What Lawyers Put in Their Bios vs. What Clients Want

May 6, 2015, 5:41 PM

If you’ve kicked around the Big Law marketing staff world for more than a few years, you’ve no doubt seen the diagram below:

[caption id="attachment_1920" align="aligncenter” width="450"][Image “A diagram shows the difference between what lawyers put in their biographies, and what clients look for in lawyer biographies.” (src=https://bol.bna.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/diagram.jpg)]A diagram shows the difference between what lawyers put in their biographies, and what clients look for in lawyer biographies.[/caption]

There’s a lot of truth to this picture. Most general counsel who see it think it’s funny and highly accurate. Partners generally find it less amusing.

But the fact remains that attorney bios are collectively the most-visited and most-viewed section of Big Law websites and a significant gap exists between what clients and prospects want to know and what they are currently being served. With few exceptions, most attorney bios fail to engage and connect with these audiences and that’s a lost opportunity.

Survey statistics show that LinkedIn has reached parity with, or surpassed, law firm web bios as the primary stop for clients and others seeking background on attorneys. (Forget directories and rankings like Chambers, Super Lawyers and Martindale-Hubbell. They rank so far behind for Big Law that they don’t even make it on clients’ radar).

Certainly, SEO plays a key role in this. Search engine results will almost always place LinkedIn profiles significantly higher than law firm website bios, and on a practical basis, there’s probably little that even the most savvy law firm web professionals can do about that.

But there’s no reason why Big Law bios should continue to march in the boring lockstep that characterizes the industry today.

Attorney bios can engage clients and prospects. They can create the type of connections that support business development and they can assist in the referral process that’s critical to helping new partners build a client base.

Here are some ways Big Law firms and partners can make this happen:

Add a summary– There’s a reason why LinkedIn summary statements are so important: people read them. In a concise and crisp way, tell clients and prospects who you are, what you believe creates effective client relationships, what your practice sweet spots are and why they’d want to work with you, as opposed to the thousands of other Big Law partners who practice in similar areas and are equally good lawyers. In a panel, restaurant entrepreneur Danny Meyer (of recent Shake Shack IPO fame) told an audience that great food, value and location only get you to the starting line in his highly competitive industry. It’s service and experience that make a restaurant a winner. You should probably consider that when writing your summary.

Be Specific– That endless list of practice majors and minors? No one believes it and it won’t win you new business. Be specific about your areas of focus and make sure that your focus is reflected in the matters you list. Use client names whenever possible. Provide examples of winning deal or trial strategies. Cite examples of how you saved clients money and, if you can, how much you saved them.

Add a video box– Nothing conveys your personality, style and approach as well as a professionally produced short video. Clients and prospects want to hear how you talk, gauge what you’d be like to work with and whether you’re compatible with them and their team. Do you have areas of expertise that they need now or might in the future? Will you click with their CEO? The right video can encourage them to take the next steps in exploring a possible relationship.

Link and leverage your social media presence– Your firm bio and LinkedIn profile should work together and complement each other. There will always be items that you want to communicate which fit better in LinkedIn’s profile format. Do you blog? Do you publish? Are you on Twitter professionally? Your bio should feature prominent links to all your relevant social media activity to provide a deeper, more rounded view of you and your professional experience.

Be a person, not just a lawyer– Clients care if you are engaged in your community, work for non-profits or have unique non-lawyering skills. Shared interests can be a powerful factor in building potential relationships, but GCs have little time or patience for traditional schmoozing these days. Your bio can convey potential points of connection, from running marathons to writing novels to family and pets. Find a way to include these.

Walk the Collaboration Walk– It’s almost impossible today to find a Big Law firm that doesn’t claim that collaboration is a core cultural value. All well and good, but clients want to know if this is real and how it will benefit them. Tell them. Add a few short paragraphs to your bio copy or video that tells the story of how you and other members of your team or firm collaborated to help a client solve a real problem, or how you collaborated with non-legal executives at a client organization. Remember, every time a prospect reads your bio, you are being interviewed.

About that Headshot– A hat tip to my fellow Big Law Business expert who called out firms that still used “High School Yearbook-style Photos.” The truth is that some firms run their photo shoots like cattle calls and some partners simply hate being photographed and it shows. Firms need to spend more money, more time and more thought on bio photos. Ditch the backdrops and shoot partners in locations where they are comfortable and which have some visual interest, whether that’s their office, a conference room or outside. The process of upgrading photos for hundreds of partners is painful and time consuming, but the resulting ROI can be extremely high. (P.S. to partners, no matter how fond you are of that photo taken 15 years ago, you need to upgrade it now.)

The key metrics for evaluating your firm’s bios should focus on connection and engagement. Both of these factors are measurable and your firm’s marketing and website staff should be able to provide quantitative reporting to help track a variety of statistics related to these areas.

Here’s a final test partners can take. Have them pick a handful of clients that they know well and ask them what they think is missing from their bios.

You might be surprised at what they have to say.

This post was written by an independent law firm communications consultant.

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