Legal Web Marketing Haiku

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Lawyers tend to fancy themselves pretty smart folks. And they like to try to prove it to others.

They use big words. They use a lot of words. They use complexity, obfuscation and legalese.

And aside from wowing judges, jurors and opposing counsel, one of their favorite occasions for employing this wordsmithery, is when they are telling war stories or talking about what is that they do.

Now, we’re supposed to be awestruck by their masterful construction of language. But, more often than not, we’re left thinking:

  • I have no idea what you’re talking about.
  • I have no idea what is that you do.
  • Please give me the last five minutes of my life back.
  • What a pompous a**hole.
  • I’m glad I’m not married to that jerk.

I recently had the opportunity to attend Avvocating. During a networking reception, Matt Hommann had us do the “Haiku of what you do”, which he explains at the [non]billable hour:

I’m a fan of Haiku, and have been doing an exercise based upon it for several years now at conferences and law firm retreats. Instead of the 5-7-5 syllable format, I ask my audiences to answer three questions, using just five words for the first question, seven for the second and five again for the third.

Though I’ll use different questions depending upon the event, I recently spoke to the New York City Bar about in-person networking and gave these three questions as a way to quickly develop an “elevator speech” that responds to the “What do you do?” question we get all the time.

The three questions, which must be answered with the specified number of words, are:

Who do I help? (Answer in Five Words)
What do I do for them? (Answer in Seven Words)
Why do they need me? (Answer in Five Words)

As you can see, the exercise forces word economy. But it also places the focus where it belongs, on your prospective clients.

Haiku-izing Your Website

Using the “Haiku of what you do” in your website copy can be very effective.

Instead of writing long, meaningless bio pages about yourself, try applying the Haiku. Identify who your target audiences are. Describe what you do for them. Suggest why they need you.

Now I’m not suggesting that all your pages follow this exact format. The point here is to keep your Haiku in mind when you’re writing. It will help you better connect with your audience.

In addition to bio pages, the Haiku-style works well on practice area pages and might even be helpful in writing articles and blog posts. At least the Haiku principles might be helpful.

And might also make your writing more interesting to read. Which might mean that people actually want to read your blog, and even contact you.

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  • This reminds me of a news story I heard today on the drive in to work. Apparently the “grade level” of congressional discourse has dropped to a 10th grade level, on average. If this means our senators and representatives are communicating more clearly to the general population (which averages an 8th–9th grade comprehension level), this is a good thing. If it means more of our senators and representatives are stupid, then not so good.

    • Since the study focused on words said on the floor of the House and Senate (as opposed to those used on say Meet The Press), and since I can’t imagine that members of Congress actually believe that the public is watching C-SPAN, my guess is that it means the latter.

      • The problem isn’t that 10th-graders are in Congress, it’s that it’s the wrong group of 10th-graders. We need the AV Club, but we’ve got the Student Council gunners.

  • I love this idea! We are going to be doing it at our firm meeting next week. Thanks for the great idea!

  • G Kyle

    Agree entirely – I am a lawyer with a science background. With more than 20 years of toxic tort practice, there is too much memorization and not enough english translation. Have recently compared areas of biological science to basketball teamwork so lawyers and juries can more easily understand.