I can just hear you now.
“Woooo, Lindsay. Have you left the legal market altogether? Storytelling? Audiences? I know you’ve talked about this before, but this isn’t ENGLISH class for pete’s sake. It’s THE LAW.”
Yes, you’re right, it IS the law, but storytelling remains essential, even when you’re solving legal issues. You may remember this post about the panel I spoke on in December. I am lucky enough to be reprising this session with another moderator and my co-panelists at the LMA’s Annual Conference in Hollywood, Florida, next month, and we’ve been really delving into this idea of why storytelling is so important.
One of the things we may touch on is Chat GPT, so I thought I’d ask our AI friend some of the questions that we humans are answering during the panel, just to see if we’ve left anything out. Let’s see what it has to say.
What is it about storytelling that is so important?
Storytelling is an important aspect of human communication that has been used for thousands of years to convey information, inspire, and entertain. There are several reasons why storytelling is so important:
It engages the audience: When a story is well-told, it captures the attention and imagination of the audience, drawing them into the narrative and creating an emotional connection.
It makes information more memorable: Stories are easier to remember than lists of facts or data because they are more meaningful and easier to relate to.
It creates empathy: Stories can help us understand and empathize with people and situations that are different from our own, promoting greater understanding and tolerance.
It can inspire action: A well-crafted story can inspire people to take action, whether that means changing their behavior, supporting a cause, or pursuing a new opportunity.
It provides context: Stories provide a context for the information being presented, making it easier to understand and interpret.
It promotes creativity: The act of storytelling encourages creativity and imagination, allowing people to explore new ideas and possibilities.
Overall, storytelling is a powerful tool for communication that can help us connect with others, remember information, and inspire action. It is an important skill that can be developed and honed to achieve a range of personal and professional goals.
[Back to the human]
So this is the general answer about storytelling, and I don’t want to give too much of our talk away, but since this is a legal blog, let’s talk for a moment about the relevance to this industry.
All of the above still matters – and maybe more so.
Storytelling in legal engages your audience. We’re not talking fairytales here, but we’re talking about case studies, ways in which you, as a legal counselor, solved actual problems for your clients, made them feel safe, found success for them, etc. I’ve talked through many of these stories with the lawyers in my Network, so I know that they really exist, and yet somehow, when translated on paper, they turn into boring legalese. That’s not storytelling – that’s a recitation of facts.
It makes information more memorable. Fantastic! The legal industry is saturated with great lawyers. You want to stand out. How do you do that? Tell a story about the problems that you solve as a counselor and you will be memorable.
It can inspire action – THIS is what you want. More than anything, right? When lawyers want to know what the point of marketing and business development is, this is it, right here. Marketers WANT you to craft a story that will inspire potential clients to take action – either to click for more information, to pick up the phone, to reply to an email, to ask you to be their lawyer.
It provides context. This can be important, because when you use too much legalese, not only do people tune out, but they may feel that the details of the matter are too specific and therefore, they don’t extrapolate how it applies to them. With context, they can see how you, as a lawyer, could be THEIR lawyer. That’s what you want potential clients to be thinking.
Creativity isn’t a bad thing, even in the law – you want the listener or reader to be imagining that you are exactly the right advisor to be counseling them or the warrior they send into battle against their enemies.
Practically, how do you tell stories then? Back to our AI friend…
What tactics can lawyers use to develop stories where their audience can recognize themselves?
To develop stories that resonate with their audience, lawyers can use the following tactics:
Identify the audience: Before developing a story, lawyers should identify the specific audience they are trying to reach. This includes understanding their demographics, interests, and needs.
Use relatable characters: Lawyers should develop characters in their stories that are relatable to the audience. This includes using characters with similar backgrounds, experiences, and challenges as the audience.
Highlight common problems: Lawyers can develop stories that highlight common legal problems faced by their audience. This helps the audience connect with the story and understand the importance of the legal services being offered.
Incorporate emotions: Emotions can be a powerful tool in storytelling. Lawyers can incorporate emotions such as fear, anger, and hope to connect with the audience and create a sense of urgency.
Use concrete examples: Lawyers should use concrete examples and specific details in their stories to help the audience understand the situation and visualize themselves in it.
Highlight the outcome: It is important to highlight the outcome of the story, whether it is a positive or negative one. This helps the audience understand the impact of the legal services being offered and the consequences of not seeking legal help.
Use testimonials: Lawyers can use testimonials from previous clients to help tell their stories. This adds credibility to the story and provides real-life examples of how legal services can make a difference in people’s lives.
By using these tactics, lawyers can develop stories that resonate with their audience, making the legal services they offer more relevant and meaningful to the people they serve.
[Back to the human]
These are great suggestions. I know what my co-panelist, Adrian Lurssen, is going to add to this, and I don’t want to spoil his remarks, so I’ll only say that if you’re not engaged with JD Supra and their regular advocacy and writing tips, you should be. Spoiler: we are a long-time client of JD Supra’s, but that’s because it’s well worth the investment.
From my own experience, it takes time, trial and effort, knowing your audience (as Chat GPT suggests) – and not just in an ephemeral way, but in a data-driven way, and really, really knowing your industry. Generally, if it’s something that you are excited and interested about, then that will come through in your writing – I’ve seen that again and again with my lawyers who love the law.
The question is not whether to be a legal storyteller, but how. Once you can capture hearts and minds with your writing, you may also find that you can capture clients and matters.