Skip to main content

Beware of the friendly fool

By July 18, 2018March 29th, 2019Marketing for Lawyers, websites

When it comes to helpful marketing advice…

Beware of friendly fools.

They seem nice (because they are), but remember: they don’t understand effective marketing.

Meet A Wise Man

Don Miller is a wise man. And he runs  a marketing company called StoryBrand.

He definitely understands effective marketing.

Miller offers simple, but powerful, advice that you can easily follow.

For example: the #1 rule for websites is that they must pass the “grunt test.”

Here’s how Miller explains the grunt test.

“Take a moment to review the homepage of your website…

Within the first five seconds, a first-time visitor should be able to answer these three questions:

1. What do you offer?
2. How will it make my life better?
3. What do I need to do to buy it?

Basically, could a caveman look at your website and immediately grunt what you offer?

“You make cupcakes! Cupcakes yummy and fresh!

Me call to order cupcakes!”

So that’s Miller’s concise description of the grunt test.

You’re trying to describe what you do in a way that makes even a first time website visitor: (1) understand what you offer, and (2) want to get it—assuming they are a member of your target audience.

For lawyers, the three grunt test questions are as follows:

  1. What kind of law do you practice?
  2. How do you help your clients feel better?
  3. How do I get in touch with you?

Very few lawyer websites pass the grunt test.

Here’s the problem…

You must be realistic

The reason you need to quickly convey what you do is because…

People are easily distracted while surfing the web.

This is a harsh reality. But you have to deal with it.

You have a few seconds to let potential clients know that you know how to solve their legal problem, and…

…that you care about helping them for reasons beyond just making money.

Unfortunately, some (supposed) website experts offer conflicting advice.

They tell you your website needs to look pretty.

That’s what matters most, they’ll say.

But you know how to spot a foolish web expert now.

Because you know about the Grunt Test.

So let’s just confirm real quick that you understand it.

The “Grunt Test” Quiz

Look at the website home page below for 5 seconds; then close your eyes.

See if you can figure out what kind of legal matters this firm handles.

No cheating.

See if you can figure out what that firm does before you scroll down (where the answer will be revealed).

You could take 5 minutes, 30 minutes, a whole hour…

And you’d never figure out what kind of law this firm does just by looking at the home page, right?

Okay, before we reveal what they do (because at this point you’re curiosity is piqued)…

Let’s see what a supposed web expert said about this website’s home page…

A Foolish Expert’s Opinion

The folks who run the Lawyerist website are super nice guys.

I know them personally. I like them a lot.

I admire the fact that they built a well-known legal website.

Apparently, they now are holding themselves out as law firm website experts.

So, yes they’re nice. And yes they built a big, popular legal website.


When it comes to marketing, they’re foolish because they picked this website as one of the Best Websites of 2017.

Did you catch their analysis of the website?

They gave it the “Best Law Firm Website” award because the home page you see above “communicates a strong narrative theme.”


Your website needs simple clear messaging (not clever phrases).

If people can’t figure out in 5 or 10 seconds what kind of law you practice you’re toast.

Don’t take foolish advice when it comes to marketing your practice—especially online marketing.

For what it’s worth, here is the company that I worked with to design my ErnieTheAttorney website.

They create elegant websites that pass the grunt test with flying colors.

Oh, and go grab a copy of Don Miller’s book: Building a StoryBrand: Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen.

The reviews on Amazon are off the charts!

The Bottom Line…

Too many lawyers struggle to get a “cash flow friendly” stream of high-quality clients. The problem is they don’t know the vital elements of effective marketing.

Most solo & small firm lawyers have vague assumptions about how marketing works. This ignorance creates insidious dangers.

For example, when lawyers become too desperate for clients they tend to trust those they shouldn’t trust. People such as greedy consultants, or well-intentioned-but-clueless amateurs (e.g. like the people who believes that website that I referenced above deserves an award).

If you’ve been given bad marketing advice, or if you feel less than 100% certain how to market your practice effectively do NOT spend any more money on websites, consultants, or advertisements.

Instead, sign up for this course immediately (at least sign up for the FREE preview version).


  • R.. Earl Warren says:

    Hi – ‘ernie the attorney’ –
    I love the drop-down sequence of your screens. The structure of this web site certainly helps to engage your reader(s). And – your message(s) are clear & focused.

    by the way – my experience over many years – my prospective clients frequently focused on the wrong legal issue(s). Their corporate issue might actually be a tax question, or perhaps a issue of holding stock in a trust rather than individually, for example. Sometimes it’s a Will question where the dispositive provision was based on a contingency which did not occur.

    We [us lawyers] have to stop and think – focus before we decide on a course of action.


    • Thanks Earl. Yes, it’s true: communicating clearly requires a lot of extra effort. You have to put yourself in the mind of someone else, and that’s very hard to do. But it’s worth learning if you want to be successful in any aspect of business (including practicing law).


Skip to content