A version of this article (written by me) appeared recently on the Attorney at Work blog.
This time of year, many of us resolve to buff up our physical appearance – but what about our personal and professional appearance online?
Attorney biographies are the most-frequently visited pages on law firm websites and can make a strong first impression — or no impression at all. Referrals are important but, in the Internet age, potential clients, reporters and conference planners will almost always use online attorney bios to validate a referral before actually making contact.
In spite of their popularity with users, most attorney bio pages are “flabby” and make a non-descript first impression.
Here are some easy steps you can take to get your attorney bios in shape.
Think like a reporter. Make the first sentence of each bio not a generic statement – but a news lead. What makes this lawyer unique among his or her peers? What kinds of problems are clients facing – newsworthy problems that this lawyer can solve? Don’t start with the kind of law practiced, but with the kinds of business or personal problems solved. There is no place for generic material like licensure, schools or practice areas in your narrative; generic material should be pulled from a database and run alongside.
Tell stories. Research shows that people remember and repeat stories much more often than abstract qualities. Instead of simply citing a category of work or a representative case or matter, tell a “case story.” This is also a great place to indicate some of your values as a practitioner and demonstrate your level of client service.
Case stories can be told in four simple sentences (with a link to a more detailed case study, if necessary). Define the client (with permission) and industry. State the problem faced by the client. State the smart and cost-effective solution you provided. State the positive business or personal outcome for the client. Once written, good case stores can also be used in practice/industry areas and pulled from the database to use in proposals.
Demonstrate values. At a certain level, legal skill is a given and clients decide which lawyer (or law firm) to hire on the basis of values – all things being equal, they retain lawyers they know, trust and like. A good way to demonstrate values is to include short quotes from the lawyer – usually as break-out quotes rather than within the narrative. What does the lawyer love about his area of practice or industry? What was the lawyer’s favorite case, and why? What was the best piece of advice the lawyer received from a mentor? What does the lawyer do outside the office – in the community or with family?
Multiply your media. Most traditional lawyer biographies limit their “multi-media” capacity to a photo and perhaps a few links to the full text of articles and other written content. The best modern bios are like personal home pages — with links to audio, video and the lawyer’s social media sites. Robert Algeri of Great Jakes gives the cutting-edge advice to think of each lawyer bio as an independent, free-standing, multiple-paged professional micro-site.
Lawyer bios are the most-valuable and least-leveraged real estate on any law firm’s website. In 2011, resolve to buff up your firm’s flabby bios.