The dos and don’ts about client testimonials, your philosophy, and third-party quotes
I’m a big proponent of authenticity in lawyer biographies, which is why I’m forever insisting my clients include a personal quote or a bit of philosophy to his or her practice of law. Occasionally, I’ll get push-back because the lawyer won’t see the need — or feels their work is too transactional and potentially uninteresting. In either situation, I’ll explain, “That’s my job — to dig for those gems.”
In fact, adding a personal quote about the lawyer’s practice and philosophy can be the hook that connects the reader (prospect, client, or media) to the lawyer. Whether a quote comes from an interview or is written and tweaked for proper grammar and syntax, it should not be edited into marketing-speak. Clients are way too smart to fall for phony testimonials.
Be vigilant when posting testimonials as they can be a bit tricky in terms of state bar regulations, which is explained in more detail in the dos and don’ts list below.
DON’T FORCE THE ISSUE
You’ve seen the latest point-of-sale machines at your local coffee house, where you’re prompted to swipe your credit card and then presented with a pre-formatted tip amount? I find this approach annoying and awkward, especially if your server is hovering nearby.
I worked on a team that helped a prominent New York doctor with her marketing and website efforts. During one meeting, her husband (also a doctor) wanted our input about asking patients to write testimonials while still in the office and before paying their bill. (Yes, really!) He thought it was a fabulous idea, insisting, “They’re a captive audience. Now we won’t have to track them down later!” My response was that his approach was akin to the patient being held, hostage. Guess who lost that client?
DO WORK THE COATTAILS IF YOU TRULY KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE
The “Coattail Effect” doesn’t just apply to politics. It can be a smart tactic, especially when the lawyer’s clients happen to be well-known names in fashion, restaurant, finance, and entertainment. Here’s an example I developed for one of my clients:
“David is our ‘David’ when we are being attacked by ‘Goliath.’ Over the years, we have learned to fear not when he is defending us, even against the biggest bullies.”
… Nicole Miller, fashion designer and president, Nicole Miller
“Unlike so many attorneys I have worked with in the past, David is a dealmaker, not a deal-breaker. Above all, I know he and his firm are always protecting me and my company’s best interests.”
… Scott Conant, chef, restaurateur and author
“For over a decade, David has consistently provided us with sound, business-minded counsel.”
… Dennis Wang, chief principal officer, Alexander Wang Incorporated
“I know from personal experience that David is a tenacious litigator whom you want on your side in a contested matter.”
… Dave H. Williams, former chairman, then chairman emeritus, Alliance Capital Management
“David has not only provided sound legal counsel, but also advice on how to achieve my goals, which were met. He is a great partner.”
… Matt Adell, former chief executive officer, Beatport
“David has a knack for narrowing complicated matters down to the key issues to be resolved. He has skillfully navigated me through some very important matters.”
… Peter Som, Fashion Designer
DON’T OVERSTEP YOUR BOUNDS
Mark Palmer, whose post “Ethical Considerations in Boosting Your Client Reviews” on the Attorney@Work website, offers some critical tips for client reviews and testimonials.
“… Put another way, the more the lawyer is involved, the less authentic the review becomes. At some point, a client review no longer is “freely given” and could be viewed as being made by or on behalf of the lawyer, constituting an “advertisement” under the rules. Furthermore, giving billing credit or other forms of consideration for a review may have other legal implications — for example, the Federal Trade Commission’s Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.
If you want to dig deeper, Mark also includes a link to a dense – but essential read from the FTC, as linked above.
DO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF MEANINGFUL THIRD-PARTY QUOTES
Dion Algeri, from Great Jakes, has a good take on third-party quotes and client testimonials. He offers this advice in his blog post from 2016, referring to Patterson Belknap’s homepage, “The Art of Saying Nothing.” Dion says:
“Rather than a headline or firm messaging, the Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler homepage is punctuated by a series of third-party quotes and client testimonials. This approach offers visitors a (seemingly) unbiased assessment of the firm’s competence and strengths.”
Did you catch the word “meaningful” included in the sub-head above? Adding third-party quotes from nefarious, pay-to-play organizations should be avoided.
A DO – AND A DON’T
I love seeing client testimonials on law firm websites! The Boyd Law firm website does a great job with on their Client Testimonials page, as these lend credibility to the firm. But… Here’s why it’s a “Don’t” for me. They’ve also presented a client testimonial at the top of each-and-every attorney’s bio and ancillary page. And that’s 23 too many testimonials for yours truly.
DO STAY CURRENT
Quotes can connect to your audience, especially during difficult circumstances like COVID-19. Here’s a pitch-perfect example:
“There’s rarely a good time to get divorced, but I hope a silver lining of the coronavirus pandemic is that couples and their lawyers have reason to be more pragmatic about their cases.”
… Neil Forester
DO CHOOSE A WRITING STYLE THAT YOUR AUDIENCE WILL APPRECIATE
Allow me to introduce you to two great writers who clearly understand their audience.
The first is Michael Bradley, the amazingly talented, managing partner at Marque, an Australian law firm. I chatted with Michael online, and he revealed that he had written all of the copy for his firm’s entire website. If you’ve not yet seen this site, you’re in for a treat! As an example:
“Finally, we want to enjoy our work, work with clients we enjoy, hang out with colleagues we like and go home each day with a sense of genuine satisfaction and reward.”
The second is George – a most brilliant fellow whom I’ve never met. And while I don’t know George personally, I follow him religiously on LinkedIn. George is an advertising heavyweight – and obviously, his approach to marketing his services won’t work for lawyers. If you are on LinkedIn, I encourage you to read his entire LinkedIn profile, because it may spark that quote, client testimonial, or philosophical approach to your lawyers’ bios are typically missing. Here is his “About” section…
I’m not on any 30 under 30 lists. Or 40 under 40 lists. Or even 50 under 50 lists.
That’s right. I’m old as fuck.
But along the way I’ve been recommended by Nick Law, CCO of digital agency R/GA.
Steve Hayden, writer of the world’s most famous commercial and Ogilvy Vice Chair.
Steve Simpson, North American CCO of Ogilvy and “writer’s writer.”
Brian Collins, CCO of Ad Age’s 2019 Design Agency of the Year.
The reasons are simple:
I am a grown-up. I can talk about business issues with CEOs and CMOs. And I can both do the work and lead cross-discipline, cross-geography teams. (Teams which often include actual clients.)
I create enduring brand platforms. And I create work that gets a response. Often at the same time. One ECD once said to me, “You’re writing ads faster than I can read them.” A CCO recently said to me, “Every time someone needs someone on an assignment, they say ‘George would be perfect for this.’” A client recently told me that a manifesto I wrote led her seven-year-old daughter to say, “Mom, I finally understand what you do.”
I’ve won every major award and nearly every minor one. I might be the only person on earth to win both a Grand Effie and a Sustaining Effie. Those are for effectiveness. I don’t think effectiveness is quaint.
Specialties: I can write anything, long, short, or in between, in fresh, jargon-free copy that always strikes the right tone. I know how to get good work out of people, including clients. They’re people, too.
DO BE YOURSELF
Some final food for thought:
- Looking at your bio today, would you hire you?
- Do your quotes sound like you? Or do they say “generic?”
- If you already have quotes or testimonials, are they up-to-date?
- Would your clients vouch for you – or refer business to you after a matter has been settled or a deal closed? (Have you asked them?)
- Can you re-write your bio yourself, or can your in-house marketer or experienced writer do it for you?
Additional Resources: “8 solid reasons why you must update your bio.” (PDF)