Testimonials – A contrarian view

Question: Can I use clients’ names for testimonials?

Answer: I will register a contrarian perspective that has been developed by 25 years of practicing law. It is contrary to the perspective of all sales people I’ve ever met.

Most advice on this subject from marketing folks is that testimonials from high profile clients/customers is good … people want to associate with others they want to emulate. Thus, a Ford wants to hire an attorney who knows the auto industry because the attorney has also represented Mercedes, etc. etc.

However, the contrarian perspective is that clients don’t want to acknowledge that they have circumstances requiring legal advice. Clients want to keep their name out of the press and off an attorney’s web site.

That’s the whole idea of confidentiality … Not only is the subject matter to be confidential, but so also is the very fact of representation to be confidential.

We can get around this by asking and getting permission. And many clients give permission for a variety of reasons, one of which is because they were asked by someone they respect and want to help. That’s not the point, however. Sub-consciously, in my experience, most clients are reluctant, even when they do give permission.

However, as an attorney for 25 years, one who followed this aspect of the rule of confidentiality very closely, I am queasy about throwing it to the wind …

And, I can tell you that even in the work I do now as a law firm management consultant, many of my clients ask me to keep their identity confidential, even though there is no rule governing this ….

My attitude is that if we can’t get business without using a name, then we have not yet proven our credibility.

This is not to be confused with giving references — that is different and not part of this discussion. This is also different from giving case histories / war stories of work you’ve done in the past … Examples and case histories are quite appropriate and can be made without disclosing client names.

In fact, clients often appreciate this … especially when you say that, in the future, this client’s name will also remain confidential.

As I said, this is a contrarian view, probably shared by no one reading this post … But I do want to raise it so that you are more sensitive to your clients when you ask their permission to use their name.


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