Lawyer, be Interesting

MIMITW slip and fallAt a recent talk, a young lawyer asked what lawyers in competitive practice areas (he, I later learned, was a PI lawyer) could do to stand out from the competition.One answer – an answer that might seem obvious, if it weren’t one that so many lawyers could benefit from – is to do outstanding work.

By this I don’t mean just the stay-up-late-and-aggressively-and-competently-represent type of doing outstanding work.  That’s table stakes, even if far too many lawyers don’t get that far.

What I mean is staying fully invested with, and available to, the client.  Being responsive to their concerns.  Attuned to their level of risk tolerance. Over-communicating.  And being completely willing to tell them the hard truths they need to hear – which they will (usually) process and understand, if you’ve done all of the above.  Attorneys who do all of that, consistently, will yield a bounty of referral business from grateful clients.

But that’s not the answer I gave.

In many competitive areas, you’ve got to do even more than provide consistently outstanding work for your clients.  You’ve got to be . . . interesting. You need to have a personality.

This doesn’t come naturally for most lawyers. Hell, it doesn’t come naturally for me. We lawyers are risk adverse, and being interesting means taking a stand on something, having opinions, being loud, being polarizing.  It means putting ourselves out there, exposing ourselves a little bit, risking the possibility that some people will disagree with us and perhaps even not like us.

This doesn’t mean you’ve got to stake out extreme positions; it just means that you’ve got to be more transparent.  Staid-and-boring doesn’t cut it any longer.  The internet and social media open up so much opportunity for attorneys to show who they really are and connect with clients and referral sources at a relationship level.  So trumpet those organizations you’re involved with, even at the risk of alienating a portion of the community.  Don’t hesitate to talk about your interests or what you’re doing in the community, even if it has nothing whatsoever to do with the practice of law.

People want to connect with real people.  And while they want their lawyers to be bullets on the competency front, they also want them to be real people they can relate to, laugh with, or even have a drink with.