Horn Blowing

Horn Blowing is a topic I’ll always associate with the late, great, Buddy Payne, Esq. Buddy was one of the top trial lawyers, anywhere, ever, and was from the plaintiffs’ old school in Miami (or as he said “Mia ma” – even though he was from Virginia). After he retired, Buddy coached Melissa and me for a few years, encouraging us as we “grew the business.” One area he pointed out as a deficiency was that neither of us were good at “blowing our own horn.” He was right. Attention seeking behaviors are something neither of us find comfortable. Yet, as small business owners, one has to blow the horn, often, loudly. It has often seemed to me that there is an inverse relationship between those who blow the horn their loudest, those who really blare it, and those who more quietly get the job done without the fanfare. I’m more like the latter. As a photographer, it was very uncomfortable to me to show my portfolio and be judged on the images it contained. Though I think I was known for getting the shot at events, weddings and corporate gigs, telling about it was not as easy as doing the work. The same has proven true in our trial consulting work, and, coupled with the confidentiality issues mentioned in another post, it is hard to do when you can’t disclose many details. But, Buddy pointed out the need to turn up our horn volume as much as possible and the result over the years have included improvements in brochures, websites (our first website was launched over 20 years ago, in 1996), and collateral materials. Melissa certainly gets some time blowing the horn at the many presentations she gives. But, these are always done under the guise of educational programs so even those have to be done without the fanfare of a sales pitch. Lawyers have restrictions on what and how they can advertise, and we all know some who push the limits. As a result, there is great variation among lawyers in their marketing approaches. It is challenging to find a balance and presenting oneself to prospective customers in a way that lets them know what you can do for them. I’ve seen some competitors cross what I believe is a line by appearing to take credit for the wins of their clients. That will never be us!

I will begin my part of this post by thanking David for reminding me to write a post dedicated to Buddy Payne. Buddy taught David and me a lot of things, most important among them, that if we don’t tell potential clients about how wonderful we are, they might never realize it. Our clients are important people. They are all extremely successful attorneys who have cases of a magnitude that warrant retaining Magnus. Obviously, they believe, at some level, that we possess the education, expertise, and skills to help them improve their chances of obtaining a favorable outcome for their client; otherwise, there would be no reason for them to contact us in the first place. However, when we are faced with a “beauty contest,” in which we are asked to bid against our competitors to obtain work, David and I discovered we do not excel in advancing our interests, at the expense of others, to the same degree as many of our competitors. This is true regardless of the fact that we have no competitors who are more educated than I am; or who are better trained than I am in the area of trial consulting; or who have worked on larger cases than I have; or who have more academic publications in peer reviewed scientific journals than I have; and so on. (The mere act of typing these factual statements almost seems like bragging, but as Jaco Pastorius often said, “It ain’t bragging if it’s true,” in response to whether he was, as he claimed, the “World’s greatest bass player.”) Although David’s and my credentials outshine the credentials of most of our competitors, many of them are far better sales persons than we are, preferring to sell the sizzle instead of the steak. Some potential clients have remarked that they decided to retain one of our competitors instead of Magnus because they thought our research based approach was “too academic,” or our brochure was “too detailed to comprehend,” or our proposal for services was “too comprehensive.” Attorneys, like people in other professions, range in their level of sophistication, with some preferring glossy sales pitches made by pretty women with short red dresses (once again, I am not kidding about this). To those attorneys, I say, “Good luck.” I will continue to provide the steak, not just the sizzle, because clients who fail to distinguish between good and bad research are best suited to work with someone else. But, if you ask me for an honest assessment of my ability to work on the most complex cases, for the best lawyers in America, I will tell you there is no one I have ever met who can do what I do better than me. Thanks, Buddy Payne, for teaching this bass player how to blow her own horn!

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