I didn’t know you do that.” That’s what one of my clients heard at a recent lunch with a corporate client. It was one of several lunches I’ve been encouraging her to schedule. He already sends me the legal work he needs done, she had said. He isn’t one I need to catch up with so what’s the point?

Now she knows the point. With that one remark, this lawyer realized her client thought she only does the kind of legal work she does for him in his department.

The casual lunch she had been skeptical about deepened the relationship and helped the client understand her other practice areas and how she can help people he knows. She included a couple of recent examples because she has learned they help people remember. Stories stick, stories sell.

This is a pattern I’ve seen numerous times over the years. Lawyers assume that people they know well know what they do as lawyers.

They assume that clients know, that referral sources know, that colleagues on boards and committees know. They also assume that their own colleagues in the law firm know.

Then there’s a spark. Someone says, “I didn’t know you do that”, or “I thought you do ______”, or, the absolute worst, “I would’ve called you but I didn’t think you did that kind of work.”

The spark often ignites frustration and blame. “They’ve known me forever. What the heck did they think I do? I’ve told them so many times.”

Then the aha. The light of day shines brightly on the truth:

Even people you know well don’t necessarily know or remember what you do. You haven’t been as good at communicating it as you thought.

You can wait for this moment of realization, or you can get better now at communicating what you do, including who and how you help as a lawyer.

  • Stop assuming people you know well know and understand what you do.
  • Craft a handful of concise sentences about who and how you help as a lawyer. Call it an elevator pitch, a self-introduction, whatever.
  • Focus on work you enjoy. Your energy and interest will show. You’ll be more compelling and attract more of that work.
  • Get comfortable tailoring those sentences to fit the type of listener and context.
  • Have a few very short examples to use if the timing and moment allows it.
  • Create a list of anecdotes, examples, items you can work into self-introductions or casual conversations when appropriate.
  • Gather your courage, stop falling back on your usual description, and start saying something meaningful and helpful. Helpful to others and to yourself.

Like losing weight, these steps are simple but not easy. If you would like to brainstorm and practice how you talk about what you do as a lawyer, please contact me.