I recently listened to a great episode of my favorite podcast, Stay Tuned With Preet  (see May 16-D.C. Dramas & Advising Obamas).  Anyone who knows me knows I am a huge fan of Preet Bharara, a rational voice who provides insightful commentary on the law, politics and the Trump administration.

In this episode, Preet interviews Valerie Jarrett a former senior advisor to President Obama. She has just released a memoir called Finding My Voice: My Journey to the West Wing and the Path Forward and she is on the book tour.  While she spoke a lot about Chicago politics, Barack Obama’s rise and her own career from biglaw to public service, a lot of what she had to say is relevant to legal marketing.  Here are some of my takeaways from the interview:

First, everyone needs someone to validate them.  

“If I don’t know you, who do I know who does know you?”   Barack Obama lost his race for Congress in part because he lacked endorsements. By the time he was running for President, he learned his lesson and greatly broadened his appeal by finding other political figures to vouch for him.

Similarly, if you are seeking to get clients to hire you, it helps a lot to have other professionals vouch for the quality of your work.  Get testimonials if you can for your website.  Most importantly, cultivate your referral sources.  When looking for a good lawyer to solve a problem, most people will turn to accountants or other professionals they trust.  If you work your own referral relationships, you will land more business.  Prospective clients who do come to you will already trust you because they were referred to you by someone they trust.

Second, politicians know that it is important to risk failure.  After losing a Congressional race Obama’s advisors, including Valerie Jarrett, told him not to run for Senate.  But Barack was determined to succeed and the rest is history.

In marketing legal services, it is important to be resilient. If you try to land business, you are likely to fail more than half of the time.  With persistence, however, you can be very successful in building a practice.  Don’t allow one failure to derail you.  When you are in practice and you do work for a client, you bill them for your time.  In marketing, only some of your investments will pay off. Don’t shy away from pursuing opportunities simply because you fear failure.

Third, you have to earn people’s trust.  Taking the time to listen is an important part of that.  Barack Obama learned to do that when he was running for his Senate seat.  In marketing yourself as a lawyer, make the effort to be a great listener and show your potential clients and referral sources that you have their best interests at heart (and that you will make every every to listen to really listen to them.  Ask a lot of open ended questions and really listen to the answers.

We can learn a lot about marketing from our political leaders (good and bad).  If you apply some of those lessons to your own practice, you will have more success in generating work.

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