Being an effective attorney involves much more than a firm grasp on the law and how it applies to different situations. It also involves a strong ability to present this knowledge and form a persuasive argument. Especially when making arguments, an attorney must be able to sell others on an idea, theory or concept, and this requires an unnatural talent for persuasion which very closely relates to a seemingly unrelated field: sales.
The most effective salespeople have an in-depth knowledge of their products and how they could benefit the potential customer. They can also successfully turn this knowledge and understanding into a persuasive sales argument as to why the customer’s life would be better, simpler or easier with their product. Any good attorney (and any effective professional, in any area) must be willing to learn and take ideas and techniques from any field that could help their career, and few people can be more persuasive than a great salesman.
Willingness to Learn
Although it is a critical aspect of success in most fields within the legal profession, the skills and characteristics of persuasion do not always come naturally. Some people seem to be born with a natural gift for influencing and persuading others to their point of view, but the vast majority of people (even the most gifted courtroom attorneys) have to work hard to acquire this skill and to maintain its sharpness throughout the years.
While at first it may seem to only directly relate to litigation, persuading others towards your point of view is important for almost every aspect of effectively practicing law. From marketing your services and gaining new clients to convincing jurors and closing deals, every legal professional will need some level of persuasive ability to be successful.
Similarly, a salesperson will use his or her skill of persuasion throughout several elements of a career, including interviewing for jobs, persuading customers to buy, retaining customers throughout a relationship and every step in between.
Talents and Skills
The talent of persuasion is one thing; it involves a natural ability to influence others– one that requires no effort and seems to flow forth without even trying. However, the skill of persuasion is something that requires practice and comes naturally to no one.
Like a salesperson meeting a new prospect, your first interaction with a potential client will be an important juncture and a critical time to utilize this skill. The following are a few tips that are often used in sales but can be just as beneficial for legal professionals.
- Use simple language: Persuasion is not only about the message you mean to convey, but about how you convey it. As attorneys, your job will often involve taking complex information and compacting into short, easily digestible bits. The more simplified the language, the more persuasive it tends to be.
- Be a chameleon: People like themselves, and they like people who act like them. You can use this simple fact to your advantage by using similar language, tone and vernacular as the client. Studies have shown that mimicry of body language also makes a person more likeable and persuasive.
- Be decisive: It will be hard to persuade someone to your point of view if they do not believe you are knowledgeable and confident about it. Be definite and avoid hesitations like umm, you know and I mean.
- Learn from others: The next time you are in a sales environment take notice of what they do and how they try to persuade you to buy a product. Also, be willing to utilize the services of those who specialize in legal marketing, operations management and other specific challenges of attorneys, like the services offered here.
- Don’t let them know: Have you ever bought something from a salesperson who was overtly trying to persuade you? No? That’s because nobody likes to think they are being persuaded. It is an uncomfortable position that naturally causes defensive reactions. Although persuasion may be obvious in some instances, try to make it seem as though you are having a natural, friendly conversation.
James Hendrickson is an internet entrepreneur, blogging junky, hunter and personal finance geek. When he’s not lurking in coffee shops in Portland, Oregon, you’ll find him in the Pacific Northwest’s great outdoors. James has a masters degree in Sociology from the University of Maryland at College Park and a Bachelors degree on Sociology from Earlham College. He loves individual stocks, bonds and precious metals.