The elevator pitch

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As a law student, you should always have an elevator pitch, a brief statement about who you are that you will use when introducing yourself in professional contexts. Consider this scenario: You are at the federal courthouse in Dallas. Riding down in the elevator, you are standing next to a person who turns out to be the chief judge. She notes that you look young, eager, and perhaps a little nervous and recognizes you as a law student or maybe a young attorney. She brightly introduces herself with her name. After you do the same, she says “Tell me about yourself!”

Your elevator pitch helps a listener in a professional context know where you “fit” in that context. It should quickly identify your current role and where you hold it. It should tell us something about how you fill that role. In the case of a law student, that usually means saying either what kind of law you are interested in or what kind of job you want to take after law school. Of course, you may very well not know the answer to that yet. You should nevertheless express some kind of interest. If you do express an interest in a particular area of law, make sure you have an answer to the common follow-up question: “What got in you interested in X?” It’s embarrassing not to have an answer to that one, if it’s asked, but you don’t need to explain that in the pitch itself unless you think it achieves some other objective.

Your pitch will tell us something about your background and perhaps about you as a person. This might be as simple as saying what your undergraduate training or previous work experience was. Ideally, though, it will tell us something memorable. It should do all this in 30 seconds or less. Here’s an artificial example:

Howdy! My name is Martin Frankel, but everyone calls me “Gus.” I’m a first-year law student at Texas A&M. I’m most interested in securities regulation, but I’m still pretty open to other possibilities. (If asked, Gus would say he got interested in securities regulation while following the trial of a childhood neighbor for securities fraud. The neighbor was acquitted.) Law school is a nice change from last year: I spent six months in the Amazon collecting monkey urine on a research expedition for Cornell’s College of Biology. What kind of work do you do?

Note that Gus’s pitch was short, informative, and memorable. It’s also a nice touch that he asked his listener to reciprocate. Sometimes a conversation like this between a law student and an attorney will result in a networking opportunity. By the way, though this example elevator pitch is artificial, I actually did have a student who collected monkey urine as part of a research expedition! That was a memorable part of her elevator pitch.

Your elevator pitch will change over time as your interests and experiences develop. You will want to tailor your elevator pitch for different audiences, too. Whenever you are going into a new situation where you expect folks to want to understand who you are, you should think first about what impression you want to make and then adjust your pitch accordingly.

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