Hawkers & Hookers

Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko at Pexels

By Murray Gottheil | November 20, 2023

Young lawyers often do not realize, or want to accept, that they are in sales. “I am no salesperson” they think. “I am a professional.”

Well, I have news for you. There are only two types of professionals. Those who cannot market themselves, and those who are successful.

I think back to 1971, when Xaviera Hollander published her first book, The Happy Hooker: My Own Story. It sold 20 million copies.

In 1972, I was a student at Vanier College in Montreal, and Xaviera came to speak about her career. The event was the highlight of my school year. The auditorium was full to the rafters. Students were ignoring all kinds of fire regulations. Every seat was taken and the aisles were packed. When the bell rang for a class to start, students who wanted to leave had to walk within a few feet of the stage – and Xaviera – to exit.

For the early seventies, Xaviera was absolutely outrageous. Long before Jerry Seinfeld proclaimed, “Not that there is anything wrong with that,” Xaviera would study the students (both men and women) crossing the stage near her to exit the auditorium, watch them longingly from behind once they had passed her, and make comments about how appealing she found them.

At one point, she spoke about oral sex. “Let me show you,” she said, motioning to the microphone and dipping her head towards it before abandoning the effort, laughing, and saying that she probably would get in trouble for that.

All in all, Xaviera put on quite the show, one I still remember over 50 years later.

I will not get into the substantive things that I learned from Xaviera’s seminar other than to say that I probably should have listened more carefully and taken some notes. It might have come in handy over time.

But I would like to make a point about her presentation style. She was funny. She was outrageous. She was memorable. She made us laugh. She was authentic (or a reasonable facsimile thereof). She certainly made me want to buy her book.

Perhaps your presentations need not be remembered for 50 years. But you do want your audience to think of you fondly for at least a few months so that you will be top of mind when it comes time to hire a lawyer.

Next time that you are planning to speak to a group to promote business, remember that you may be a sophisticated professional, but you are still a salesperson with something to hawk. Think about how you can make your presentation interesting for your audience. And remember to start with a good hook.

This article was originally published by Law360 Canada, part of LexisNexis Canada Inc.

Murray is a happily retired lawyer who lives in the country, drives a pick-up truck, writes, teaches and mentors. You can reach him at [email protected] or see what he is up to at lawanddisorderinc.com.


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