It makes a difference how you present yourself – in person and online. Accordingly, lawyers make sure their appearance is businesslike, their stationery reflects their firm, and their business cards include all their key contact information. Lawyers should also devote the same attention to their bios online.
A lawyer’s online bio is available 24/7/365, unlike their calling cards. Yet for many lawyers, their Web bio is an afterthought -- a hastily drafted collection of boilerplate that does little to market your practice. This is a missed opportunity, and smart lawyers brush up their online resumes regularly, to keep them current and complete.
As a rule, clients hire lawyers – not law firms. Therefore, the human face of the law firm makes a difference in attracting new business. Your Web bio is your initial introduction to visitors, and unlike random social contacts, you have total control over what you present in your online bio. Exercise this control so that your bio contains:
- A color photo. It should be recent, so that when people meet you they don’t note to themselves about how you’ve aged or put on weight. It should be high resolution so that publications can use it when they publish an article you wrote. And it should be color, because color doesn’t cost extra to take or display on the Web.
- The industries you represent. One of the first things that corporate executives and in-house counsel look for is familiarity with their industry. (Think about it – law firms work the same way: they look for vendors that have experience and references serving law firms.) For example, Gail C. Ford represents clients in the transportation, manufacturing, banking, environmental, chemical and insurance industries. Your own doesn’t need to be exhaustive – just a list of four or five primary industries that you can talk intelligently about.
- Representative clients. Potential clients want to know what other companies you’ve worked for, primarily to substantiate your industry expertise. Also, in-house counsel tend to know each other and like to be able to check you out with their counterparts at other companies. Many law firms list representative clients on their websites.
- Business memberships. It is important to list your board memberships and trade association memberships (note: this does not include law organizations; see below).
- Articles available on the website. If you list an article you wrote, be sure there is a link to it on the firm website. Visitors expect your website to be interactive, and if the article isn’t available on the website, it’s much less impressive.
Here are some items that are considered boilerplate, and are not particularly important in a lawyer’s bio:
- Law school attended. This is of interest to opposing lawyers who are profiling you, but is not especially interesting to clients. They are not familiar with the comparative reputations of law schools and consider a lawyer’s school record to be ancient history.
- Bar association memberships. This information is too “inside law” for clients to care about. They can’t distinguish between a mandatory and a voluntary bar, and it doesn’t matter to them anyway. Clients view bar memberships as lawyers talking among themselves.
- Anything old. Don’t clog up your online bio with a collection of speeches, memberships and articles you presented more than two years ago. A website is supposed to inform visitors about what you’re doing right now, not be an archive of what happened a long time ago.