In the business of law, the people are the products. Just as Nike shoes all carry a swoosh, your lawyer biographies should carry the firm’s brand identity with purpose, consistency and confidence.
These documents may not be as visually striking as a law firm website or reception area, but lawyer biographies pack a powerful branding punch because of their high use: According to Greentarget’s State of Content & Digital Marketing Survey, 71 percent of C-suite executives ranked bios as important tools in lawyer screening and selection, and 64 percent of in-house counsel did the same.
With a little creativity – and the guts to deviate from the tried-and-true – your bios can bolster the firm’s collective brand, while differentiating individual attorneys with relevance and memorability.
A strong brand does not try to be everything to everyone; it makes a firm formidable by focusing on a discrete set of services for a discrete set of clients. So as you write your firm biographies, first answer: Who hires you?
A biography for an M&A lawyer who serves the Fortune 50 should look, sound and feel different than a bio for a plaintiffs’ attorney who represents individuals who have suffered great tragedy. Are your prospects more comfortable with Lois or Ms. Lane? Do they know and love industry jargon, or should your bio be more conversational? Come to them on their own terms.
Additionally, each lawyer biography should advance the firm’s brand promise. For example, PEAK Litigation is a litigation boutique founded by Big Law expatriates. The law firm’s key differentiator is its commitment to alternative fee structures; unlike the majority of its competitors, it eschews the billable hour in favor of straightforward budgeting and flat fees.
Throughout its website, PEAK Litigation needles the rigidity of the Big Law model, promising an approach rooted in teamwork and collaboration. That carries through to the biographies, which are written in engaging first-person with a revolutionary spirit. As one partner writes: “The billable hour is tradition. But it is not a good tradition. It subconsciously incentivizes inefficiency. It also drives a small wedge between the interests of the attorney and the interest of the client. I am dedicated to the demise of the billable hour.”
Bartimus Frickleton Robertson Rader took a novel approach to accommodate two audiences: the lawyers who refer cases, and the regular people who might need their help. Because the firm serves people who have suffered catastrophic loss, it is imperative to build trust and show empathy.
To connect with both of these groups, the firm’s website has two narratives for each lawyer. “My Bio” is a traditional professional biography that shows referral sources (and opposing counsel) bona fides and credentials. “My Story” shares details about the lawyer’s personal life and professional journey. These stories offer memorable details, such as entering law school right after service in the Vietnam War. This dual-narrative structure allows Bartimus Frickleton to convey professional credibility without sacrificing approachability and humanity.
Think how you can carry the firm’s brand promise through to the visuals on the biographies, too. How should the lawyers be photographed? Are you a smiling firm or a stern firm? Suited or casual?
EIP is an international intellectual property boutique that introduces itself as “Better, different” on the home page of its website. A firm that puts “different” in 60-point type would fail to follow through if the attorney biographies had the traditional head-and-shoulders, suit-and-tie mug shots. Instead, the firm’s lawyers are shown in compelling black and white photos, tie-less and….seated at a table. The attorneys are shot leaning forward, a pose that puts the viewer on the same level and evokes a feeling of getting down to business. (The technique nabbed EIP a spot on Great Jakes’ list of “The World’s Best Attorney Bio Portraits.”)
Miller Johnson, meanwhile, uses the traditional lawyer portraits with a nice twist. The Michigan-based law firm’s brand promise is “Down to Earth, Down to Business” – lawyers who are approachable, grounded and human. To that end, the firm’s lawyers have two photos on their biographies: A “Down to Business” picture in business attire, and a “Down to Earth” photo that shows hobbies, families, “real life.” A quick review shows lawyers fishing, watching football and playing with kids and grandkids. It’s a warm detail that reinforces the firm’s promise of relatable human beings.
Adding an extra flourish or two to lawyer biographies can build on the brand – and make the lawyers more memorable.
Testimonials. Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman promises “preeminent lawyers…known for exceptional performance.” To that end, many lawyer biographies include a testimonial or accolade as the lead sentence…in bright blue, 40-point type.
These blurbs get your attention – and they quickly establish the lawyer as a force. In one personal favorite, the CEO of a bank praises a Pillsbury securities litigator: “I have never before seen such a surgically complete dissection of a complaint as achieved by you and your team.” Because this is actual marketing evidence, it is so much stronger than the usual “John Doe is a securities litigator who has 30 years of experience.”
Personal Detail. Edelson PC is a plaintiffs’ shop with lofty crusades. Among its introductory statements: Fighting to Protect the Planet, Pioneers in Privacy Class Action, Protecting Communities in the Opioid Epidemic. The firm’s brand is high energy; its offices have golf simulators and a rap-battle mural. It boasts of “epic” holiday parties, and this swagger carries through to the lawyer bios.
The unconventional bios answer questions ranging from favorite class to perfect vacation, and a graphic for each lawyer shows favorite emoji, daily cups of coffee consumed, typical mode of transportation and, fitting for lawyers protecting the planet, desired superpower. It would be a major disconnect at a white-shoe corporate firm, but the creativity and personal detail cements the firm’s personality for potential clients and recruits.
One note of caution: Because the goal of a firm brand is to present a unified voice to the marketplace, it is imperative that your lawyer bios be formatted consistently and with purpose. If only one or two lawyers go casual, or if your bios vacillate between first- and third-person, it will be more distracting than solidifying.
Like all branding efforts, your bios should be authentic and relevant – if a tactic doesn’t feel like it’s “you,” move on. People will respond to genuine and sincere over cool and clever every time. Even if that doesn’t include a favorite emoji – and for many corporate clients, perhaps especially if that doesn’t include a favorite emoji.