Selling Yourself: What Every Lawyer can Learn from Salespeople

“Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Hello and welcome to the October edition of “Coming of Age”.  As I noted last month, while I wait for the Texas Bar Exam results to be released on November 4th, I took an interim job selling cars. In the meantime I also found time to finally get married to my high school sweetheart on October 8th.

In my brief time working as a car salesman, I have picked up on several valuable tips and skills that are sure to help me along in my career as an attorney. All throughout my collegiate career I was taught that all the answers to any question I may ever have is in a book somewhere. Sales is not your traditional animal.

In the digital age, anyone can go to any dealership and find a red convertible of a certain make. All that’s really left up to the buyer is which dealership to go to. Many times people will go to several dealerships looking at the exact same care before they settle on buying. Why is that? It’s the same car, and often times the price range is incredibly close, so what makes a person buy from a particular car lot? The salesman. One of the most valuable pieces of advice I’ve gotten while working in sales, is that to be successful in sales, you must first sell yourself. A person will buy from someone they genuinely like.

This is something that directly translates to any line of business, but especially in the legal world. If you sell your clients, associates, juries, and judges on yourself they will want to agree with you, they will want to see things from your point of view. As lawyers we have been trained to be different from everyone else, we have been trained to be creatures of logic, to put aside our feelings and emotions and to serve justice according to the blackletter law. This may be true but we have to realize that a majority of those that we deal with are not “creatures of logic: but rather, as Dale Carnegie described “creatures of emotion”.

Taking all of this into consideration how do we apply it in our own practices? First, we must become enthusiastic in everything we do. Lawyers are largely known for having a perpetually sour disposition in all things they do. When I was working at the District Court in Tulsa, Oklahoma I absolutely loathed dealing with hard boiled attorneys who screamed and shouted and thumped their chests until they got what they wanted.

On the other hand, the attorneys I dealt with who were pleasant, friendly, and actually took time to learn about me personally were always great to deal with. So, when the surly lawyer and the one who actually knew my name both submitted documents to the court on the same day, at the same time, whose filings do you think received attention first?

In Dale Carnegie’s legendary book “How to Win Friends and Influence People” he points out that the number one way to make friends, is to make them feel important, like they are the only person in the world that matters. If you do that with every person you encounter, every single day, success is inevitable. The way we do this is through enthusiasm, smiles, and genuine interest in everyone and everything we do. Enthusiasm and a positive attitude are contagious. If the court clerk is tending to your filings in a quick and efficient manner, your client, and your senior partner are certainly going to be enthused with the progress the case is making.

If the jury feels that you’re a guy they can relate to and they like, they will want to see things from your, and therefore your client’s, point of view. Enthusiasm sells in any line of business you’re in, whether it be selling cars, selling the jury, or just developing friends that you can count on.

The most successful lawyers are those who are emotionally involved in every facet of their client’s case. The legendary Texas trial lawyer, Joe Jamail, stated in a March 2009 ABA Journal Magazine interview:

“[t]oday’s law schools teach students how not to get emotionally involved in their cases. That’s bulls–t. If you are not emotionally involved, your client is not getting your best effort.”

It took a job a car dealership, rather than a law degree, to teach me that people want you to be emotionally invested in them. Once they feel that way you have a client, and a friend for life. The modern lawyer should not be a cold calculating automaton, but a warm empathetic person who conducts his job with passion and enthusiasm. That sells

All opinions, advice, and experiences of guest bloggers/columnists are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions, practices or experiences of Solo Practice University®.

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3 comments on “Selling Yourself: What Every Lawyer can Learn from Salespeople

  • Jack, congrats on your nuptials!

    Also, I love this article! Chock full of excellent advice and perspective that I have found to be so true since starting my legal career!

    Connecting with clients in a real way is the best part of being an attorney and its true that these clients do often become really good friends! I also remember in my law clerk days, not granting favor to the rude attorneys who demanded things. Those attorneys who were friendly and took the time to get to know you, definitely had some advantages when dealing with court procedure.

    I also think selling is a skill any solo or future solo needs to know! And it can totally be done in an ethical way. In fact, as you say, being friendly and letting people know they matter is the easiest and probably best selling method.

    • Rachel,

      Thank you very much! I’m glad you enjoyed the article, I’ve been reading several books on sales such as the Dale Carnegie book and they all come to the same conclusion, BE ENTHUSIASTIC! If it works for salespeople it will certainly work for us.

  • Jack, speaking from the retrospective of almost 35 years of practice, that last 15 as a sole proprietor in a competitive market, my bottom line is: You’ve got it. Now apply it consistently, and you’ll make an impact for good. Passion matters.

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