Two things can consistently be said about lawyers’ online biographies: they are among the most important pages on a law firm’s website, and they are among the least engaging and distinctive items on that site. This can be a frustrating disconnect: the lawyers I meet invariably are interesting, insightful, and well-rounded, yet their online bios are often stiff, stilted, and one-dimensional, providing readers with trivia such as year of call and source of law degree rather than information that clients can really use.
Chief among the reasons for this problem, I think, is lawyers’ natural inclination to downplay our own personalities. We’re trained in law school to distance ourselves personally from our work and our clients, and we inherit in practice the longstanding professional tendency to regard self-promotion as vaguely unseemly. We believe that our work and qualifications should speak for themselves, sparing us the necessity of stepping up to the microphone to share a few words about us. But clients hire and forge relationships with people, not qualifications. This reticence may be understandable, but it still hurts your chances of being noticed online and retained.
If you’d like your biography to better reflect who you really are, but you don’t know how to say anything about yourself that doesn’t feel facile or self-regarding, you might try this: ask other people to do it for you. Specifically, identify up to three clients, three colleagues, and three friends who’d be willing to help you out with this project by saying something about you.
- Ask your clients: How would you introduce me to a new client? What am I like to work with? How do you feel after talking with me?
- Ask your colleagues: How would you introduce me to a new lawyer? How am I perceived around the office (or the legal community)?
- Ask your friends: How would you introduce me at a social gathering? What one personal characteristic stands out about me?
You don’t have to insert all the responses in your biography or publish them verbatim, and you certainly shouldn’t publish anyone’s name (unless a client insists on providing a testimonial). If the feedback you receive is less complimentary than you were expecting, you should probably put this project on the backburner and start attending to that issue instead.
But if this initiative can help you add something to your web biography that’s real and engaging (without being embarrassing or over the top), then you’ll have provided online visitors with a meaningful glimpse of who you are as a person and as a professional — something that will help them decide if you’re someone they’d like to do business with. You’ve got a good story to tell about yourself — if you can’t bring yourself to tell it, try asking other people if they’ll take the microphone for you.