For some attorneys, the idea of writing a bio for the firm website sounds like fun. Finally! A chance to talk about what’s really important here: your past, your achievements, and why you’re so stellar as an attorney and all-around human being. Whether this results in something anyone actually wants to read – much less persuades that person to hire you and/or your firm – is another story.
But if you are like most attorneys, writing your attorney bio is probably somewhere between a cringe-inducing task and simply the perpetual bottom entry on your never-ending to-do list.
Whatever camp you are in, however, your attitude towards writing your bio is not the important thing. What is important is to write your professional attorney bio in a way that people will actually want to read it, and to do create something that will help promote you and your firm’s services. Here are 10 tips to creating just such a bio.
Obviously, the definition of a biography is that it is information about you and your background. And, certainly, content about your professional achievements, education, and work experience will form the guts of your bio.
But let’s be brutally honest. Potential clients don’t want to know the answer to the question, “Who are you?” Their question is, “How can you help me with my legal problem?” And that is the question for which your attorney bio should be the answer.
This does not mean you need to turn your bio into an over-the-top sales pitch, as no one wants to read a sales pitch anymore than they want to read a meandering, navel-gazing recollection of your life, but you do want to keep the focus on the client, not you.
Why are people even reading your bio on your website? If you’re hoping to show off to all your former law school classmates who passed you over for law review and finally prove that you’ve won the post-law-school competitive marathon you’re still running in your head, you are already off-base and wasting a valuable opportunity to build your client roster.
People are reading your bio because they want to see that you have what it takes to: 1) handle their matter with skill and care; and 2) not waste their money.
Does the fact that you came in second place in your law school’s Moot Court competition in 1994 go to either of those issues? Maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t. If it doesn’t, consider whether another fact about your background might be a better inclusion, even if it didn’t come with a prize or a plaque. If it does, make sure to connect that past achievement to why it makes you a good fit for the potential client to entrust their matter to you.
If it seems like there is a repetitive theme throughout these tips of focusing on the client, and not you, you are correct. But you also want to take it a step further and think about specifically who those clients are, and what about your background will interest them, as opposed to what will bore them or even turn them off.
If you are an elder care attorney, you are likely talking to middle-aged people who are scared to death and perhaps even guilt-ridden about the living conditions that their parents are enduring. Your love of competitive yachting probably doesn’t speak to those concerns, and could make them think you’re just in it for the money. Instead, tell them about the work you’ve done on behalf of senior organizations and perhaps a compelling experience that made you want to get into elder law in the first place.
Many attorneys make the mistake of thinking their clients want “the best” attorney out there in a given field, one that makes all competitors rue the day they signed up for the LSAT. That may be the case in some high-stakes litigation matters and certain cutting-edge practices, but the vast majority of clients simply want an attorney who is: 1) competent to handle their matter well; and 2) trustworthy. Being “the best” may even turn off a good many potential clients who think you will be unnecessarily expensive for their needs, and perhaps not willing or able to give their matter the attention it needs.
Thus, in writing your bio, don’t feel like you have to present yourself as the best attorney, but rather as a solid, confidence-inspiring choice for the clients you are hoping to attract.
Along those same lines, talking about your accomplishments and ability to confidently handle legal matters for clients can easily veer into arrogance. Make clear what your accomplishments and credentials are so that your potential clients can understand why you are a dependable attorney, but don’t feel the need to talk arrogantly about yourself in such a way that clients think you’re more concerned with your own interests over theirs, which is one of the biggest fears clients of all types have when seeking out legal representation.
One easy way to do this is to focus on specific achievements you have done in the past which relate to work you would do for a potential client, and avoid excessive use of adjectives which may sound warm and fuzzy (and even correct) to you but which tell your client nothing about your actual qualifications, while only serving to make you sound full of yourself.
Your bio should flow in a narrative form, such that you are telling a story, not simply listing a plethora of disjointed facts about yourself. Your bio is not a resume, and while resumes certainly serve a purpose, people generally don’t find themselves engaged in reading them.
The broad approach here is to have every paragraph present a main idea, with individual facts about you supporting each of those main ideas, and to have every paragraph transition into the next such that it presents one overall main point: why you are the right attorney for a potential client. If that sounds like basic third-grade English class to you, you’re right. And yet so many attorneys fail to do just that in their bios.
You can take a number of approaches in the ideas you want to form the basis of your paragraphs (2-4 paragraphs is a good baseline for a bio), but one consistently solid approach is to tell your reader why you got into providing the services you are offering, what you enjoy about it, and your notable accomplishments in that area, all with a focus on how you can best serve clients.
If you’re not sure whether you are telling a story with your bio, as opposed to listing facts in paragraph form, read it out loud to another person to see how it flows. You probably will know simply by how you read it whether it is flowing as a narrative, even before you get feedback.
Another common mistake that attorneys often make – especially those at solo firms and small/boutique firms – is to have their bio simply repeat what has already been said on the rest of their website, namely on the Home page, About Us page, and throughout the Practice Area pages.
If you already made it clear on all of those pages that you provide divorce, estate planning, and immigration legal services, don’t spend your whole bio telling us those same facts again. It’s unnecessary and dull. Trust that the other pages will do the job of telling us about the firm’s services. Use your bio to tell us about YOU.
Do you like reading long bios about attorneys who are not you?
Have I made a point with this section, and only used 33 words to do so?
I hope so.
If you poll your current clients who found you off of your website and asked why they entrusted their legal representation to you, the answer is probably not going to be that you listed some vague award with the word “lawyer” in it with no connection to a specific achievement in your career.
Listing accolades can be a great way to show clients that you have been recognized for your great work in the past. But if you want to list an accolade you have received, do it in a way that makes clear:
It may take several drafts of writing your attorney bio to get to a place where it feels right, but a good way to know that you have a draft to publish is to ask: would you read this bio if it wasn’t about you? And, more importantly, what would you think about this person you’re writing about?
Reading it silently to yourself may not cut it in helping you determine this. I mentioned reading the bio aloud to another person above, but I’d take it one step further and have someone else read it out loud to you. Does it sound like you? Does it sound like someone you would want to hire as your lawyer?
Of course, most non-narcissists will cringe at least a little bit at hearing words they’ve written about themselves read by another, so it may be good to have another listener at least somewhat familiar with your brand of legal services and clientele present to help judge the bio more objectively. Ask them what stood out, and what came off as boring, unnecessary, or uninteresting. Ask them what they would want to hear more about as well as what they would like to hear less about.
Finally, don’t hesitate to engage the services of an outside marketer to help you craft, write, and/or edit your bio. If your bio more clearly represents who you are and what you can provide to even a single new client, it can be well worth the cost.