How Telling Your Story Gets You New Clients

What’s the story you’re telling?

Is it interesting? Is there something that makes us remember you? Is there a reason for us to tell others?

Here’s the lawyer story we’re told most often:

The lawyer went to a mediocre law school. We surmise, from reading the bio, that the lawyer didn’t do so well at the marginally impressive college because of the “choice” to go to that particular law school. We’re impressed (just kidding!) that the lawyer was the president of the environmental law club. We’re even more impressed (again, just kidding) that the lawyer won the “book award” in the family law class. (What’s a book award?)

Yeah, if that’s the story, then maybe the lawyer should just keep it to himself.

I hesitate to call that a “story.” For me, a story is something worth telling. It’s interesting. When I hear a good story, I’m excited to tell others. This lawyer’s story is boring and not worth passing along. It’s not really a story at all.

Do You Have a Good Story?

Your story is what you should be telling when you get to know people. It’s what you should be telling when you’re explaining yourself when giving a speech at Rotary. It’s the material you should include in your website bio, and it’s one of the key components of everything you do as you market your practice.

If your story is like the one described above, then it simply isn’t worth telling. I’m sorry, but it’s not.

And here’s the part that baffles me. You actually have a story—a good story. I figure that out as we chat.

Storyline 1

We talk. By piecing together bits of our conversations, I discover that you grew up in a family that faced challenges. Your parents’ marriage unraveled when you were 11. Your dad ran off with his assistant. They weren’t really keeping their affair a secret, and your mother found out. She unraveled pretty publicly. The people in the small town you lived in knew everything about everyone and you knew, even as a child, that everyone was whispering about your dad.

Your mother didn’t do well after the divorce. She turned to alcohol and a series of trial-run “stepfathers.” It was messy and unpleasant.

And then, your dad’s assistant (and now his wife) died. It was unexpected. She was only 35. You were a pallbearer at her funeral.

Of course, the drama continued as your parents reunited. You were older then, and the town continued to talk. The whole thing was a nightmare.

Your experience as a child drove you to law school and ultimately into family law. That’s why you do what you do. You have big ideas about making the process better. You’re doing your part each day to improve the system and the lives of each of your clients.

Now, that’s a story.

But it’s not the story you tell.

Storyline 2

I know another lawyer. This one got the book award in real property. (They must have a lot of leftover books to give away, huh?) Now, in addition to his practice, he teaches continuing education on issues involving easements and eminent domain relating to public utilities.

His bio on his website put me into a coma. For a few moments, I was technically dead. It’s so boring it might kill a person.

And, of course, we talked.

What an interesting guy. He was raised in the country by his grandfather. His grandfather worked  for the local electric membership cooperative as a lineman. Pappy, as he called him, told story after story of how lives were changed when they finally strung lines out in the country. He explained what it meant for families when they had power after living for so long without it. It changed lives.

It wasn’t an accident that he now does the legal work for a collection of utilities. In fact, he’s counsel to a number of electric membership cooperatives across his state. He helps them with a range of issues and, once in a while, one of his clients strings power lines out to a place that never had power before.

Pappy changed lives, and so does this lawyer. This lawyer is carrying on a family tradition of bringing light to the darkness. He’s changing lives in his own way.

[ While I have you here, I wanted to remind you that you can get the latest articles delivered to your inbox a week before they go up on the web. Just one email per week. Sign up here. ]

How to Find Your Story

These two lawyers are telling the “book award” story when they could be telling something so much more interesting and dramatic. They’re telling a story guaranteed to be forgotten when they’re living stories guaranteed to be remembered.

This week, Rosen Institute members benefited from a program helping them tell their stories. They’re learning to include the right elements, emphasize the interesting, explain the conflict, and demonstrate how their story drove them to the client reading the story on the website, hearing it at a speech, or learning about it on Facebook (don’t worry, it’s recorded—you can still join in).

Your story is good stuff. People want to hear it. They especially want to hear it when they’re groping for solutions to their problems, feeling like trust is in short supply, and needing desperately to feel like they’re connecting with another human. They’re looking for someone who understands. They’re looking for someone who can wrap their arms around them and solve the problem. They’re looking for someone they can believe in who feels more real than the “book award” lawyer.

Find your story, pick the right elements to emphasize, and then tell it at every opportunity. Your story will bring you clients. Let people know the real you.

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