Attorney experience: It’s the No. 1 selection factor for prospective clients, beating out firm brand, pricing and more. Indeed, clients want attorneys who can solve problems like theirs; clients want to see you’ve been there before.
So presenting evidence of this experience – through readable and relevant case studies – is one of the most effective tools in the law firm marketing arsenal. It’s one thing to say you’re the master of the niche;it’s another to show powerful examples.
The problem: Most lawyer experience is presented as throwaway text.
Do any of these sound familiar from bios or practice group materials?
“Represented client in trademark dispute. Settled on terms favorable to client.”
What kind of client? Was it a cease-and-desist spat or full-on litigation in federal court? What actually happened?
“Handled numerous shareholder disputes.”
As plaintiff or defense? Does “handled” mean won or lost? Numerous shareholder disputes for the same client, in the same industry, or 31 flavors of shareholder disputes?
“Lex Luthor v. Stark Industries, 2017 XX 123456 (D. Kan. 2017).”
Yes, reported decisions can be legitimizing. But as a standalone bullet point? You’re giving the reader homework. You’re putting it on them to look up the case, read it, and interpret through dense legal writing how your brilliance prevailed.
All three of these examples of experience are problematic. All three inspire more answers than confidence. All three are dull. But worse, all three are about the lawyer – not the client. In fact, this kind of verb-first construction removes the client altogether…and that’s where the good stuff is.
You want your prospective clients to be able to see themselves in your experience. You want them to identify with the size of company you have worked with; the situation at play; the industry in question. The more you can make your experience feel relevant to them, the safer your prospects will feel choosing you.
In short, it’s not about you. It’s about them.
Let’s rework one of those blurbs from above: “Represented client in trademark dispute. Settled on terms favorable to client.” How can we create a story to show why this matters?
Here’s a formula for very effective case studies. Consider the four S’s of storytelling:
In one sentence, what’s the problem?
In our example: “Our client, a manufacturer, was accused by a rival of trademark infringement.”
What did the client stand to win or lose? Why did this matter to their business or their family?
Continuing our example: “The competitor wanted to stop all sales of one of our client’s products and sought millions in damages.”
OK, now you have my attention.
What did you do? How did you fix the problem?
“Instead of engaging in lengthy litigation, we set up a collaborative discussion with the competitor.”
What was the end result? Think beyond the courtroom or board room. What did this matter mean in business or personal terms?
To conclude our hypothetical: “The competitor agreed to drop all claims if our client changed its product’s name and packaging. In exchange, the competitor paid for a new design and marketing materials. The new product is on shelves now, preserving an important revenue stream.”
Look at the before and after:
In a story format, this shows conflict, resolution, business stakes and problem-solving skills. It’s so much more compelling, and it’s so much more memorable. Most importantly, it’s so much more relatable: This blurb will get the attention of manufacturers, companies with troublesome rivals and companies that worry about cash flow.
One critical caveat: You must be mindful of client confidentiality. Ask permission, even if you do not use the client’s name. You never want a client to be surprised to see their story on your website. Privilege, as always, is paramount.
Once you have client permission and you have written your case studies in line with the four S approach, deploy them. Include them on attorney biographies. Include them in practice group materials. Post them in a prominent place on your website: Consider a heading in your navigation like Results or Experience. Roll them into your submissions for Chambers USA and regional or trade award programs.
And when it’s time to pitch for a specific piece of business, choose the case studies that are most likely to resonate with the client. Break them out of the rest of your proposal; put them in a separate “Executive Summary” introduction.
Then say the four magic words: “Most relevant to you.”
“This proposal includes background on our firm and practice team, as well as biographies for the individual lawyers. First, we wanted to share some of our recent experience. Most relevant to you…”
When you put the client first, show an understanding of their situation, and demonstrate true problem-solving, you allow your case studies to, well, make your case, and you will start to see your previous matters generate compound interest.