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Use “We” vs. “I” In Asking For Referrals

Posted in Marketing Tips

In my early lawyering days as an assistant attorney general in North Carolina, I had the privilege of having one of the best, most efficient secretaries possible. (I even tried to get her fiancée a job in town, so they wouldn’t move out of state after the wedding. He “suggested” nicely that I mind my own business.) I had one problem with her, however. Whenever I would use the word “we”, she would kid me by saying something like “what do you mean we kimosabe? It’s your job, and I’m just here to do your typing” (on a real typewriter, if anyone remembers what they looked like).

I got that flashback when I saw the article over on Automatic Referrals suggesting the use of “we” over “I” when seeking referrals. Man, did old Silver rein in on that one.

The point is a good one, however, especially when I think about lawyers I know who are shy, and would hesitate to do anything so bold as to ask someone to refer work to them. The article states that a lot of professionals don’t ask for referrals because they don’t want to appear desperate for work, or unsuccessful, or needy.

So, the article suggests using “us”, “our” and “we” (as in your law firm can do or offer…) in ways that “takes the emphasis of the conversation off of you…”

But, “we” need to keep this to ourselves. I’d hate for my former secretary to think I didn’t learn my lesson after all these years.

  • http://www.ingenuitymarketing.com Christine Nelson

    I agree on the use of “we” for discussing the competitive difference of your firm to prospects face to face, but keep that tendency out of proposals and reduce it in your marketing messages wherever possible.
    However, it’s also a great idea to cite specific people in the firm and their skills for contributing to the client’s success. Anecdotes are excellent. It takes the ego and discomfort out of just pitching yourself, but also avoids “firm speak” and “we, we” posturing. People still buy from people. Plus, you’ll be authentic and generous by promoting the talents of the practice team at your firm.
    Here is an article on competitive difference that could help with prospect conversations…
    http://www.ingeniusreviewblog.com/?p=673

  • http://www.sofloridaestateplanning.com/ David Shulman

    I’m a sole practitioner with no staff. There is no “we” just me. Should I use “we” still? I feel silly writing it.
    Tom’s comment: Good point, David. I wouldn’t recommend “writing” we in brochures, letters, etc. when in fact you are a solo practitioner. Clients and other know you aren’t a “we.” However, “we” can be used for those who have a secretary, paralegal, etc. because they are definitely part of the “team” that services clients. Accordingly, a solo law firm can be a “we.”
    In your case, if you use any outside help at all, they could be considered part of your team for purposes of “we”.