This time of year, many of us resolve to buff up our physical appearance, but what about our appearance online? Apart from the home page, lawyer biographies are the most frequently visited pages on law firm websites. And they can make a strong first impression—or no impression at all.
Referrals are important, of course, but consider this: Potential clients, reporters and conference planners almost always say they use online lawyer bios to validate a referral before actually making contact. Yet despite their importance, most attorney bio pages are “flabby” and make a nondescript first impression. Here are some easy steps you can take to whip your bio in shape.
- Think like a reporter. Make sure the first sentence of the bio is not a generic statement—instead it should read like a news lead. What makes you unique among your peers? What kinds of problems are your clients facing? Newsworthy problems that you 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. So 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): (1) Define the client (with permission) and the industry. (2) State the problem faced by the client. (3) State the smart and cost-effective solution you provided. (4) State the positive business or personal outcome for the client. Good case stories can also be used in the practice or industry areas of your website 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 feel they can trust and like. A good way to demonstrate values is to include short quotes—usually as break-out quotes rather than within the narrative. What do you love about your area of practice or industry? What was your favorite case, and why? What was the best piece of advice you’ve received from a mentor? What do you do outside the office, in the community or with family?
- Multiply your media. Most traditional lawyer biographies limit their “multimedia” 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 the Great Jakes blog advises thinking of each lawyer bio on a firm website as an independent, free-standing, multiple-paged professional microsite.
Lawyer bios are the most valuable and least-leveraged real estate on any law firm’s website. In 2011, resolve to buff up your bio to ensure it makes a strong impression.
Janet Ellen Raasch is a writer, ghostwriter and blogger who works closely with professional services providers—especially lawyers, law firms, legal consultants and legal organizations—to help them achieve name recognition and new business through publication of keyword-rich content for the Web and social media sites as well as articles and books for print. She blogs at Constant Content.