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Nothing But the Ruth by Ruth Carter
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NOTHING BUT THE RUTH!

Give the People What They Want: Attorney Bios

By Ruth Carter

Have you reviewed your bio on your firm’s website in the past year? I hadn’t until the firm decided it was time to update the whole website. (The new site is still under construction.) As a result, I’ve been mulling over what goes into an effective attorney bio.

Last week at Content Marketing World, bestselling author and content marketer Andrew Davis reminded the audience that 75% of consumers know who they want to hire before they contact you. That means your bio is your calling card. It’s your chance to show a prospect that you’re the right attorney for them.

What We Write vs. What Prospective Clients Actually Want

This Venn diagram by Matthew Homann has been floating around the internet for years:

It’s funny because it’s largely true. Lawyers frequently miss the mark as to what should be included in their bios.

Voice: First Person or Third Person?

This was a question I struggled with when I started as a solo practitioner: Should I write my bio in the first person or third person? Ultimately, I went with first person because it was no secret that I was a solo practitioner: Everything on my site came from me, and everything else on my site was written in the first person.

Even when I joined Venjuris, I kept my bio in the first person because people hire people. Additionally, the attorney-client relationship comes with a level of intimacy. Our clients trust us with their secrets. They want to know they can trust us as individuals as well as the firm. Thus, first person makes the most sense.

My thoughts on this were cemented last month when I heard the phenomenal marketer Ann Handley (also a bestselling author) speak at Conex: The Content Experience. Hadley encouraged the audience to “shed the marketing voice” and be authentic and human instead.

Security in Consistency

Every attorney bio across the firm should use the same format. The first bio that a prospective client reads will create the expectation of what to expect from everyone in the organization. Being consistent on your website builds trust regarding what clients can expect from you as well as demonstrates that the firm functions well administratively.

TL;DR: Err on the Side of Brevity

When in doubt, leave it out. The amount of information that we should put in our bios is much less than what we could put in our bios. Unless it specifically relates to a niche practice area, you likely don’t need to include every article, every award and every speech you’ve ever given. Rather, use your bio to focus on what clients are hiring you to do now. If you want to provide more information about your background, you can include a link to your LinkedIn profile or a separate webpage that contains your CV.

If your bio is a wall of text, a prospect may choose not to read any of it (TL;DR = Too long; Didn’t read).

Break up the information with headings and space, so at a glance someone can find the information they’re looking for.

Your Email Address

Please, please, please put your email address on your bio. Sending you an email should not require a guessing game. If I get frustrated trying to figure out how to reach you, it might be enough of a turn-off to cause a prospective client to take their business elsewhere.

It’s fine to have a form on the firm’s “Contact Us” page, but don’t have a link to this where your email address should be on your bio. Remember: A prospective client wants to hire you, not just the firm you work for.

A Personal Touch

Since people hire people, would-be clients may want to know a little about who you are as a person. You may want a section on your bio for “Hobbies” or “Community Involvement.”

Since lawyers at a firm may differ on how much of their personal lives they want to share, a more thoughtful approach may be something like a “Fun Fact” or “Three Things You May Not Have Known About Me,” where each lawyer can share within their comfort zone.

Other Prospective Client Questions

As I was thinking about what I should include in my updated bio, I kicked the question out to my friends: “What information do you want to find on an attorney’s bio?”

Here are some of their answers:

  • What made you get into law?
  • What is your specialty and experience with my type of case, and do you win?
  • Will you fight for me or not?
  • What does success look like? Is it fighting on every single point of disagreement (no matter how insignificant it may be), or is it ensuring that clients are fully armed with all the knowledge they need to make a decision? Or is it helping clients achieve their end goal by collaborating on creative means to accomplishing it?
  • Do you return clients’ calls/emails promptly?
  • Why I should work with you — is there anything that makes you unique?
  • Will you call me out when I’m wrong about something?
  • Do people I respect respect you?

Reading all these questions from friends and on the Venn diagram above inspired me to write my blatantly honest lawyer bio in a recent blog post on my own site.

What about you? What do you think about your current bio?

Illustration ©iStockPhoto.com

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Ruth B. Carter Ruth Carter

Ruth Carter — lawyer, writer and professional speaker — is Of Counsel with Venjuris, focusing on intellectual property, business, internet, and flash mob law. Named an ABA Journal Legal Rebel, Ruth is the author of the “The Legal Side of Blogging for Lawyers,” as well as “Flash Mob Law: The Legal Side of Planning and Participating in Pillow Fights, No Pants Rides, and Other Shenanigans.” Ruth blogs at UndeniableRuth.com and tweets @rbcarter.

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