[The latest in our series of inside perspectives by marketing, communications, and business development professionals doing excellent work at law firms today, with a perspective on lawyer bios:]
General counsel say that lawyer bios are the second most influential source when it comes to making their hiring decisions, second only to receiving personal recommendations. Given the power of biographies*, it has always baffled me that many lawyers do not update theirs at least several times a year.
Surveys have shown that clients make buying decisions from people they like, trust and whom they believe are subject matter experts (in that order). Of course, firm brand matters, as do a lawyer’s credentials, but at the heart of it, a client is hiring a human being whom they feel understands their legal and business needs and cares about them. This is especially true for solo practitioners, and attorneys at small- and mid-size firms where more of the weight of whether they are hired is based on the individual.
The takeaway? Make it easy for people to like you and judge your credentials and experience right off the bat with a strong lawyer biography.
The sole purpose of bios is to persuade potential clients to become clients and to reinforce to various important audiences - such as existing clients, the media, recruits, referrals, former colleagues and peers - that you are the very best at what you do in your area while making people like and trust you. Clients want to know who you are and how you can help them. Rehashing your resume and your accomplishments is a guaranteed way to lose someone’s interest fast.
Clients want to know who you are and how you can help them...
I always tell lawyers to think about “show versus tell” when drafting their bio. Think about how to demonstrate that you are a leader in your field versus telling someone. It’s that simple. Give specific examples that show how you are the best litigator or transactional lawyer in your field (but don’t throw in the kitchen sink), demonstrating your knowledge, versus using adjectives about how great you are.
Let your accomplishments speak for themselves. Downplay your awards in the sidebar section and use the prime real estate to illustrate why someone should hire you over your peers.
Taking the show vs. tell concept a step further, when working on bios, I always ask lawyers the following questions as a guide to help shape the narrative about their professional brand:
What made you to decide to practice law?
What types of matters you are most passionate about?
What issues are keeping your clients up at night?
What has been the key to your success?
What do you enjoy most about what you do?
And most importantly: What are your greatest strengths as an attorney?
The answers will help you craft a strong opening paragraph as well as guide the structure and content for the entire bio that focuses, again, on showing versus telling.
Here are my top tips for creating a strong, engaging bio that concentrates on the client-centric, show vs. tell concept:
Use short, succinct sentences and paragraphs – less is actually more
Use bulleted lists to break up long lists of matters/experience but only include the most important representative matters and write about them in client-centric terms
Organize text with subheadings by industry or area – think about what would make the most sense to the client
Don’t write in legalese and don’t rehash your resume
Cite specific examples with targeted keywords to enhance SEO
Add examples where you did something that was “first of its kind” or “groundbreaking”
Don’t bore readers with overused phrases, similar sentence construction, cliches (i.e. “depth and breadth” or “deep bench”)
Add articles and speaking engagements to boost subject-matter expertise (but don’t go back to the beginning of time)
Be discreet with awards and honors
Showcase community involvement
Regarding this last point, clients really do care if their lawyers are engaged and giving back to the communities in which they live and work through nonprofit, volunteer, or pro bono work. These are the kinds of activities that you want to actively promote in your bio, on LinkedIn, and on your social media networks. Good works and shared interests can be powerful connectors in building potential relationships with clients and referral sources. As the most viewed section of a law firm website, your bio can serve as a great resource to help you effectively convey this information.
Keep in the back of your head...why should someone hire me?
Your lawyer bio, as well as every single piece of content generated by your firm should always be written with your client in mind. Use language your clients understand. Always think about showing versus telling and keep in the back of your head the answers to these questions – why should someone hire me? What is unique about me and my experience?
These editorial tools will enable you build a strong, client-centric lawyer biography to better showcase your professional history. Use these tools to your advantage to stand out from the thousands of average lawyer biographies.
*lawyer biographies truly are the most important pages on a law firm’s web site. Bios are read more than 300 percent more than any other page on a firm’s site and account for 80% of law firm web site traffic. Think about those stats for a minute – they truly underscore the importance of lawyer bios.
[With more than 15 years of experience in professional services marketing, Stefanie Marrone leads the business development, marketing and communications functions for Tarter Krinsky & Drogin LLP.]