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Seven Steps to a More Authentic, Fresher Attorney Bio

Nobody sets out to write a boring bio. It’s just so easy to follow the usual attorney bio format and rarely update or change it — unless there’s a big pitch underway or the firm’s website is being redesigned. The bio becomes an end product of your CV — told in prose form. Those rock-solid credentials and impressive accomplishments get lost among ordinary verbs and uninspired adjectives.

Too many attorney bios start with the all-too-familiar, “Mr. Jones is a lawyer in the firm’s ABC group. His practice focuses on ____ .” (Cue Charlie Brown’s teacher’s mwah-mwahvoice.)

Is Your Bio Really That Important?

If you want your bio to help close the deal, yes, it is important. Let’s look at some recent statistics:

  • Attorney bios rank second in terms of influence on hiring selection by general counsel. (The No. 1 spot belongs to personal recommendations.)
  • Attorney bios account for 80 percent of legal website traffic.
  • Seventy-eight percent of in-house counsels rely on attorney bios when researching and hiring outside counsel.

Okay, So Show Me a Good One

Here’s the phenomenal opening paragraph, plus the closing sentence, from the bio of Nathan Mattock, of Australia’s Marque Lawyers:

 “After a string of high-profile cases involving telecommunications giants and, umm, adult content, Nathan would be famous enough as a major case litigator even without the three High Court cases he’s run and his appearance on TODAY where he delivered the immortal quote ‘It’s game over, Sony.’

“… Clients love him because he’s commercial, confident, fast and entirely entertaining.”

Clearly, this is not the right approach for all lawyers, but it is authentic and very fresh. The entire website, written by Michael Bradley, Marque Lawyers’ managing partner, is worth a look. It helps that Bradley happens to be a clever writer. The rest of the Marque Lawyers site conveys their confidence (without being overly braggadocious) throughout the bios, the practice area descriptions and especially their home page.

Seven Steps to a Better Bio

Now, if you’re thinking, “Sure, Nathan’s bio sounds great, but I’m a tax attorney and my clients would not take me seriously,” your point is well taken. If you’re not ready to go that far afield, here are seven steps you can take right now to infuse authenticity and some fresh ideas into your bio:

1. Lose those overused and uninspired phrases. While you may have great credentials and impressive accomplishments, a lackluster construction will render you virtually indistinguishable from the other lawyers your prospects are considering.

  • “His/her practice focuses on ….” We ran a Google search and this phrase appears 174,000 and 92,000 times respectively.
  • “He/she is uniquely qualified.” That’s right, you and a couple hundred thousand other lawyers out there are “uniquely qualified.”
  • “Handles a variety of complex ….” This phrase appears 40,000 times in mostly lawyer-related pages. To differentiate, identify the specific variety (a couple of bullets work well here), and then show how you advised on or solved your clients’ complex matters.

2. Begin your bio by answering a burning question. Think about the most frequently asked question within your law practice. What does a client seeking your services most need or want? For example, “Clients often want to know … .” Or, flip it around and lead with the actual question.

3. How about a mini-case study? If there’s a recent and relatable story that will resonate with your prospects and clients, then share it! This doesn’t have to be the full-on Harvard Business Review-length version; a couple of strong sentences will suffice to engage your readers.

4. You can write about yourself without being braggadocious. The key is to infuse your bio with the right descriptors. Here’s a quick exercise to help you become more comfortable writing about yourself.

  • Imagine you’re at a networking event and some colleagues spot you from across the room before you see them. What are they likely to be saying about you? Write down your answers, using only adjectives.
  • Next, write a few sentences using those adjectives to demonstrate how you are those things. If your friends describe you as being “strategic” and “curious,” you might write, “Jane can identify issues well before the client even knows there’s a problem.”

5. Yes, your law school credentials are awesome. But that doesn’t mean you reference your alma mater in the first sentence. Not gonna lie; we know it’s tough for first- and second-year associates who don’t yet have a lot of experience. Still, clients don’t want to be reminded that it wasn’t too long ago that you were living in a dorm and eating ramen.

6. The “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia” syndrome. When 75 percent of the sentences in your bio begin with your name, are you really demonstrating to the world how ”client-focused” you are? (Hat tip to Amy Spach from Perkins Coie for her terrific advice!)

7. Don’t be obtuse. Your prospects and clients want to know details. Veiled descriptions of clients’ identities may be required, but if you have published articles about matters that are germane to your clients’ business, you should refer (or link) to one in the prose section of your bio.

Above All, Be Authentic

As we’re seeing in this year’s U.S. presidential campaign, it’s all about figuring out “who is authentic?” Your prospects and clients need to know that you believe what you’re saying (or writing). Does your bio truly reflect how you feel?

Authentic is not just a buzzword on the 2016 presidential campaign trail. It’s the key to securing new business in an overcrowded and noisy marketplace. Let your clients and prospects learn a little something about who you really are. After all, people hire people they know, like and trust.

Want Some More Great Examples?

This lawyer walked a mile in his clients’ shoes. “But it’s his prior experience in the IT industry that gives Larry an edge over many other lawyers. Larry first worked as a programmer, then a systems analyst, and finally an IT director for a prestigious law firm. Although the technology has changed since Larry’s early days in IT, his real-world experience in IT project delivery gives him a unique perspective and insight into his clients’ businesses, and enables him to offer a blend of legal experience and business strategy to complement corporate management.”

Now that’s fresh. New Yorkers will recognize George Whipple, the bushy eye-browed media darling, from his NY1 TV “On the Town” segments. But who knew he was also a lawyer? George’s bio includes links to his regular client-related video series, “Employment Law This Week.”

Doesn’t get more authentic than this. “Vinita Mehra is an attorney who cares — about her clients and her community. Her professional and personal philosophy includes giving back in ways that make a meaningful difference to the local and global communities to which she dedicates her practice. Vinita is a firm believer in Gandhi’s idea of ‘being the change you want to see in the world.’”