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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