Blog Post

The most corrosive and counterproductive logic in all of legal marketing


Should attorneys include personal tidbits on their bios?
In an online forum, recently I saw someone summarily dismiss the idea of including personal information by offering the following logic: What if the prospective client was a member of a rival fraternity? Personal information like this could keep us from being hired.

This is probably the most corrosive and counterproductive logic in all of marketing. Why? Because it reflects a fear of clearly defining yourself. While defining yourself strongly and unequivocally can be a difficult task, it is the key to successful marketing. In doing so, you may turn off some prospects -- but you’ll engender profound connections with others. And the trade-off will be worth it.

Personal marketing is important
Normally, when people talk about attorneys’ defining themselves, they mean on a professional level (i.e., focus on a clearly defined legal niche). However, this also needs to happen on a personal level. Why? Because people most often buy from people with whom they have a connection.

This is nothing new. Business relationships have always been at least partially personal, often built over dinner and drinks by people who travel in similar circles. However, in today’s business world, the client/lawyer relationship often begins online -- specifically, it occurs the moment the prospective client visits the attorney’s website bio.

The big question
So here is the question you need to ask yourself: what do you want prospects to see when they visit you online? A bland, lowest-common-denominator message or a strong, clear picture of who you are?

Those attorneys and firms who are afraid of “turning people off” will continue to offer the status quo: a one-page list of legal qualifications. Those that understand the new reality of our business culture will increasingly be offering a rich array of information that includes both professional qualifications and personal information.

Which approach do you think will win the day?


7 comments... read them below or add one.
  1. Robert, obviously a bland message is what visitors want. (Where is the “satire” button on my keyboard?) Potential clients want to see something safe, inoffensive and generic. Law firms should talk about “traditions of excellence” and “upholding the highest ethical standards” on their sites. Visitors want to see text that could be pasted on any other website.

    Following what they learned in law school, attorneys should only do marketing that has a precedent and has been done before. Graphics should be clip-art images that are easily recognized and are widely used. The marketing should have no downside — for example, a great logo is a smooth round ball — like a cue ball, except square with tidy corners.

    Lawyers must read miles of text in their work and so their websites should also reflect this. A good web page should be a wall of text, with no paragraph breaks or bullets. Just solid, meaty text describing complicated legal issues in minute detail. This impresses visitors because they can’t understand a word of it.

    Finally, a lawyer website must be purged and cleansed of any humanity. When people hire lawyers, they want robots, not people with feelings and compassion. Accordingly, the website must be depersonalized so that it appears as if a machine created it. Lawyers should avoid mentioning anything personal, like that they enjoy spending time with there family. After all, there could be an anti-family organization that could be offended. And what about only children who are single and whose parents are dead? They will be deeply hurt by reading any reference about family.

    So do what most law firms do: aim for the lowest common denominator and go deep. If the resulting website looks like every other website, legal equity has been achieved.

  2. Larry –

    You’re comedic take on law firm websites is spot on! Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    Because the client/lawyer relationship now begins online, the importance of the website bio as a tool to differentiate oneself from other attorneys will increasingly become clear.

  3. Totally agree with you. Personal info provides another reason for prospective clients to connect with you. A lot of work comes to lawyers as a result of referrals. If asking for referrals, it’s likely a prospective client has 2 or 3 names to choose from. Their likely next step will be to do a web search so the question is – how can that lawyer tip the level playing field in their favour? If their website bio is compelling, if there is valuable content (which is regularly updated) and if there is a flavour of them as a person – who they are, what they’re like to work with etc then it’s easier for the prospective client to make a decision.

    This is also the key reason why I think lawyers need to ensure their LinkedIn and other social media profiles are compelling and 100% complete. If someone searches a lawyer’s name there is no guarantee their website will come up top – it’s often their LinkedIn profile. It’s therefore vital to ensure that all public info relating to you clearly sets out who you help, what you help them with, some results you’ve achieved and a bit about you as a person. It’s also why it’s so important to regularly share valuable and timely content and to have a central repository for this (online it would likely be your website although many law firm websites are not currently set up for this – which is why I really like your new website offering).

  4. Another excellent post Robert. I think including personal information in attorney bio’s is a must. It helps paint a picture of who the person is behind the name as well. The general public often thinks of lawyers as unapproachable. Showing their personality helps remove this barrier and encourages trust. It might also encourage the potential client to make contact.

  5. Joshua Sachs says:

    There are worse things than having potential clients look at your website and decide to turn elsewhere. Sometimes that is exactly what you want. I try in my website to convey a strong sense of who I am and how I approach my cases and my clients. Potential clients who like what they see are those with whom I will be best able to form a strong working relationship. Potential clients who do not like what they find on my site are not going to like what they meet face to face any better. My site attracts the clients I want and filters out those whom I don’t..

  6. mitch says:

    Put it out there. Be passionate. Be real. Share info. Only way to go!

  7. It’s all about engagement and with the sheer proliferation of tools, particularly social media, that firms have got access to, often at no cost, there simply is no excuse for any firm having a mediocre web presence. Remember Robert, 5 years ago when someone wanted to integrate a video into their About Us page, in the absence of YouTube, it was not only a coding nightmare, but the sheer bandwidth blew the marketing budget within a few days. It is now just so very, very easy. Content Rules by Handley and Chapman is essential reading for any firm’s Managing Partner , BDM and Head of Marketing.

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