Lawyer-written bios? A scary thought

Catching up on some blog reading this morning, I almost choked on my coffee when I read this from Denise Howell:

“What I really want to see though is a firm using technology that lets lawyers (all and sundry, of course) readily customize their bios at will, on the fly, with information that really tells people something about the bio-ee.”

Through her blog, Denise has proven herself to be a clever and witty writer. But would she really want to give all the lawyers in her firm carte blanche over their bios?

Professional bios are both an art and a science. Having consulted with a number of firms on the topic, I’ve come to appreciate well-written bios as minimalist masterpieces, conveying carefully crafted marketing messages in just a few concise paragraphs. Key is that the firm define and control the messages being conveyed. Bios are but one element of a firm’s overall strategic game plan. Allowing each lawyer free rein over his or her bio would be marketing anarchy and firm suicide.

And may I share with you a secret? Lawyers do not necessarily write well. I have seen what lawyers produce when firms ask them to draft their own bios. More often than not, it isn’t pretty. Grammatical errors aside, too many lawyers see bios as an opportunity to preen rather than to promote. Simply put, they don’t get it.

I would relish reading Denise’s self-written bio and would hope it had an RSS feed to alert me to updates. She is the exception to what I believe to be the rule: Leave bios to the professionals.

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  • I’m with you on this one, Bob, as I said June 5th at my weblog:

    About Enough: I usually agree with Denise Howell (well, except for her podcast fixation), but I do not share Denise’s desire that law firms use technology that “lets lawyers (all and sundry, of course) readily customize their bios at will, on the fly, with information that really tells people something about the bio-ee. . . . I agree that associates should have brief bios on firm websites, but I have no interest seeing weblog-like revelations of the cultural interests and hobbies of young lawyers (boring! and quite irrelevant to most clients). Moreover, a firm has every right to see the content of pages before they are posted. Perhaps Associate Bios could contain a link to their personal weblogs, with a disclaimer that the content is not necessarily approved by the firm.”

    I worry that a significant portion of young associates won’t quite “get” the necessary tone or have the judgment to stay within appropriate limits, when it comes to talking about themselves. I also cannot imagine what information of relevance to a Firm Bio is so urgent that it needs to be posted “on the fly.”

  • Professional bios are both an art and a science.

    A biography is neither art nor science. It is simply a short collection of words to consolidate a lifetime into a paragraph. Concise writing is an acquired skill, indeed, but an art? a science? You are blogging too much.

    Having consulted with a number of firms on the topic, I’ve come to appreciate well-written bios as minimalist masterpieces, conveying carefully crafted marketing messages in just a few concise paragraphs.

    Wow. You can state the obvious in an absurdly wordy sentence. Who exactly did you consult? Why are they experts and/or authoritative?

    Key is that the firm define and control the messages being conveyed. Bios are but one element of a firm’s overall strategic game plan. Allowing each lawyer free rein over his or her bio would be marketing anarchy and firm suicide.

    Free reign might be problematic, but anarchy? Come on, get real. The published draft should always be prepared by the attorney in question. Who else is better suited to explain what they have been doing during the course of their career? Some paid consultant will only know what they read in a resume, and will not have a knowledge base built on life experience.

    And may I share with you a secret? Lawyers do not necessarily write well. I have seen what lawyers produce when firms ask them to draft their own bios. More often than not, it isn’t pretty. Grammatical errors aside, too many lawyers see bios as an opportunity to preen rather than to promote. Simply put, they don’t get it.

    Honestly, if I were a lawyer and read what you just wrote I think I would be loath to hire you as a consultant. Remember, the client/customer are always the decisionmakers, not the consultant. Oh, and here is a secret for you – as for writing skills, lawyers specialize in persuasive prose – perhaps you should keep that in mind before you make such statements assulting the writing skills of lawyers.