The Haiku of What You Do: An Easy Format for a Better Elevator Speech

The elevator speech – that quick spiel you use to answer the old “What do you do?” question – is a hang-up for many lawyers. It’s hard to talk about yourself, and harder still to make it brief, meaningful and client-centric.

Turns out poetry can help – haiku, to be exact. (Although some practices may lend themselves to limericks, we know.) Matt Homann, one of my favorite legal innovators, developed a formula to craft a short, sweet and client-focused elevator speech that’s based on Japanese haiku. I love that it forces concision, and it focuses on the client.

The three questions, which must be answered within the specified number of words:

  • Who do I help? (Answer in five words)
  • What do I do for them? (Answer in seven words)
  • Why do they need me? (Answer in five words)

A sample response from a business lawyer could be:

I help small business owners

incorporate their businesses and protect their ideas

so they can sleep better.

Family law?

I help spouses in conflict

separate their assets and make parenting plans

to keep their kids secure.

Contrast that with the prototypical “I’m an attorney at Such & Such” introduction. The haiku version is human, real and action-oriented.

Break out a pen and paper, and try your own haiku. Think about how you can incorporate it into your firm bio or LinkedIn, profile, too – you now have a great starting point for your personal brand.

My haiku?

I help savvy law firms

Connect with clients who need their help

so they can grow purposefully.

Note: A previous version of this article appeared on Ms. JD.