Where’s your fingerprint? Making your online profile unique

Here’s a very quick experiment I’d like you to try. Go to your online biography — either your law firm profile page or, if you’re a solo, the “About Me” section — and print it out. Bring the printout back to your chair, take out three different coloured pens or markers, and do the following:

1. With the first pen, cross out every sentence and phrase in your bio that also describes someone else in your firm, or that is very similar to a colleague’s description. Examples could include your practice areas, the types of work you perform, the sorts of clients you serve, where you went to law school, organizations to which you belong, and so forth. Solos, of course, can skip this step.

2. With the second pen, cross out every sentence and phrase that could describe another lawyer in your community, town or city, or that could easily appear in a local competitor’s description. Obviously, this won’t be a comprehensive process, unless you live in an extremely small jurisdiction. But based on your general knowledge and perhaps a quick scan of your three or four biggest competitors’ profiles, red-line everything that equally describes someone else in your market.

3. Finally, with the third pen, circle everything that’s left over and jot it down on a note pad. I’m pretty sure that you won’t require much more than a single sheet of note paper for this task. Some unlucky lawyers who do this experiment might find that they have almost nothing aside from their name that they can call uniquely their own.

The purpose of this experiment, I should probably make clear, is not to suggest that you should delete anything in your biography that also happens to describe someone else in your local bar. It should go without saying that your expertise, services, clientele and accomplishments are essential to the success of your online biography. What I’m trying to suggest is that your online fingerprint is probably too small.

Like fingerprints, every lawyer’s biography should contain at least one element or aspect that is truly unique and identifiable in their market — something that virtually no other colleague or competitor can say about themselves. This could be anything from the grandiose — e.g., chair of the board of directors of a European green energy fund, winning co-counsel in a Supreme Court case — to the seemingly mundane — e.g., leading the firm’s record-setting United Way pledge drive, serving as treasurer of a neighbourhood co-operative pre-school.

I guarantee that there’s something unique about you: I’ve yet to meet a lawyer who didn’t have at least one story they could tell that no one else could. It could be work-related — articling for one of country’s most revered litigators in his final years, facilitating the merger of two local micro-breweries, starting a specialty practice group within the firm. Or it could be personal — a Bachelor’s degree in medieval studies, a one-time attempt at stand-up comedy, an earlier career as a New Orleans barista. It’s a conversation-starter, a unique professional badge of honour or a memorable personal anecdote. It belongs to nobody else around — just you.

No two lawyers are the same, and they never will be. But thousands of lawyer biographies are virtually identical. Go through your biography and yes, keep the essentials — what you do, who you do it for, what you’ve accomplished. But whenever you come across something that seems relatively lackluster or rote — the same old biography filler that everyone else includes about themselves — consider replacing it with something that speaks to who you really are. Show the world why you’re someone worth knowing, worth contacting, worth engaging.

Your law practice will only be as successful as the relationships you form with clients, and every potential relationship starts with the question, “Why you, and not someone else?” You’ve already got the answers.


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