Written by Ernest Kuo
We’ve all heard it: Websites need to be ever more responsive in order to meet the shift in users doing their research on mobile devices. But there’s more to creating a responsive website than ensuring that content is structured for easy mobile access. In particular, is the content on your website that users are coming to most frequently as strong as it should be?
In the legal industry, law firm websites must not only be responsive, but function as dynamic and evolving conduits for SEO-rich content, relevant and interesting information, and new business opportunities. In the midst of all these requirements, the importance of attorney bio pages is often overlooked — yet, such bios continue to be among the most viewed, if not the most viewed, pages on legal firm websites (next to the homepage).
Most buyers of high-end commercial legal counsel are seeking to identify and qualify both the firm and the individual attorney under consideration, which makes individual attorney biographies just as important as ever. Attorney bio pages have traditionally included everything from contact information; a summary narrative; a description of experience/background (representative matters, publications and speaking engagements, community and charity involvement, professional associations and honors); individual client testimonials; and case studies, to more sophisticated and user-engaging infographics; videos; visually enhanced articles and blog posts; and social media and other networking information.
The goal of a strong attorney bio page is to present “serving-size” portions of carefully segmented information that can be easily and quickly navigated in addition to being interesting, concise and relevant. Visitors expect to be able to vet an attorney online before deciding whether they are willing to invest the valuable time and resources required to engage in an actual conversation about their specific legal needs. Because of its importance in ensuring that potential clients feel confident they are retaining the right law firm and, notably, the right individual lawyer and/or lead counsel a highly personal microsite experience is imperative — both for the lawyer and the client.
So now that we’ve covered all that, you should be able to create a strong attorney bio, right? If only it were that simple! Still, it doesn’t need to be as difficult as you might think. To help you with updating your bio, we’ve put together some questions and best-practice guidelines to keep in mind as you formulate your next narrative.
Does my bio answer the question “Why should you retain me?”
Attorneys must convey what is unique about their practice and approach to client service by directly or indirectly answering this very question. We advise that when writing a bio, each attorney keep the target audience in mind while telling his or her professional “story” in a way that is compelling. In the end, this makes it easier to connect with prospective clients. We also encourage our client firms to maximize and leverage their investment in each individual attorney by communicating the specific value that attorney provides as an important element of the firm’s overall brand strategy.
Is my bio too short or too long?
The answer to this question can be subjective, as we know not all attorneys have decades of practice to talk about. That being given, we recommend narratives be no longer than 300-500 words. Anything much longer than that and you begin to lose your audience. Remember, the average time users spend reading content on websites is 15 seconds or less, so you need to make sure your narrative is concise and focused — don’t add in any information that isn’t relevant to the section you are writing. Your narrative should focus on you, the “professional,” and highlight what you do well, why you do it well and what makes you unique in your practice of/delivery of legal services.
Can non-lawyers understand what I’m saying?
We all use some degree of industry jargon, and it’s easy to slip into the mode of erroneously assuming that everyone understands these terms when you’re writing about something related to your work. For professionals in the legal industry, “legalese” is the classic such pitfall — keep in mind, as you draft your bio, that legal jargon is particularly likely to be difficult for the average individual to understand, and that instead of sounding impressive, it can come across as the opposite. Your bio narrative is a key component for engaging potential clients, and if a reader feels as if he or she can’t connect with you, or isn’t easily able to decipher your experience and understand how it correlates directly with what he or she is looking for, you may have cost yourself a potential client — all without ever having the opportunity to talk to that person.
Does my bio make me sound approachable?
We won’t disagree that it’s difficult to write about yourself (which is probably why few people, regardless of their profession, enjoy writing their own bios). But no matter how much you dislike writing about yourself, that doesn’t diminish the importance your bio plays in helping to secure new business opportunities. The saying, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression” might never hold more true than in this instance. You might be the most friendly and easy person to talk to in person — but if your bio sends a different message, potential clients may decide you are unapproachable and move on before you ever get a chance to shake their hand.
What about my bio picture? Do I need to look like a model?
Attorney photography is often viewed as a discrete assignment, one that’s time consuming and often difficult to manage. It’s also an area that seems hard to change later, given the scope and cost of completely updating photos across the firm. We believe the approach to this effort should be no different than to any other creative assignment under the firm’s brand. While there generally seems to be more tolerance for delving into photo updates when a firm is at a major milestone (such as conducting a brand refresh, undergoing a merger, or developing a new web site), the reality is that bio pictures can be improved at any time.
Equally as important to the decision to update attorney photos is making sure you find the right photographer. Determining whether a photographer is a good fit for your firm isn’t just about what he or she shoots, but also how. Color or black and white? Background or no background? Environmental portraiture or seamless? Tie or no tie? Will your attorneys enjoy working with the person, and feel that he or she has successfully captured their personas? Does the photographer have a great eye, and can he or she work quickly? Answering these and other questions in advance will help you make the most of this assignment — and, combined with great bio content, bring out the best in your attorney profiles. To read more tips on capturing great profile photos, take a look at one of our earlier blogs dedicated specifically to this topic and explaining how we help our clients with this task.
So you’re probably asking yourself, “What should I take away from this?” It’s simple, really: Attorney bio pages are as important as, if not more important than, any other page on your website. If you have Google Analytics connected to your website, we encourage you to take a look over the past 6-12 months to see how much traffic comes to your main attorney page and individual attorney bio pages in comparison to other pages. The numbers might astonish you. We hope that armed with that data and the information we’ve provided in this blog, you can take the next step to help optimize your attorney bio pages. If you find you’re struggling with this and want some help, give us a call or send us an email. We’d love to help you out.