Law Ruler April 2024
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Get Specific With Your Ask

If you want results, this is how you do it.

By Sally J. Schmidt

I was walking down a sidewalk recently and saw a fellow asking for change on the corner. It struck me how many people were putting money into his cup. As I approached, he said, “Can you give me one quarter?”

From a distance, I had thought everyone must be in a generous mood. But, while this may seem like an odd segue into law firm marketing, it occurred to me later that his “ask” was really smart. He requested something specific.

I have observed that lawyers are often vague with requests. Maybe it’s because they don’t like to sell, or know how to sell, so they take a much softer approach. But if you want people to help you, they need to know exactly what you want.

Making an Ask

There are myriad occasions when a lawyer should be more specific in order to get results. Here are some examples.

Getting involved in an organization:

  • Vague request: “I’d love to get more involved in the association.”
  • Specific request: “I’d love to be on the association’s board someday. I know it will take a lot of time and hard work but where would you suggest I start? Is there a committee I could contribute to or another role I could play to help the organization out?”

When you ask for referrals:

  • Vague request: “Please think of me if any of your clients are looking for a real estate lawyer.”
  • Specific request: “Would you be willing to introduce me to one of your clients? I remember you said you work with XYZ Company. Maybe we could set up a lunch with the three of us.”

Cross-selling to a client:

  • Vague request: “If you ever need a lawyer in Los Angeles, we have an office there with some talented people.”
  • Specific request: “I’d like to introduce you to my colleague, [Name], from our L.A. office. Can we set up a time for you to meet her when she’s in town for our partner meeting next month?”

When you ask to visit:

  • Vague request: “I’d love to learn more about your business.”
  • Specific request: “I really want to know more about your business. I am going to be in Nashville for a conference early next year. May I come by for a tour?”

Expressing interest in an internal role (e.g., management, practice group head, committee membership):

  • Vague request: “I hope you will consider me for the committee.”
  • Specific request: “I have an undergraduate degree in HR and experience with a number of client integrations. I think I could add a lot to the lateral hiring committee.”

Trying to get work in a different practice area:

  • Vague request: “I’d love to get some more experience in the environmental area.”
  • Specific request: “I’d love to do more work in your practice area. The next time you find yourself needing some help, will you reach out to me?”

Attempting to obtain a speaking engagement:

  • Vague request: “I’d love to be a speaker at one of your future meetings.”
  • Specific request: “I’ve been doing a lot of programs lately on how we are dealing with privacy issues. Would you be interested in having a presentation on that topic?”

Help Them Help You

The next time you’re hoping for a particular outcome, think about a way to phrase your goal more definitively. That way, your contacts will be better equipped to help you achieve it.

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Sally J. Schmidt Sally J. Schmidt

Sally Schmidt, President of Schmidt Marketing, Inc., helps lawyers and law firms grow their practices. She was a founder and the first President of the Legal Marketing Association, is a Fellow of the College of Law Practice Management and was one of the first inductees to LMA’s Hall of Fame. Known for her practical advice, she is the author of two books, “Marketing the Law Firm: Business Development Techniques” and “Business Development for Lawyers: Strategies for Getting and Keeping Clients.” Follow her @SallySchmidt.

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