As you may know, at Great Jakes we’re champions of the attorney bio. In fact, we recently predicted that a small revolution in the legal marketing world will be centered on attorney bios. Why? Because bios are the most visited pages on law firm websites. And there is much room for improvement.
So, what makes for great attorney bios? I believe that it can all be boiled down to two vital elements:
Proof of Your Expertise
People are cynical about marketing. In today’s world, you can’t simply tell them that you’re an expert in a particular area — you need to prove it. This means that your bio should provide links to a deep library of content that you’ve developed that contains your best, most original ideas. This content library could include articles, blog posts, case studies, case summaries, client testimonials, photos, speeches, podcasts, webinars, presentations, etc.
An important consideration: It’s best if you focus on a fairly narrow niche. If you’re properly focused, it becomes much, much easier to prove that you possess leading expertise.
A Sense of You
Nearly every prospective client will visit your bio as part of their selection process (according to a 2009 study by the Wicker Park Group). What will they see? In most cases, lots of text that describes your expertise. While this is certainly important, it’s not everything. You also need to connect with people on a personal level.
In times past, prospects may have visited your office, where they could see photos of your firm’s client golf outing, your Citizen of the Year plaque and the photo of you shaking hands with Governor Schwarzenegger. These personal mementos are important in sparking the kind of conversations that build relationships. Unfortunately, in the internet age you are unlikely to meet your prospective clients in person — never mind get them into your office to see your collection of PEZ dispensers.
While I’m not suggesting that you include photos of your PEZ collection on your website, it’s important that you include some personal details on your bio that paint a rich picture of who you are. Mention your charity work. Include a video clip of you being interviewed on a local news program. Show photos of you shaking hands with dignitaries.
While this type of information has not traditionally been featured prominently on attorney bios, it will inevitably become standard practice as the Facebook generation comes of age. More on this in my next post.
Useful stuff – thanks Dion. Some law firms get it very wrong in my view – it’s as important to know what to take out as what to leave in.
Lawyers have to get over the belief that revealing anything about their personal lives and who they are as a person isn’t “professional.” Obviously there has to be discretion exercised about how personal. But interests, hobbies, even activities with children, artistic and sports talents, all are ways to humanize the individual and enable the reader to see if you share commonalities on which to build a relationship. It certainly makes for more interesting reading.
Phyllis Weiss Haserot
President, Practice Development Counsel
Consulting/Coach to the Next Generation
Author of “The Rainmaking Machine:” and “The Marketer’s Handbook of Tips & Checklists” (both West 2010)
Likability is a key factor in hiring decisions so adding hobbies/affiliations/community work/leadership roles all help. Robert Ambrogi makes a good point about building a theme, too. My biggest problem with attorney bios is with how the information is ordered. All too often the best material is buried near the end (e.g., “advised Apple in all its legal agreements with IPhone 4 app developers..”) while the name of a law school and year of graduation is on top.
Personal information helps — but some can go overboard.
For example, I don’t really care (in a bio) that an attorney has a beautiful wife or husband, or that he or she has three brilliant children named Groucho, Harpo and Chico.
I can usually find that info, along with family photos, on a Facebook page.
The purpose of a Bio is so the public or anyone wanting to know who you are can do so. If you take a clinical approach to posting your Bio you will not express who you really are. In marketing and networking, approachability is most important. Therefor consider expressing who you are and how you would like to be introduced to someone. Video can help.
Just some basic thought to consider.
Anderson Lloyd Lawyers in NZ have really good bios and photos – although I might be biased! We worked alongside a great design agency to help them rebrand in 2006. We talked to all staff, lots of clients and other opinion leaders in the market about what differentiated them. It overwhelmingly came down to their ‘South Islandness’ – their down to earth nature, no bull, willingness to don the wellington boots and get out into their clients’ businesses…we wrote the bios ‘to reflect this – see http://www.andersonlloyd.co.nz/our-people/?type_id=0
And the designers made sure the photos reflected the South Island nature of their business. They have had really good feedback from the market and other law firms.
Great topic. I definitely agree with a lot of what is being said. I’m looking at this from a marketer’s perspective: With the rise of social media and a shift to a more human (aka personal) way of doing business, lawyers cannot afford to compartmentalize their lives into segments –work and play–the old rules are out. A lawyer’s bio is a brand building tool used by clients to assess the lawyer’s reputation and clout; to paint an accurate picture, this needs to include both professional and personal information. The lawyer isn’t solely hired for his/her legal skill, though this does play a key consideration, clients want to work with legal counsel that they like, that share the same values and that have their best interest at heart. Why is it important to disclose that you volunteer for the United Way every year? It’s a great way to break the ice, showcase yourself as a well-rounded individual and helps establish shared values/experiences. If we think about it from a different perspective, would you rather go on a first date with someone who gave you basic bio information or showed you who they are as a whole? I do, however, believe that there is a fine line between personal and “too much information” – my rule is “don’t publish anything that you don’t want your competitors to see or use against you.”
As I like to remind my law firm clients, people buy from people. So, “yes” to the use of first-person and other ways to make the message more engaging.
People like to buy from people and all too often the perception of attorneys/solicitors is that they are ruthless or stuffy. Some personal info goes along way to humanize and make them more approachable.
[…] 2. Knowledge gathering – Once the buyer feels confident that they have sufficiently identified a manageable universe of attorneys they will move into the knowledge gathering phase. This is where they start talking to others, ask for specific reasons why they are recommending so and so, AND, they do an Internet search to learn more about you, as well as learn as much as they can about their options—your competition. (Give them lots to look at! Give them more than the one-dimensional website bio page!) […]
Very well presented article, highlighting that indeed, people do choose people, rather than companies to do business with and conveying your personality, abilities and attributes across social platforms has never been more important.
At Patterson Law we always aim to engage with our potential clients and build strong bonds with them.