Many law firm marketing consultants advise lawyers to develop an “elevator pitch” that conveys quickly what it is that he or she does as an attorney. I’ve never been comfortable with the term because it reminds me of the con artist pitch delivered (most enjoyably) by Robert Preston in The Music Man. Nonetheless, I believe in the concept.

But, how long should it be? How many floors does this here hypothetical elevator stop at – three or 33? Some say your spiel should only be ten seconds long, others say 20 or 30. Of course, if you are at the fourth floor, and the subject of your pitch is getting off on the fifth, you might want to be pretty darn quick about it.

Actually, you shouldn’t be thinking in terms of an elevator when you develop a concise statement about what you do to help clients. The chances of your actually delivering it in an elevator are remote. But I digress.

The important point is that when you tell people what you do as a lawyer, it should be short, succinct, and actually say something meaningful that will invite follow-up questions. Everyone’s style will be different, as will their message. Here are a couple that you might consider building upon for yourself when asked “what do you do?”:

Option 1: (Business Lawyer)

“I’m a (corporate/employment/intellectual property/etc.) lawyer who assists clients with their (business/work force/trademark/etc.) issues/problems while avoiding litigation, if at all possible.”

Thus begging the question, “What if you can’t avoid a court case?” See second sentence in Option 2.

Option 2: (Litigator)

“I’m a trial lawyer who tries to resolve client controversies involving (business/employment/etc.) issues without litigation, if at all possible. If a lawsuit is necessary, then I try to resolve the controversy to my client’s benefit at the earliest opportunity and at the lowest possible cost to the client.”

Do any of you have an elevator speech that you like, and that works for you? I’d love to hear from you, either as a comment to this post or by email, so I can share them with other readers. Thanks.

  • Because I work in an IP boutique, and due to the highly technical nature of that work, I coach my attorneys to make their “self introductions” pretty simple and focused on client relations. eg: I help inventors/companies secure their intellectual property assets. or for the IP litigators: I help companies protect and defend their intellectual property assets.

  • It’s important to keep the pitch short, but don’t forget to be specific about the type of law an attorney practices. Remember, not everyone knows what a probate attorney or an insurance defense attorney does.
    I always tell people to make the pitch easy to understand for the layperson. “I’m a criminal defense attorney who usually deals with people accused of DUI.” This is much more descriptive, and much more interesting to a layperson, than “I’m a criminal defense litigator who deals with federal cases.” What does that mean to the average person? Not much.

  • Q

    My experience is that most people don’t really want to know anything about what you do. They’re simply asking to be friendly or courteous. A more interesting response tries to evoke a question from the person with whom you’re speaking. The best way to do that is relate your career to something they can identify with. If it’s trial work, create an example that relates to something in the news. If you do corporate work for a consumer products company, talk about the product. Do you use toothpaste? Well, I help Crest ….

  • I talk about elevator speeches as “client-focused marketing messages” – to reinforce the idea the goal is to focus on the benefit of your services to the client.
    Here are a few of my favorites that my clients have developed over the years:
    Bond lawyer – I help hospitals and nursing homes raise cheap, long-term money for projects. Over the last 15 years, I have helped hundreds of institutions raise billions of dollars.
    Corporate lawyer – I help companies of all sizes, both public and private, buy and sell businesses, and come out of it still liking each other.
    Employment lawyer – I help employers do what they really want to do, run their businesses, without being side-tracked by discrimination claims, strikes or other employee problems.
    Insurance coverage litigator – When my clients get sued, I make sure that their insurance companies, and not my clients, pay the claims.
    Not all client-focused marketing messages need to be serious. Here are a few light-hearted ones:
    Commercial litigator (Texas) I help companies when they fuss with one another. I work hard to make sure my client walks away with the biggest piece of the pie possible.
    Employment lawyer – I help companies protect their good names when they are falsely accused by their disgruntled employees of nefarious acts.
    Products liability lawyer – I do drugs. I defend drug companies who get sued by people who claim they were injured when they used their products.
    Corporate lawyer – I help the rich get richer. I help groups of sophisticated investors when they buy and sell businesses.

  • Here is an example of a less than stellar elevator speech and a somewhat different take on the need for elevator speeches:
    http://westallen.typepad.com/idealawg/2006/11/if_thats_your_e.html
    Like you, I am not comfortable with the term.

  • Hi Tom,
    I enjoyed your post on writing an elevator speech. It was well-written and quite informative. Congratulations on a job well done!
    I just made a post (http://glennandrew.com/crafting-an-elevator-speech/) on crafting an elevator speech. I use a three-step process that follows a problem/solution/referral method that works for virtually any situation.

  • I enjoyed reading your post, thanks for the tips about I might consider building upon for yourself when asked.