Lawyer biographies do a lot of heavy lifting. Before potential clients invest time and emotional energy into a conversation, they want to know it’s worth their while. One of the easiest ways to do that is by scanning the bios on a firm’s Web page.
That’s true whether clients are looking up a word-of-mouth referral, doing their own internet search, or seeking counsel for their organization. And during the coronavirus pandemic, people are more likely to turn to an internet search than ever before.
So, what should you include?
Want to make your bio impactful without turning it into a novel? Here’s how:
Your contact information
If a client wants to ask about your services, make it easy for them. At a minimum, include a phone number with one-click calling that will be answered during business hours by you or another living, breathing human and an email address. (If you’re concerned about spam, spam filters are widely available.) Many lawyers will also include a V-card.
Curated professional background
This sounds obvious, but the “curated” part is essential. Your bio isn’t a CV. Share relevant details, but be selective. One lawyer might want to emphasize her familiarity with local court staff and procedures while another might benefit from touting his publications.
For those whose clients are laypeople, this is especially important. Including a full professional history has the potential to overwhelm or even isolate prospective clients. You can always list details that may be relevant to only a handful of clients as bullet points at the end of your bio. If your reader has made it that far, this added information can help confirm your professionalism and create trust in your knowledge.
A sense of personality
Picture those bio-readers and why they’re on your Web page in the first place. Maybe they’re planning some amazing future enterprise. Or they might be looking at your bio on one of the worst days of their lives. Either way, they’ll want to pick someone they can depend on and work with during a highly emotional time. Someone relatable. Human.
Even for word-of-mouth referrals, many people will still look up the reference to make sure it’s a good fit for them. The same holds true for a larger organization seeking counsel – they’ll want a sense of how you’d mesh with their employees.
Which aspects of your personality you’ll want to portray depend on the kind of law you practice and the image your firm seeks to convey. Where you grew up, a favorite hobby or sports team, and volunteer activities are all good options to consider. So are pets, within reason. This information often fits well in the last paragraph, allowing you to highlight your professional qualifications early on while still leaving the client with a sense that you’re a fellow human.
A recent, professional photo
Yes, this means the photo should look like you do on a regular workday. Weight and gray hairs aren’t going to make clients question your ability to do your job. But virtually or in-person, meeting someone who doesn’t look like the person they thought they hired will be a distraction at best. At worst, they’ll feel deceived, putting the foundation of your work together on shaky ground.
In addition to updating your photo every four to seven years, hire a professional photographer. An experienced photographer can work with you to create an image that supports the professional personality you want to project.
Legal phrasing for awards
Include awards and honors that are relevant to your layperson-friendly bio, but beware what ones you include and how you describe or explain them. Unverifiable claims create the potential for ethics violations. Additionally, every state has different regulations for phrasing, so check your state’s Bar Association advertising rules. If you’re unsure, you can also contact your bar association’s ethics committee and ask.
More than a single paragraph
Aim for 200-500 words. If your web traffic is mostly clients looking up referrals, you can lean toward the shorter side. If you’re hoping to reach people who haven’t heard about you yet, your bio can be longer. Either way, lawyer bio pages are typically the most frequented pages of a law firm website.
Make it readable. Break the text into multiple paragraphs, which can be as short as a single sentence.
For better search engine optimization, include keywords and phrases. Longer bios will work in your favor. As an added benefit, specific and varied word choice for searches will make for a more interesting read.
Putting it all together
The goal of your bio is to speak for you in an internet search. So take the opportunity to put your best foot forward with the client. Use a recent photo, select the most relevant professional details, and share a little personality, as well as your contact information. No one wants to spend another hour scrolling through other firms’ Web pages anyway. Help searchers decide they’ve found the right lawyer so they can pick up the phone and call you already.