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Introductions Matter In Marketing, And Why Women Can Do Better Introducing Themselves

by Carolyn Elefant on March 24, 2007 · 4 comments

in Marketing & Making Money

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Lawyer Mama, a 30 something female law firm attorney, expresses her exasperation when an older male to whom she’s introduced by her boss (a firm partner) mistakes her for a secretary. While Lawyer Mama’s wrath is justified, she also unfairly directs her anger. As I see it, manner in which Partner introduced Lawyer Mama caused the confusion to begin with.

As Lawyer Mama describes, she attended a networking event with a Partner with whom she works closely. After the lunch, the Partner took the opportunity to introduce Lawyer Mama to others at the event, at which point the offending incident took place.

As we were making our way through the crowd, Partner introduced me to several industry players. Everyone seemed pleased to meet me and, while no one ever looks forward to needing to consult their lawyers, I am sure that I will be working with some of them in the future. Then Partner introduced me to an Older Gentleman who placed himself in our path. Partner made some flattering comment about how I generally “keep him out of trouble.” Polite chuckling ensued and then Older Gentleman proclaimed that he could use someone like that because he could never “remember how to work that pesky teleconference feature on his phone.”

Seems to me that the Older Gentleman’s reaction flowed from the Partner’s introduction of Lawyer Mama as someone who “keeps him out of trouble.” Come on – what kind of an introduction is that? Personally, I’ve always thought that lawyers make those kinds of remarks either are either engaging in false self-deprecation or trying to make themselves look good for respecting “the help.” When I introduce the younger attorneys whom I’ve mentored or hired for contract assignments, I always try to mention some attribute of theirs that will make them attractive to a potential client or stimulate additional conversation.

Why didn’t Partner say “This is Lawyer Mama, our firm expert on XYZ” or “This is Lawyer Mama who has taken the lead on developing our ABC practice from the ground up.” Had Partner introduced Lawyer Mama that way, her status would have been clear from the beginning and the confusion that she gripes about would not have ensued. Moreover, Partner might have helped generate more business for his firm by mentioning matters that Lawyer Mama handles that would interest prospective clients.

Lawyer Mama’s complaints also remind me of why women in solo practice rarely suffer these same indignities. When you introduce yourself as “I’m Ms. X, and I’m a lawyer with my own law firm” you tend to make your status crystal clear right from the beginning. I realize that women working at law firms can’t claim ownership of a firm, but they can claim ownership of the work they handle at their firm.

There are lots of Older Gentleman types still out there in the world. You can complain about their neanderthal attitudes, but you can’t avoid them. Nor would you want to, because some might eventually become clients. But what you can change is the way you present yourself to the world. So why not eliminate any confusion about your status at the outset and introduce yourself the way that you want others to remember you?

  • http://www.dealsdepot.com.au Mobile Phones

    I think that, essentially, your analysis of the situation is correct. It’s not as cut and dried as it might seem at first glance and you do a nice job of navigating the various issues of all parties. I do think, that, outside of being angry at the man she met, she might have a gripe against the system in general for its expectations, something you seem to imply as your article goes on. You are right that a different style of introduction would have made an enormous difference in perception, but I’m personally one who hates that everything that comes out of our mouths must be scripted. This kind of approach leaves little room for inspiration. If we can’t make mistakes, then how do we try new things at all? On one or two occasions, people have mistaken a close friend of mine for my wife. I’m not sure offense is the right response to such mistakes. This one happened to entail the appearance of sexism, but does that necessarily make it so?

  • http://www.dealsdepot.com.au Mobile Phones

    I think that, essentially, your analysis of the situation is correct. It’s not as cut and dried as it might seem at first glance and you do a nice job of navigating the various issues of all parties. I do think, that, outside of being angry at the man she met, she might have a gripe against the system in general for its expectations, something you seem to imply as your article goes on. You are right that a different style of introduction would have made an enormous difference in perception, but I’m personally one who hates that everything that comes out of our mouths must be scripted. This kind of approach leaves little room for inspiration. If we can’t make mistakes, then how do we try new things at all? On one or two occasions, people have mistaken a close friend of mine for my wife. I’m not sure offense is the right response to such mistakes. This one happened to entail the appearance of sexism, but does that necessarily make it so?

  • http://www.factoryfast.com.au Mobile Phones

    It occurs to me that this particular incident might actually be more likely to put the client at a disadvantage than the lawyer. I would expect a large percentage of people (even the “older gentlemen” types) would feel a bit foolish having made such a mistake. Despite his lack of tact and/ or the unfair assumption he might have made, no one wants others to think of him as a racist or a sexist, and so it seems to me he might naturally feel some embarrassment for having made the mistake in the first place. While the larger principle of sexist assumptions may be troublesome (both on a personal and a societal level), the more immediate, practical effect may actually be that the lawyers gain some degree of leverage during the meeting.

  • http://www.factoryfast.com.au Mobile Phones

    It occurs to me that this particular incident might actually be more likely to put the client at a disadvantage than the lawyer. I would expect a large percentage of people (even the “older gentlemen” types) would feel a bit foolish having made such a mistake. Despite his lack of tact and/ or the unfair assumption he might have made, no one wants others to think of him as a racist or a sexist, and so it seems to me he might naturally feel some embarrassment for having made the mistake in the first place. While the larger principle of sexist assumptions may be troublesome (both on a personal and a societal level), the more immediate, practical effect may actually be that the lawyers gain some degree of leverage during the meeting.

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