I admit, I loved The Wolf of Wall Street. You can put me in the “swept away” category aptly described in the NY Times review. Although, I also agree with the criticism of its voyeuristic indulgence in sexism and materialism. But, damn, it was entertaining! Overall, I was intrigued by the major theme: the power of selling. The movie perfectly conveyed the ambrosia of persuading someone to buy something — anything — from you.
Early on, when teaching new salesmen, the lead character hands one a pen and says, “Sell me this pen.” I took his point to be that you sell the customer, not the product. You focus on what the customer wants or needs in order to convince him that the product — whatever product — will give it to him. Of course, in this story what sells is most often simply lies — as long as they are persuasive. So, what then, do lawyers sell? Or, to put it differently, how do lawyers persuade their clients? And how do they do it truthfully?
Well, for one thing, it’s seldom that the client will get rich. Any personal injury plaintiff would happily exchange a multimillion dollar verdict for the life or limb of the victim. And a business owner would rather not have to pay to correct his mistake or the misconduct of his partners. But they have to and they have to pay lawyers for the privilege. No wonder it’s a hard sell, especially when done truthfully. Maybe that’s what the lawyer has to sell, the truth. Maybe that’s what the lawyer has to persuade the client he or she wants.
Selling the truth may be hard, but it is essential. It’s not worth selling anything else.