-specific key words will also get attention.
  • Include due dates. If you have a time-oriented offer or request, consider putting the date in the subject.
  • Front load. Most email programs cut off the end of lengthy subjects so put the most important parts up front.


The purpose of the subject (headline) is to get readers to open the email. The purpose of the first sentence is to get them to read the second sentence. And so on. You’ve got their attention but it is oh so easy to lose it, so say what you have to say–immediately.

Put the most important things up front: due dates, requests for information, requests for action. If you bury these, they may never been seen (or seen too late). Telegraph your message so the reader cannot possibly miss it.

How long should an email be? Long enough to get the job done and no longer. Make it as short as possible but don’t worry if your message is lengthy. In a particularly lengthy message, you can always link to additional information (or offer to send it).


  • Summarize. There’s a communication formula that works in writing and speaking. (1) Tell them what you’re going to tell them. (2) Tell them. (3) tell them what you told them. This may not be necessary in a short email but it can prove helpful to you and your reader in a longer message.
  • Tell them what to do. Repeat your request (or offer) at the end of the message and tell them what to do. Do you want them to call? Email? Go? Be specific; you’ll get more people doing what you want them to do when you tell them precisely what to do.
  • Tell them why. Studies show that when you give a person a reason they are more likely to comply with a request. This should obviously be a part of the body of your email but it’s a good idea to repeat it in your close.
  • Give them ways to contact you. Don’t assume they know your phone number or even your email address. (You might want a reply to a different email.) Provide full contact information in your signature to make it easy for them to contact you or otherwise connect with you through a web site or social media.

Writing effective emails will save you time and get you better results. Your recipients will also save time and be more inclined to not only read your messages but act on them.


Attorneys can benefit from a unique selling proposition


A few years ago, Progressive Insurance ran TV commercials touting that they assign a dedicated claims specialist claimants their policyholders can count on for the life of their claim. The benefit is that you can always call "your" representative and never have to worry about what’s going on with your claim. Policyholders want to be able to talk to the same person each time they call, someone who understands their claim and is staying on top of it "for them".

Now, most other insurance companies probably do the same thing. But because those companies aren’t saying they do it, when Progressive says it, they virtually OWN that benefit.

You can do the same thing. You can promise prospective clients that they will have a dedicated member of your firm assigned to their claim, so that they don’t have to worry about who to ask for when they call. They’ll feel better just knowing that someone is assigned to their case and that it’s not lost in the shuffle.

The fact that most lawyers do the same thing is not important. If you say it and they don’t, or you say it FIRST, you can effectively "own" that benefit and preempt other lawyers in your market from using it. It can become your "Unique Selling Proposition" (USP), the competitive advantage that sets you apart from other lawyers in the minds of clients and prospects.

In marketing, perception is everything. If you appear to offer a unique advantage, people will see a benefit to hiring you instead of your competition.

Your USP can be about any meaningful benefit you offer. What do you do faster, better, or more thoroughly? What do you do that you know clients like?

A great way to find a powerful USP is to learn what your clients DON’T like about lawyers in your field, and promise them the opposite. If clients consistently complain that lawyers who do what you do take to long to do it, for example, your promise to do it quickly would likely be seen as valuable and desirable to those who can hire you.

The number one complaint received by state bar associations is lack of communication by their lawyer. Many lawyers have difficulty, it seems, keeping their clients informed about the progress of their legal matter. Even worse, many complaints involve lawyers who don’t return phone calls. Something this common, and this easy to fix, would seem to be a great USP for lawyers in many practice areas.

If you’re bad at keeping clients informed (or returning calls), resolve to get better. In fact, I’d suggest a goal to become not just better but the best. Make a promise to yourself to return calls within 24 hours, for example. Raise the bar. It’s so easy to do and it will have a profound impact on your practice. Fewer unhappy clients, more repeat clients and referrals.

Then, proclaim it to your clients and everyone else. Let them know of your commitment. Make it your unique selling proposition.

If you’re already good at keeping clients informed and returning calls, the odds are you don’t tell people this, or you don’t tell them enough. Consider doing so before some other attorney decides to make it her unique selling proposition.