At least 73% of everyone looking to hire a lawyer search online long before they ever make that first call. In addition, it is said that the attorney biography page is the most visited page on law firm websites. This makes having a good set of online biographies a requirement for driving business to your legal practice. It should be simple: just write a little bit about yourself and your accomplishments, right?
Unfortunately, it is not always that easy.
Each type of biography has its own quirks and requirements. In addition, while most lawyers are excellent communicators and writers, that can actually work against them when dealing with a finite space for sharing credentials in a marketing setting.
Here are my top 7 tips for creating excellent lawyer biographies and some important faux pas to avoid.
1. Open with a strong statement
The biography is a vehicle for selling legal services so even if it is in a third person voice, it should be about connecting your experience with the legal problems you solve. The first paragraph of your biography is important real estate for starting a conversation with the person you are trying to connect with.
You can also increase your online search results by adding in specific keywords in the first line and headings such as your first and last name, firm name, location, and most prominent practice area. Education and personal information should be saved for the end of the biography.
2. Cover the basics
Make sure to include all the nuts and bolts that people will want to follow up on to ensure that you are who you say you are. Specifically, you should cover:
- Contact Information: Location, phone number, social media links, email address.
- Education: Undergraduate and law school credentials, as well as any post-graduate degrees.
- Work History: This is not always necessary but be sure to share any noteworthy positions.
- Practice Areas: When possible be concise.
- Published Cases or Representative Clients: Do not forget to Include high-profile clients and pro bono work soliciting permission to publish when necessary.
- Publications: These should be publications you have written or have been interviewed by.
- Speaking Engagements: Lectures, podcasts, and panel discussions are great to include.
- Awards: Your biography should contain both legal and civic awards.
- Board Memberships: Every instance should be its own entry or bullet point.
- Bar Associations & Legal Organizations: Highlight leadership positions first, general memberships after and include years of participation if possible.
- Clerkships: Judicial clerkships are important to list.
3. Cover the extras
Next, you will want to make sure that you include anything extracurricular that will make you stand out in a crowd. Leadership positions (even outside of a legal industry), community service, and board memberships are great additions to this section. This is also the right place to include a personal line or two about your interests, hobbies, or family to inspire further connection with your audience.
4. Have a relevant, professional photo
Here is an area where many lawyers fall short. Remember, this may be the only time your prospective new client sees you before deciding to request your help. Give your best possible first impression by investing in professional headshots that reflect your best qualities and your personal brand. Take professional headshots regularly to keep your online image current.
5. Create several biographies for the best web engagement
The professional biography that you have on your website should be different than the one you have on sites like Avvo or Martindale-Hubbell. This gives each of your biographies a unique content score with the search engines which improves your overall search results rankings. It also means that potential clients see unique pieces of content that have not been cut-and-pasted to save time.
Consider creating a bank of biographies for each of your online biographies, your website, and printed biography. Be sure to calendar a reminder to review them once per quarter for updates. In addition, develop a different “short” version that can be used when you speak, guest post on a blog, or are published in a legal journal.
6. Avoid the biography pitfalls
There are a couple of issues that I see often when I review clients’ online and offline biographies. Some of the worst offenders when creating a biography include:
- Informal photos: Stay away from using an old repurposed image of you at your brother’s wedding. And, unless you have an MFA in graphic design, stay away from photoshopping yourself into a different setting.
- Being too wordy: There is no need to include everything you have ever done in your legal career in your online biography. Skip the fluff and focus on the highlights. The ideal length is between 300-500 words.
- Big blocks of text: Too much text tires the reader, and odds are good you will lose their attention even before they hit the second paragraph. Keep paragraphs to between 2-4 sentences to incorporate white space. Be sure to read your biography out loud to note any drawn-out sentences.
- Third person formal: Stay away from calling yourself “Ms. or Mr.” in your biography. This sounds pretentious and can be off-putting for new clients. Instead, simply use your full name once at the beginning and your first name after that. It is important to note that there is a lot of debate about whether you should write your biography in third person (he, she, them) or first person (I, me, my). The answer will come from your target audience, your practice area, and your personal brand.
7. Try creative, interactive elements
You can make your biography page stand out even more by incorporating engaging elements like vcards, printable versions, or introductory videos - as long as they are professionally produced. Another wise choice is to include a disclaimer if you list your email address stating that sending an email to you does not indicate a legal attorney-client relationship unless an engagement letter has been signed.
Writing the perfect lawyer biography does not have to be a difficult exercise. Like any other marketing exercise, start with your potential client and work backward. Your biography is a great opportunity to connect with people before you meet them. Create text that is search-friendly, concise, and filled with the highlights of your career. This will allow potential clients and colleagues to “cut through the noise” and recognize you for the great lawyer that you are.