Whether a potential client has heard about your legal work from a friend, colleague or a simple internet search, the first place they visit for more information is your online professional bio. The key is making sure that what you say about yourself is well written, organized, and presented in a way that will impress the people who see it.
Maintaining an effective online bio is something of a tightrope walk. You should quickly convey your level of expertise and establish the types of matters you handle while guarding against saying so much about yourself that you lose the reader’s interest.
Knowing what types of information potential clients want and need is just as important as touting your accomplishments. This is an important point that’s often lost on attorneys who share the mistaken belief that the more they say about themselves, the better. No matter how many cases or awards you’ve won in the past, people are more interested in what you can do for them today.
Following are some best practices for writing or updating your online bio to impress potential clients.
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Starting Your Online Bio
American philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson famously wrote that “consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” Whether Emerson’s ode to self-reliance is correct depends on your point of view, but consistency in law firm bios is a must. Having widely varied bio information for different attorneys at the same firm will convey a sense of disorder and randomness, which no potential client wants.
That is why one of the first steps in writing or updating your bio should be to review other bios on your firm’s website for tone and length. The goal is to establish a consistent balance that prevents you from looking like an outlier.
If every other bio on your website fits on single page, don’t think you’re standing above the crowd by having a five-page bio.
Another important consideration is making sure your bio conforms with existing regulations. The State Bar of Texas Advertising Review Department is responsible for policing attorney websites (and bios) under the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct. Knowing what is and isn’t allowed will help you avoid a potential rules violation that could lead to problems with the Bar.
One of the best places to start when you’re ready to begin writing or updating your bio is to handle the “easy stuff” before working on the narrative, including your:
- Areas of practice;
- Undergraduate and law school and any accompanying honors;
- Professional affiliations, including local and state bar groups;
- Professional accolades;
- Pro bono accomplishments;
- Published articles or presentations.
After putting together this “standard” info, the finish line is a lot closer than you might realize. Remember to use an easy-to-read format, including bullet points or other elements to break up the text. When readers see long paragraphs of copy, they’re likely to move on.
What Do Potential Clients Want to Know About You?
One of the first things potential clients want to see when they read your bio is why other people hire you and what sets you apart. While it may be interesting that you have won a truckload of accolades from your local bar association, that’s not why someone will hire you and it’s certainly not saying what you can do for them.
Begin with what you do best and make everything else you say back it up. For example, “I am Board Certified in Labor and Employment Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. My clients are workers from all types of occupations who are being unfairly denied overtime pay because they have been misclassified as being exempt by their employers.”
Once you have established what you do, it is important to let readers know why you are good at it. For the employment lawyer in the earlier example, that might be, “I have helped hundreds of people who have been unfairly denied overtime by resolving their cases with court judgments and settlements.”
Using only a handful of words, you’re telling the reader how you can help them without wasting their time. Not only will a potential client quickly know what you do best, they also know how you do it.
Too Much Information Ruins Professional Bios
Some lawyers mistakenly believe their bios should include every paper they’ve written, Bar function they’ve attended, etc. While there’s no reason you shouldn’t highlight your important career milestones, think about whether the information you’re including is likely to viewed as impressive or blarney.
Rather than listing the case names for every matter you’ve resolved since earning your law license (which I’ve honestly seen) instead, list the last five significant cases and explain how you helped your client. It will mean much more than a laundry list of cites with no reference to your role.
The same can be said for your entire bio. Long lists and dense passages of text are a surefire way to send a reader to sleep. Making your bio brief and filling it with useful information is the goal.
In this age of internet scammers and identity theft, I always recommend that attorneys not include too much personal information in their bio. To this day, I see the names of a lawyer’s spouse, children, and other details that could be exploited in the wrong hands. It’s simpler to avoid family and personal details altogether. If your firm requires you to include something about your life away from work, be generic. “Bob likes to exercise and volunteers at local food banks.” You get the picture.
Update Your Other Online Bios
Once your new bio is ready to go, don’t forget to update the other places where your story lives online. That could include your local Bar listing, LinkedIn, Martindale, Best Lawyers, Avvo, Super Lawyers, etc. It is important to remember this step because your potential clients may find you on these sites as well.
Even a well-written and properly organized online bio eventually will become dated, which is why it is also key to keep your bio updated at regular intervals. Recent accomplishments, case victories, and other timely information about you and your work will do you no good if it’s not posted where a potential client can see it.
Unless someone you’ve never met hires you on the spot, your next client will read your professional bio before picking up the phone. By following the recommendations above, you’ll be able to present a convincing case that you’re the lawyer for the job.
Bruce Vincent is a writer and editor who has helped lawyers write effective website bios for more than 20 years. When he isn’t fine-tuning online bios, Bruce typically can be found in the woods looking for his golf ball. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.