January 2015 Bar Bulletin
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January 2015 Bar Bulletin

BookMARK(eting): Connecting through Literature

By Bridget T. Schuster


There I was, on my very first marketing trip for the firm. My colleague and I were out to dinner with a potential client, a contact we'd met at a mediation in Seattle just a month earlier. And somehow, the topic turned to books.

The potential client and I start swapping book titles, rapid-fire. "Oh, have you read Where'd You Go, Bernadette?" "Yes! Loved it. Have you read Salvage the Bones? It's my new favorite." "Oh, yes. Wonderful book. What about Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry?" "No, haven't read that one yet." "You must, it is a beautiful book." "And have you read Tenderness of Wolves? Also a favorite of mine." "No! I will have to add that to my list." And on and on.

I suddenly realized, this is marketing! Finally, my love of reading and my "guilty pleasure" of devouring books when I should be billing time had paid off. It happened again when I took a recent trip to New York for an insurance-related symposium. Out to dinner with a group of in-house insurance attorneys - some of them current clients of our firm - one of the attorneys again mentioned Where'd You Go, Bernadette? and I happily chatted with her about whether it was a realistic depiction of Seattle. The men around the table had no idea what we were talking about, but she and I had made a connection.

Forget about sports marketing. With so many in-house attorneys - and thus, potential clients for many of us - being women, the go-to marketing topic could be moving away from sports and toward literature. I have already experienced two instances of this in my very first two marketing-related trips. If you're keeping track, that's two for two. A pretty good stat (if you're in for those sporty analogies).

I contend that, simply by doing something you love such as reading, you are building your attractiveness as an attorney to all of those potential clients out there who actually have time to read. Reading makes you real, grounded, relatable, and interesting. The same may also be true for other topics, but perhaps because in-house attorneys are, well, attorneys (and thus naturally studious), books are a safe bet.

In light of this, and also in light of the fact that many of us do not have time to read, I will endeavor to assist you by imparting the basic story-line and my own take-away from some of the bestsellers that might ring a bell with your clients and potential clients. By reading this column, you will have something to contribute to the conversation if these books (or books in general) come up in conversation, even if you haven't read anything non-legal lately yourself. In exchange, could you lend me some of your late-night billable hours? (Wink.)

Where'd You Go, Bernadette?

By Maria Semple

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