When you are asked the titular question, “What do you do for a living?”- How do you respond?
If you are like most lawyers, you say: “I am a lawyer” or “I am an attorney.” Sometimes, if you are being fancy you say: “I am a _________ lawyer,” where the blank space is filled with a practice area in which you are involved.
- I am a personal injury attorney.
- I am a matrimonial attorney.
- I am a real estate lawyer.
Except, here’s the problem with telling people that you are a lawyer for a living: You and 1.281 million other attorneys in the United States. Even if you narrow it down, and add a practice area, you still are part of a really huge crowd. There are more than 25,000 members of the ABA Labor & Employment law section alone. And remember, not every attorney in the U.S. is a member of the American Bar Association, so this number is probably considerably higher.
And if you have ever noticed, in a networking situation, once you have said that you are “an attorney” most people’s eyes glaze over and the conversation is pretty much ended right then and there. Please understand that every person has a preconceived notion of what an attorney means to them. Whether that idea is based on television or book characters, or whether it is based on their own personal experiences, people have a concept of what the term “attorney” or “lawyer” indicates to them, and it’s not always a good one.
Just saying “I am an a lawyer” can be a real conversation killer.
When you are in a situation where someone has asked you “what do you do?”, you need to find a way to keep the conversation going longer.
So, how should you answer the question?
You may have heard of the elevator speech or elevator pitch. This is a 30 second “commercial” used to describe what you do. I prefer to call it the Audio Business Card, or the ABC of what you do.
A well-crafted ABC will include the following:
- What you do and who your ideal client would be;
- What is your ideal client’s biggest problem that you can help them solve; and
- How do you help them do that.
As an example: My Audio Business Card is always:
“I am a Rainmaking Trainer and Coach (A). I help Attorneys (A) to build big books of business ethically (B), by teaching the skills necessary to create relationships which morph into business (C). “
Now, sometimes, you can be even more creative that just answering those questions. Again, the purpose of the Audio Business Card is to enable you to continue a conversation. You want the person who has asked the question “what do you do” to ask you follow up questions.
Be interesting and witty, if that is your personality.
One of my favorite clients uses the following ABC when she is asked the question:
“I help employers and employees stop fighting so they can get back to work. I am an employment lawyer.”
However, my absolute favorite is my father’s ABC (but you’d have to know my dad’s extremely dry sense of humor): Whenever he is asked what he does for a living, he says he “Renders people asunder.”
This always leads to a real conversation as most people respond with: “what?”
To which he always replies:
“You know that part of a marriage ceremony when the officiant says: ‘what God had joined together, let no man put asunder’?
I render people asunder – I’m a divorce attorney.”
When crafting you Audio Business Card (ABC), use your own personality and style to answer the questions above and you will find that your conversation continues.