Law Copywriting

What Lawyers can Learn from Direct Response Copywriters

Brian Kurtz is famous. I’d never heard of him before about two years ago, because his fame is connected to the world of direct response copywriting. In a nutshell, direct response copywriting is a communication, usually written, that seeks to get an immediate response from the recipient.

In its most “direct” form, it looks like the ad for the specialty knives, two for one, if you act right now!

In its more subtle form, it seeks to persuade you to give a donation to a cause, put a political candidate’s sign in your yard, or simply download a free checklist that may be helpful to you.

Mr. Kurtz has been enormously successful in his career, gives advice generously, and often makes appearances at industry conferences, to give his take on things. I met him, very briefly, sharing an elevator at one of those conferences. He seemed like a genuinely nice guy who took an authentic interest in me, a stranger in an elevator.

He didn’t ask me for anything, but after I heard him speak later, I sought out his website, and signed up for his newsletters. I look forward to reading them, and I even bought a book he’d recently written. I doubt he had all of that in mind at our chance meeting. Maybe he just lives his direct response copywriter values-that giving value to the right audience, at the right time, with the right message, might come back to you.

Direct response copywriting has something important to say to lawyers. Not that it is directed at lawyers; rather the principles that animate and inform the direct response industry should be considered by lawyers in the way they communicate with their clients, and their prospective clients.

I thought about this subject as I was reading a piece by Mr. Kurtz recently. It had nothing to do with lawyers, at least not directly.

In fact, he was writing about Donald Trump and the direct response lessons to be learned from his campaign. Mr. Kurtz went out of his way to persuade the reader that the piece wasn’t political.

And he succeeded. I finished reading, understood the lesson, and had no idea how Mr. Kurtz might have voted in the presidential election. Or whether he voted at all.

Here’s what he says about lessons learned from the campaign.

“Gene [Schwartz] knew that his best shot at connecting with almost any market was to know as much about them as possible; and the only way to do that was to read everything they were reading, understand everything they were experiencing in modern culture and truly living in their shoes…

“…There is also another secret the greats knew besides researching their audience intensely: They learned how to talk to them…”

…”Now…did Donald Trump spend the kind of time and effort researching his market and honing his language like Schwartz and Halbert (and all of the greats of copywriting) did?

“Maybe not the same way…but he figured out the right words and the right tone to garner over 60 million votes despite never running for any office in his life…”

“Whether you agree with Trump’s immigration policy or not, who would not understand the words:

“I’m going to build a wall on the border with Mexico. And I will put a door in it.”

“There are examples all over his campaign where the match between list and copy fit hand in glove…

But the lessons we can learn from this election are profound when we analyze it from the perspective of what happens when the relationship of language to audience is aligned.”

You can read his entire piece, entitled “The wall with a door…” by going here.

In other words, know your audience.  In the case of lawyers, know your clients and prospective clients. And direct your messages to them, in their language, addressing their wants, needs and fears.

Here’s what an expert in direct response copywriting might say to lawyers:

“Clients who don’t know you, and maybe even some who do, don’t give a damn about you, your law degree, or your achievements in law school or in practice, unless it is directly related to solving their problems. Face this, and you’re on your way to understanding what you’ll need to do to attract them to you.

Note I said client’s who don’t know you don’t care. However, clients who do know and like you, because you care about and like them, will stick with you until they can’t justify staying. Most will not leave because someone else offers to do their work a bit cheaper.

But those who offer to do it faster, more efficiently, and better will get their attention, at least. So the goal to retaining clients is always keep them, their businesses and their unique needs, desires, fears and wants top of mind.

And this is also the recipe for getting new clients. This is hard, but over time you’ll find those clients who are being ill served by their lawyers, are being taken for granted, or otherwise not being cared for. Allow them to see you, authentically, as someone who can help.

No need to push this. In fact you shouldn’t push it. No one likes to be sold, and this is no different for legal clients, who will be putting their trust in you to solve problems, avoid unnecessary risk and above all, be a partner in tough decision making.”

A wall with a door…

Think about it.




Dave has been a practicing lawyer for 30+ years, from inside and general counsel, to private practice.
He maintains a private practice as well as a consulting and copywriting business focused on professional services firms.
You can also find him on LinkedIn

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