Susan Smith Blakely

Perfect Pitch for Young Women Lawyers

Are you musical?  Have you had experience singing in a choir?  If so, you probably are familiar with the concept of “perfect pitch.”  

For the rest of you, perfect pitch is the ability of a person to identify or re-create a given musical note without the benefit of a reference tone.  Perfect pitch results in great vocalists, who can land a note on the musical scale exactly and in a way that is pleasing to the ear, leaving the listener with the desire to hear more.

Oddly, perfect pitch works the same in business — and especially for lawyers.  Delivering the perfect pitch for legal services to a potential client can be a great asset to a career.  In many businesses, the perfect pitch involves a physical product that speaks for itself.  The widget, for example.  But, it is different for lawyers.  The perfect pitch to your potential client will have no physical product to make the case, and you will have to depend on the power of your words and your delivery.

The pitch happens when you have the opportunity to communicate your professional worth to a would-be client, and the best pitches are in person and verbal.  Hopefully, you will have mentors who will include you on client pitches long before you are expected to pitch alone.  But, that presumes good mentoring, and we cannot assume that these days.  So, I have found you a helpful resource.

Jezra Kaye is a friend of mine.  Her website, Speak Up For Success, demonstrates how  she has made a career of helping speakers and presenters hit all the high notes.  She also is musical, a former jazz singer, so maybe that is why she considers pitch so important.  Her recent blog, “The Three Rules of Great Pitching”, is a valuable resource for you.  The analogy there is to baseball, but, knowing Jezra, I prefer the music metaphor.

Here are some highlights from the pro (as always with my interpretation):

  • The pitch is not about you.  Yes, you want to communicate credentials about yourself, briefly, but the focus should be on discovering what the potential client needs;
  • Focus on solving your prospect’s problem.  What is the goal?   What are your ideas and approaches to problem solving?  How do you get to a solution?  Let your skill, experience and creativity show.
  • Be relaxed and have fun.  Deliver your messages with confidence.  Be likeable, and use humor whenever possible.   Yes, humor.  Clients are looking for competent counsel, to be sure, but the attorney/client relationship is a whole lot more enjoyable if parties look forward to each other’s company. 

So be engaging, have a chat, look for common ground, and LISTEN to what the other person has to say.  (Check out my new book, What Millennial Lawyers Want:  A Bridge from the Past to the Future of Law Practice, to be released by Wolters Kluwer/Aspen Publishers on September 1, 2018, for more on these subjects.)

Jezra’s blog also takes the pressure off by making it clear that you can’t control the outcome of some pitches.  Pitches often fail for reasons that have nothing to do with the effectiveness of the pitch.  Inside politics.  Budget considerations.  Timing.  Negative risk assessment … nothing to do with the pitcher.   

So stand tall, throw your shoulders back, smile, and have fun with the pitch.  Remember that it is just a conversation.  And practice makes perfect.  

Make sure the perfect pitch is in your future!

Susan Smith Blakely is the Founder of LegalPerspectives LLC and an award-winning, nationally-recognized author, speaker and consultant on issues related to young women lawyers, young women law students and young women interested in careers in the law.  She is author of Best Friends at the Bar:  What Women Need to Know about a Career in the Law (Wolters Kluwer/Aspen Publishers 2009), and Best Friends at the Bar:  The New Balance for Today's Woman Lawyer (Wolters Kluwer Law & Business 2012), which addresses the work-life struggle for women lawyers and includes twelve profiles of women who have successfully transitioned from one practice setting to another.  Her third book in the series, Best Friends at the Bar:  Top-Down Leadership for Women Lawyers, focuses on the responsibilities of law firm leaders and was released by Wolters Kluwer Law & Business in 2015.

 Ms. Blakely’s new book for ALL young lawyers, What Millennial Lawyers Want:  A Bridge from the Past to the Future of Law Practice, will be released by Wolters Kluwer/Aspen Publishers in the summer of 2018.

 Ms. Blakely frequently speaks at colleges and universities, law schools, law firms and law organizations, and she has been featured in media including Corporate Counsel Magazine, the ABA Journal, the LA Daily Journal, National Jurist, Washington Examiner Newspaper, Forbes Woman, Women Lawyers Journal (NAWL), DC Spotlight, Lawyerist.com, Daily Muse, Lawyer and Statesman, Law.com, Georgetown Law Magazine, and Huffington Post Business.  Ms. Blakely also is a frequent guest speaker and panelist at conferences on women's issues in business and the law profession, and she has been a featured speaker at the US Department of Justice, Civil Division.  She is the recipient of the Ms. JD 2015 "Sharing Her Passion Award" and the Lawyer Monthly “Women in Law Award 2016”for her work on behalf of women in the law. 

 Ms. Blakely graduated from the University of Wisconsin with distinction and from Georgetown University Law Center where she was a teaching fellow. She is a member of the CoachSource global network of leadership coaches and is certified as a career coach for the Indiana University Marshall Goldsmith Leadership Development and Executive Coaching Academy.   For more information, please visit www.bestfriendsatthebar.com. 

 

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