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  • Writer's pictureClayton T. Robertson

The Art of Persuasion: "Social Proof"

By Clayton T. Robertson (Criminal Defense / Civil Litigation Attorney)

This is the third piece in a series on advanced techniques of persuasion. The two prior pieces focused on "The Embedded Command" and "Value Mining."

"Social proof" is similar to a trial lawyer's use of evidence to support their arguments at court, but it is used in social situations when a person or entity refers to the behaviors and choices of others to convince someone to pursue the same course of action. Essentially, we are telling the person we want to persuade that the choice we are asking them to make has been made by others with a successful outcome. (By the way, skilled trial lawyers can use "social proof" techniques at trial to sway jurors, but this topic is outside the scope of this blog.)

For common examples, you need look no further than websites promoting or describing the services of others, including lawyers. These websites often contain testimonials and reviews, including ratings in the form of stars. Even though every situation is different and a successful outcome in one situation does not predict the outcome of another situation, as any good attorney disclaimer states (see my disclaimer at the bottom of this website), the subtle -- or not so subtle -- message is that others have made a similar choice, so you should, too. Humans are social creatures. This is why social media sites such as Facebook and Instagram have "likes" or "loves." This is also how fashion or other trends are created.

A related process is the "bandwagon effect." Meaning, once a critical mass of people make a choice, others are more inclined to make the same choice. This is why starting a new business is difficult, because new businesses often have fewer reviews or followers. I've seen sites of attorneys who have many positive reviews, but it has been my personal experience that their clients often were not properly served because the clients unfortunately are not aware of the attorney's or firm's shortcomings, nor how those shortcomings affected the outcome of their case. Whereas I know other attorneys with far fewer reviews who just started their firms but who are top-notch attorneys.

This is why talking to an attorney about your case, and asking specific questions about their background, is so critical, particularly if the attorney recently started their law firm. As always, call around, ask tough questions, then trust your gut. If you are interested in a piece that discusses some of the questions you should ask an attorney during a "free consultation," check out my blog here:

This blog is brought to you by Clayton T. Robertson (California State Bar No. 229430), who is responsible for its content. Law Office of Clayton T. Robertson, 1300 Clay Street, Suite 685, Oakland, CA 94612 ( The article does not create an attorney-client relationship, nor is it intended to provide legal advice or offer legal services (or convey or guarantee a legal result). It is a communication offered only as an informational courtesy and conveys only the opinions of its author.


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