Present, Past and Future: A simple model for your personal and firm brands

squares with past present future with animated line on a navy background

While working to solve the stress of the oft-dreaded “elevator speech,” the helpful folks at Harvard Business Review have presented a new model that, applied broadly, can provide an effective and consistent framework for law firm branding – from lawyers to practice groups to the firm at large.

The HBR approach takes three steps to craft a better personal introduction:

1. Present: Start by introducing yourself in your present situation.

    • I am Jane, and I am a litigation partner at Clark & Kent.

2. Past: Next, add two to three points about your previous experience that establish credibility.

    • I have practiced in employment litigation for twenty years. I have successfully resolved disputes regarding discrimination, harassment and retaliation for clients in a number of industries. I recently achieved three consecutive defense verdicts in federal court.

3. Future: End by speaking to what’s next for you (as relevant to the audience).

    • In addition to helping clients resolve disputes, I enjoy working with organizations on proactive policies and training, so they can reduce litigation – or eliminate it altogether.

As HBR notes, this approach is “eloquent and effective” – and it reduces the risk of rambling or forgetting something important.

It’s simple to see how this formula could be deployed for lawyer biographies. But beyond those core components of legal marketing, it can easily expand to other law firm marketing communications. It solves the “blank page problem,” where writer’s block creeps in even on subjects we’re familiar with – our own biographies, our own practice areas – because we don’t know where to start. It ensures we share the results and experience that comprise our expertise (the No. 1 reason clients choose and refer lawyers). And it prompts us to look toward the future to talk about what we want to do and how we want to help.

Let’s experiment with a practice group description using the “Present, Past, Future” approach.


The patent prosecution team at Stark & Banner helps clients in high-tech industries protect their most important innovations.


We have worked alongside engineers and product developers to secure thousands of patents over the past 10 years. Our team, which includes former patent examiners at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, has earned a top-10 quality rating from Patent Bots each year for the past five years.


We welcome the opportunity to take on your biggest IP challenges, from the most complex technology to the most competitive markets.

While this example is purely hypothetical, it nonetheless shows how to apply the Present, Past and Future to talk about your law firm. Applied firmwide, it could bring the benefit of consistency across practice pages – no more two-sentence brief for Appellate, with a magnum opus for Zoning.

For the next bio or practice group summary or actual “elevator speech,” channel your inner Marty McFly: start with the Present, roll back to the Past, end with the Future.

Where we’re going, we may not need roads, but a consistent framework is always helpful.

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