Show, Don’t Tell – Storytelling’s First Rule Works in Legal Marketing, Too

I’m often asked “So what do you do as a Marketing Copywriter at a large, corporate law firm.” The job description is pretty broad, encompassing writing practice group descriptions and client pitches, to drafting press releases and internal e-mails. But I often like to say, “I’m the firm’s storyteller.”

The analogy isn’t as far-fetched as it may seem at first blush. No, I’m not spinning tales out of imaginary cloth. But as I see it, the attorneys are our subjects, and their clients our audience. Our job, as storytellers, is to present their stories in a way that captures the attention of our audience—namely, the decision-makers who buy legal services.

Which leads me to the time-tested storytelling rule of “Show, don’t tell.”

When I review attorney bios and law firm practice descriptions (including some, I’m ashamed to admit, that I penned in years past), I’m struck by how much empty verbiage goes into many of these write-ups. “Unparalleled client service,” “The best possible litigation attorneys,” “A broad range of expertise,” etc.

Not only is much of this puffery impossible to quantify, it just isn’t effective marketing. The buyers of legal services are sophisticated consumers. They are no more likely to fall for vague, unsubstantiated claims of legal excellence than they are to take a car salesman’s word that the jalopy on the back lot runs like a dream.

In the legal marketing world, providing fact-heavy content on past attorney performance gives prospective clients a “test drive” that shows them how your attorneys can help. Some examples of “Show, not tell” marketing content include:

  • Representative cases and matters are the best way to demonstrate client service excellence. Rather than tell your customers that an attorney can do good work for them, give them a list of the quality work the attorney has performed in the past. When listing representative matters or cases, it is important to give a summary of both the challenge the client faced and how the attorney was able to achieve a positive resolution of that challenge.
  • Earned media opportunities show an attorney’s expertise in a particular subject area. If a newspaper, journal, television station, blog or radio show believes your attorney is worth quoting or publishing, that is powerful evidence that he or she is a trusted source of information on a given topic. Make sure you list any earned media appearances in places where clients are going to see them, and offer links when available.
  • Likewise, speaking engagements are third-party validations of an attorney’s expertise. A simple list of past speaking engagements on an attorney’s bio is far more compelling than paragraphs of flowery language.

When drafting marketing content, approach it as a reader. Ask the question, “Would this sell me if I was the buyer?” If the answer is no, you may want to consider doing less telling and more showing.



Bruce Buchanan is the Marketing Copywriter at Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice, LLP, working in the firm’s Greensboro, N.C. office. He previously spent 10 years as a reporter at the Greensboro News & Record and is the author of the book Turnover at the Top: Superintendent Vacancies & the Urban School. Follow him on Twitter at @BBuchananWomble

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Bruce Buchanan

About Bruce Buchanan

After a 10-year career as a newspaper reporter, I've been the Marketing Copywriter for Womble Carlyle since 2006. My job has involved pretty much any type of communication that a 550-attorney, 14-office law firm might need. I'm based in the firm's Greensboro, N.C. office.

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