Trellis White paper Ad 770 Spot #6
Friday Five
share TWEET PIN IT share share 0
The Friday Five

Heads Up: All Headshots Are Not Created Equal

By Mary Ellen Sullivan

An earlier post talked about the importance of getting a professional headshot as a smart way to introduce yourself online and establish your brand. But do you know what potential clients are looking for in a photo?

Leigh McMillan does.

As vice president of marketing for Avvo, an online guide that offers legal advice and helps consumers research and find attorneys, her company recently investigated the top factors in how consumers choose an attorney. Research included results from a survey of 10,000 consumers along with focus groups and real-time observation of the choice process online.

The top criteria? Responsiveness. When probed further, consumers overwhelmingly said “what the lawyer looks like” is wrapped up in this. “In fact,” says McMillan, “looks are more important than where they went to law school.”

Make Your Photo More Clickable in Online Searches

Overwhelmingly, both people who have never used an attorney before and people who have had some experience with lawyers wanted someone who “looked like they could go to court.” McMillan is quick to point out, however, that this does not translate into that dreaded cliché photo set in front of law books, but rather into a certain kind of confidence.

First-timers, however, also preferred to hire an attorney who looks friendly and approachable. Those who have had experience with an attorney indicated that friendliness was not a factor at all.

Avvo has also studied ads with the attorney’s photo and found a correlation between a good photo and higher click-through rates. So the bottom line is, in this wired world, a potential client’s first impression of you is an online photo rather than an in-person meeting, so it pays to get it right. McMillan offers some tips:

  1. In the photo, face forward and look confident.
  2. Smile. That’s one of the things first-timers look for.
  3. Pay attention to the background — it too is a factor. The background should be interesting but not too prominent.
  4. Make the photo as high definition as possible so that it translates well to all digital platforms.
  5. Use a professional photographer. He or she can help you look your best and produce a quality image.

Still not convinced? If you don’t have a photo, some servers will grab your profile picture from another account — Facebook, for example. Even though you may only use Facebook for family and friends, your photo there is accessible in other realms. So do you really want your clients’ first impression to be that holiday photo of you in your bathing suit, tropical drink in hand?

Mary Ellen Sullivan is a Chicago-based freelance writer who writes frequently about the arts, music, travel and women’s issues, with a specialty in health care for more than 30 years. She is the author of the best-selling book “Cows on Parade in Chicago,” as well as several travel guides, and has been published in The New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Sun-Times, Woman’s Day, Vegetarian Times and other publications. She also writes a blog about joy called “On the Wings of the Hummingbird.” 

Illustration ©

Categories: Daily Dispatch, Friday Five, Law Firm Marketing
Originally published July 11, 2014
Last updated April 13, 2018
share TWEET PIN IT share share
Mary Ellen Sullivan Mary Ellen Sullivan

A Chicago-based freelance writer, traveler and the author of “On the Wings of the Hummingbird,” a blog about joy, Mary Ellen Sullivan wrote about the arts, music, travel and women’s issues, with a specialty in health care, for more than 30 years. She was the author of the best-selling book “Cows on Parade in Chicago,” as well as several travel guides. Mary Ellen passed away in March 2016. You can read about her extraordinary life here.

More Posts By This Author
MUST READ Articles for Law Firms Click to expand

Welcome to Attorney at Work!

Sign up for our free newsletter.


All fields are required. By signing up, you are opting in to Attorney at Work's free practice tips newsletter and occasional emails with news and offers. By using this service, you indicate that you agree to our Terms and Conditions and have read and understand our Privacy Policy.