Nobody said writing an attorney bio was glamorous. But it is necessary. Unfortunately, it is a task that is often given too little attention, resulting in a boring bio page that is just a thinly-veiled rehashing of an old resume.
Your attorney bio page is important. In fact, it is probably one of the most important pages on your law firm’s website. According to HubSpot, about pages are the second most visited pages on a website. Attorney bio pages are valuable marketing tools, and yet so often, they are put together piecemeal without attention to branding or tone. Or, they are just resume-style lists, devoid of personality.
More often than not, people aren’t hiring The Firm; they are hiring an attorney. And they want to know who that attorney is. The style and tone you present online is the attitude people will come to expect of you in person. If your bio page comes off as arrogant and stilted, people will think you are arrogant and stilted. If it is engaging and personable, people will expect you to be engaging. Who do you think clients would rather work with?
Here are seven things you can do to brighten your bio.
1. Talk to the individual.
Online publishing is intrinsically anonymous and impersonal. It is easy to forget, when sitting solo in front of your screen, that when you write, you are talking to other people.
First, drop the legalese and jargon. In very rare cases this may be appropriate, but only if you are speaking primarily to other attorneys. Use acronyms and industry terms only if they pertain to the audience for which you are writing.
Write in first or second person, and don’t be afraid to use pronouns. Some attorneys eschew first person due to an (outdated) notion that it will make them appear unprofessional. Remember, you are writing for the web, not a scholarly article. Take yourself off of the page and place yourself into a networking event. You would never refer to yourself as John Smith, Esq. throughout every conversation. It would be unbearable. Reading paragraph after paragraph in which every sentence starts with John, John, John can seem equally so.
If you are with a large firm, first person may not be possible, but that does not mean you have to be stiff and impersonal. If you are a solo attorney, drop third person immediately.
2. Lead with a lede.
Journalists are trained to start every story with a hook, and attorneys can learn from this practice. In a news article, the lede (often also, lead) is the introductory sentence, or short paragraph, that describes the story and gives the most important details up front, in an attempt to entice readers to continue.
In many ways, you are similar to the journalist working to draw people into an article. You have a story to tell, and it is important to you that people read it. If you bury the lede, your visitors may move on and never get that essential piece of information that convinces them you are right for their matter.
If your bio starts with any variation of:
Judith Jennings is an associate in the firm’s family law practice group…
you need to rewrite your lede. That sentence says nothing about who you are and why a prospective client should care. Instead, try something like:
Judith helps fathers retain visitation rights or get full custody so that they can enjoy being a part of their childrens’ lives. Fathers should be able to participate in the growth and development of their children.
This clearly delineates how the attorney can help her clients.
3. Go off-script
Many attorney bio pages follow the same format, which goes something like: education, experience, practice areas and, depending on the lawyer, publications. These types of details are important, but they are not differentiators. Your personality is what will distinguish you from all the other educated, experienced professionals out there.
Your job is to make people want to meet you. If they don’t want to meet you, will they want to hire you? Infuse your bio with stories and tidbits about you that pique curiosity and make readers want to learn more. Talk about your passions — the things that motivated you to become a lawyer.
Marque Lawyers is an example of a site with unique attorney bios that are all written in the same brand voice. Their tone might not be for everyone, but it is certainly memorable. Here are a couple of highlights:
If you need to know which cocktail will go best with your handbag, or you want to sell oil to the Saudis, talk to Kim.
A lawyer who speaks tech in plain language! That’s rare enough, but Enjel combines it with awesome negotiating skills and an obsession with finding the perfect takeaway coffee.
And those two are partners. Marque is a firm with serious clients and lawyers you want to learn more about.
4. Ditch the list.
Your attorney bio page is not your CV and your website visitors aren’t in HR. Prospective clients don’t want to look at a long list of credentials, and they don’t want to read a bio that is just that list put into prose form.
Instead, focus on describing how your features — your experience, education and history — are benefits for clients.
Start by brainstorming on words that you or others could use to describe you. Then, incorporate these words into your daily practice. For example, let’s say appeals attorney Bob Butler is focused and attentive. How does that translate into practice? If that attention leads to honesty and empathy, Bob may want to sell himself like this:
Bob makes you feel like the only person in the room, even if you are in a crowd of hundreds. If you have concerns about your case, he will always take the time to talk to you and give you an honest assessment of where things stand.
This description takes the concept of “attentive” out of the abstract, and makes it about the client, not the attorney. It gives visitors a tangible idea about what it is like to work with Bob.
This is not to say that you should leave credentials out of your bio entirely. Just don’t lead with a list. If you do put everything into a list for summary, that belongs at the end of the page. It is far more important that readers get a sense of who you are and what you do — so that they trust you and want to contact you — than it is they know where you went to law school.
5. Explain your case(s).
Highlight your experience by including examples of cases on which you have worked. One of the number one concerns of people looking for an attorney is whether the attorney has handled a similar matter. Providing case studies will help reassure these visitors.
When discussing representative cases, always do more than list a citation. You reader isn’t familiar with Good Guys v Bad Guys and Accomplice , and he or she is not going to take the time to look it up. A list of citations is about as helpful as that cat video they’d rather be watching.
Your case history is only relevant to prospective clients if they understand how it has prepared you to help them. Provide details. You do not have to reveal client identities, but you should say enough about your case examples that people will be able to understand them and apply your experience to their situations.
6. Incorporate non-work details.
People are interested in what attorneys do with their time away from the office as this provides insight into who the attorney is. As much as you may want your prospective clients to make information-based, rational decisions, they do not. People decide predominantly based on emotion. If they like you, they are more likely to hire you.
Include and volunteer activities, hobbies or passions in your bio. You never know what may spark a connection with a visitor.
8. Format your bio for the web.
Bios do not have to take on any specific configuration, but they should be written with internet readers in mind. People rarely read a web page from top to bottom. They scan, reading headlines and maybe one or two sentences to determine whether they want to read more.
Use short sentences and short paragraphs, and write in active voice. Include pull quotes, headlines and subheads to break up content and make it easy to scan.
What does all of this translate to in terms of subject matter?
In the infamous words of James Stockdale, think: Who am I? Why am I here?
1. Include your full name, title and a professional headshot.
2. Tell people what you do, without legalese and overused buzzwords.
3. Tell them why you do it. What motivates you? What got you into law school?
4. Explain how your experience helps clients.
5. Provide relevant examples.
Breaking the mold is not always easy. But it is liberating. Once you’re free, you will find it is rewarding — perhaps even fun — to write content people will connect with and want to read. Your visitors will thank you.