The Art of the Elevator Pitch

elevator-pitchIf you search the Internet you’ll see nearly a million hits for “lawyer elevator pitches”. The elevator pitch is an introduction of who you are and what you do. It’s your chance to make a good first impression.  The elevator pitch of course doesn’t happen all that much in elevators, rather it happens at all kinds of networking events including cocktail parties, trade shows, fund raising events, conferences and sometimes just walking down the street (or the skywalk in Des Moines during cold winter days).

The key to the elevator pitch is preparation. But not in the way many lawyers think. It’s not about memorizing lines that describe your practice like, “Hello, I’m Rush Nigut. I am a business lawyer. I do blah, blah, blah.” Rather it’s much more about turning the conversation into something that is helpful and meaningful to your prospective client than about you.  It’s important to be flexible and conversational rather than give rigid practice descriptions that might appear on the typical law firm Web site. For example, what I say to a start up entrepreneur will be much different than to a general counsel of a publicly traded company. I’ve represented both types of clients in different capacities but I might miss out on potential work if I have just a standard elevator speech.

Plus, most solo lawyers have experience in more than one area of practice. But giving multiple areas of practice may make you sound like a jack of all trades and a master of none. The prospect may want to know that you have expertise in a particular area rather than just someone who dabbles in a particular practice area. As a result, I have found one question to be particularly successful when presented with a pitch opportunity:

“What kind of lawyer do you need?”

This simple question does wonders. First, it allows the prospect to open up and tell you about their issues and needs. Second, it allows you the opportunity to respond in a way that shows the prospect that you have expertise that will help them. Alternatively, if you can’t help the prospect you may be able to refer them to someone who can. In my experience getting someone to the right lawyer can pay big dividends down the road. Networking as a lawyer is a marathon, not a sprint. And you’ve got to be careful not to oversell your services.

As any good networker will tell you, it’s about being interested, rather than interesting. Learn how you can serve others to help them succeed and you’ll see your elevator reach the roof.

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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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4 comments on “The Art of the Elevator Pitch

  • That is excellent advice. I really need to work on my pitch, rather than just telling others that I work for a law firm.

  • I wonder whether asking the question “What kind of lawyer do you need?” makes any reply seem a bit disingenuous. I agree that it will be a conversation started, but won’t the client wonder whether you are just saying your do criminal work, or PI work or divorce work based on their answer?

    I’m a recovering litigator, now focusing on Estate & Business Planning. I used to say “I sue people and defend people who get sued” or “business and commercial litigation.” I think most of my friends had no idea what I really did.

    Now I tell be people “I help people create an estate plan that helps them pass down their values, not just their assets.” It’s a new pitch, so I’ll let you know soon how it is working.

    • Steve, thanks for the comment. I’ve never had a problem with something thinking I’m being disingenuous. I don’t change my pitch to include practice areas I am not involved in. But I am quite often in a position to refer that prospect to someone in my firm or another attorney I believe can help them if there not looking for assistance in business law. Plus, it needs to come up in the context of the conversation. It can’t be forced.

      The funny thing to me as lawyers we think of ourselves as business lawyers, estate planning lawyers, or personal injury lawyers. The rest of the world thinks we should know about every area of law.

  • I’ve used this before. Like everything, sometimes it works, other times it does not. One response I have received to this pitch is, “Oh, I’m not looking for a lawyer, I was just interested in what you do.” I haven’t found much success in a pitch, standing alone.

    Rather than answer the question with a question, when I meet someone for the first time, I ask questions about THEM and let them do the talking, while I do the listening. I have found this to be more genuine and more effective. People naturally like to talk about themselves and appreciate those who are genuinely interested in them. By listening and asking relevant questions, I am more likely to determine whether they, or someone they know, have a need with which I (or someone else in my firm) can help them, or even whether I can direct them to someone who can. It doesn’t matter whether it is a legal or non-legal issue. What matters is that it acknowledges that I have listened to them and care about their need, whether it benefits me or not (it usually does benefit me, whether immediately, or in the future). It will always be about relationships and trust. Instant gratification rarely works.

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