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As we approach the holiday season, which means prime-time business networking, lawyers will be subjected to the Elevator Speech canard, i.e., that you must be able to describe your practice in 20 seconds. 

The term originated in the old days when salespeople used to troll office buildings making face-to-face cold calls, trying to "accidentally" bump into and buttonhole hard-to-reach executive prospects in the elevator. They knew that they had only 15-20 seconds to make an impression before the elevator doors opened at the executive's floor, so they tried to refine a pitch that would somehow motivate said executive to say, "That's interesting. Come into my office and let's talk about it." 

The modern version is intended to be used in networking situations, where you have a number of fly-by introductions and little time to make an impression. Consultants and in-house BD folks terrify lawyers when they say, “What if someone asks, ‘What do you do?,’ and you have 20 seconds to answer?"

Your cerebral drafting committee immediately convenes in special session.  You finally offer, as an approved draft, “I add value to leading privately-held companies by addressing the legal issues relating to ownership succession.”

Nice try, but you've been given a mission that cannot succeed.

This is not about having a cogent and compelling articulation of how you make a living. Nobody actually wants to know much, if anything, about how you make a living. They're only asking to be polite, and as a conversation ice-breaker.

To the degree that they're interested at all, they're not interested in knowing what you do, but rather what "what you do" might do for them. That means your answer must be a brief description of the impact you have on a specific problem or situation for a specific category of company or person. For example, an IP lawyer who serves recording artists might say, "I protect rock stars' music from unauthorized commercial sale or use." That explains what problem you solve, and for whom. In fact, during his acceptance speech for induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Bruce Springsteen did exactly that, in those words. After thanking the predictable catalog of family and colleagues, The Boss thanked his lawyers "for protecting my music for 22 years."

When people ask what you do, they're really including a parenthetical "...and why might I care?" Even if I have nothing to do with the music business, I can see why performers might care about what you do. If I know any performers, seeing or speaking with them will automatically trigger me to think of you.

Mike O'Horo

The problem you solve is the foundation of what we call the Door-Opener. It drives demand for your service among a specific segment of the market among whom the problem is prevalent. 

Learn how to create a reliable Door-Opener that will simplify your networking. Get RainmakerVT's Door-Opener: Associate Yourself with a Business Problem that Drives Demand for Your Expertise.