Lawyers should update their bios regularly to keep it fresh, and because it is an important marketing tool.  It should be well written, brief and to the point on the benefits a prospect should gain by retaining your services.

Since there will likely be opportunities over the holidays to meet people you will want to send a bio to, it is a good time to update it. Heather Suttie referred on LinkedIn to a post that sets forth some excellent bio do’s and don’ts:

Do:

  1. Target your desired client base.  Include benefits that such an audience would be interested in by hiring you;
  2. Give your story some personality.  The best lawyer bio I ever saw is the one for Martin Ginsburg, the late husband of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, which portrayed both his excellent credentials and sense of humor;
  3. Make it brief.  But not written like one.  Suttie suggests it be 150 words maximum. Sometimes that maybe too long depending on the occasion and audience;
  4. Include examples of cases or transactions you have handled.  However, do not name the client (even if it’s a matter of public record) without the client’s approval.  They may not want their matters publicized on the Internet, and very unhappy if you do; and
  5. Include a recent photo – emphasis on the word recent. You can send the wrong message when you meet a new client in-person, and you don’t look like your 20 year old picture.

Don’ts:

  1. A resume is not a bio. Suttie points out “clients don’t care about your career path, they care about what you can do for them”;
  2. Self-aggrandizement is a no-no. And of course using words like expert or specialist (unless so certified by an acceptable bar organization) creates ethical problems;
  3. Although it may be okay to mention your Pulitzer Prize, lesser kudos unless related to your legal practice are not.  Your law school Moot Court award 30 years ago won’t cut it;
  4. Education should be downplayed the further into your career you go.  I hate to say it, but you didn’t become a great lawyer in law school.  The only thing that really matters is what you have done since; and
  5. Avoid stating your bar admission year.  If you’re a recent grad, it highlights your youth and inexperience.  If it is well back in the last century, it may show you are not only long-in-the-tooth, but expensive.

Bios are important and since they are a form of self-marketing, put your best effort into making it sharp, short and a compelling story.

Well, now that I have your attention.

I know that it is important to you, your mother, your firm initially, and some clients I’m sure. But I’d venture to say that after you have been out of school for awhile most clients could care less. They want to know what you’re capable of doing for them; that you have the right experience to solve their personal or business problem. That’s all they care about.

The above thoughts came to mind because of today’s meditation from 365 Marketing Meditations: Daily Lessons For Marketing & Communications Professionals authored by Richard Levick and Larry Smith. It reads:

"Do you care where the cook at a great restaurant went to school? Who cares where your partners went? Include it if you like, but never lead with it."

Still too many law firms’ attorney bios, whether on their website or in hard copy, still lead off with their lawyers’ academic credentials. As Levick and Smith so succinctly put it "who cares”? It’s better to highlight the cases and transactions that the lawyer handled successfully.  Sorry, but where they went to law school just isn’t that important to clients in the end.

It should. Any potential client is going to check you out before calling, whether on your web site or social media sites. If it is like a lot of bios, that may end your chances right there. Your bio should encourage not discourage inquiries from potential clients, the media, or conference planners.

So says Janet Ellen Raasch in a short, interesting piece she calls “Buff Up Your Bio” on attorneyatwork.com. I expect she is right when she says that after the home page, “lawyer biographies are the most frequently visited pages” on a law firm’s web site. So, beef up that bio Bud and Barbara.

And Raasch has some good ideas to help you:

  • Do as reporters do. Rather than start your bio with a boring reference to being a partner in a certain practice area, why not have the first paragraph grab your reader by covering the key parts of your story; that is, newsworthy problems your clients have experienced and you solved. Leave your education, licenses, articles, etc. for the end or a sidebar;
  • Tell a “case story” or stories. Write a narrative about a client’s problem (not by name unless you have permission), relate the “cost-effective solution you provided,” and what the positive benefit to the client was;
  • Show your values beyond your legal skills. I completely agree with Raasch that “all things being equal, (clients) retain lawyers they feel they can trust and like.” She suggests “short quotes” interlaced outside the narrative itself that address such things as what you love about “your area of practice or industry…favorite case, and why…best advice from a mentor..community or family” involvement…or whatever to show your core values; and
  • Expand your media tools. Don’t just have a photo, link to articles and consider making your bio more like a “personal home” page that could include audio and video, and links to your “social media sites.”

If you want to knock the socks off visitors to your bio, be different and tell a story.

Year-end is a good time to update (or possibly improve) your bio. Two recent items triggered this thought, one dealing with advice on individual bios and the other more on firm bios. Both are worth a look.

First, an article by Jessica Sharp appeared on Law.com’s Small Firm Business which provided tips for lawyers in revising their online bios. They include:

  • anticipating what your ideal clients would like to see and write to that;
  • emphasizing your strengths, and contrary to Sharp’s suggestion, I would include accomplishments in bullet format detailing cases/transactions handled with dollar amounts were appropriate (but I wouldn’t mention clients names without their permission);
  • describing your capabilities as a friend (or "raving" fan) would (and if you don’t know what they would say, ask them);
  • putting the "important stuff up front," (and where you went to school at the end); and
  • updating it frequently to avoid becoming stale.

The other article was by my friend Paul Black and appeared on JDSupra suggesting "5 Ways to Make Your Firm Bios Stand Out Online":

  1. put one person in charge to keep the revision effort on track;
  2. seek input from lawyers following a format to ensure consistency of information, as well as the look;
  3. have a short and long version – one with basic information, with a link to a longer bio for visitors to obtain more information;
  4. hire a professional photographer in order to get great photos, again for a consistent look or theme; and
  5. show some personality, individually and as a firm (my all-time favorite bio was the one by the late Martin Ginsburg, husband of Ruth Bader Ginsburg).

Nothing like freshening up that bio so as to put your best foot forward on the Internet in the coming year.