The fourth Foundational Best Practice is lawyer biographies. (If you are new to my blog and that opening sentence doesn't make sense to you, please read these earlier posts about the 2010 AmLaw 100 Websites: Ten Foundational Best Practices Research: one, two, three, four and five - in chron order starting with the oldest one.)
Remember, the website analytics show (in the sites that we follow, and in most every site that we don't) more than half of all visitors to your law firm website go to view lawyer bios. I can't emphasize this enough. Your bios must be outstanding. Here are the attributes contained in this Foundational Best Practice:
- First 2-3 sentences of the bio are current, compelling and relevant to lawyer’s practice (visitor and SEO benefit)
- Bio is SEO friendly (think how humans search for people)
- Current photos—ones that show personality and support messaging
- Full contact info is easy to find and links to v-card
- Includes links to social media profiles and pages
- Bios list and link to practices/industries, articles/news/events
- Bios include deals/cases info that is the most relevant to the practice
- Bio design provides for listing most recent deals/cases, pubs and presentations, with a link to >>view all
The AmLaw 100 websites are scored on a 100-point scale - each attribute within each Foundational Best Practice is scored this way. All AmLaw 100 firms could easily score a total of 100 on this list - nothing in this list of attributes is far-fetched or unusual. But, surprisingly, they didn't.
On a rather significant spot-check review of bios (30 or more) for each firm, only one firm of the 100 firms included social media links on its bios - Winston & Strawn. (This example shows the "Share" icon, which enables a visitor to link to numerous social media outlets.) Therefore, the average score for all the AmLaw 100 firms was lower this year than in 2007 when social media wasn't included as an attribute. In 2007, the average score was 70.8. In 2010, it was 65.5.
The problem wasn't only a lack of social media, however. Without naming the firm names that received the analyses below, I am including five examples of AmLaw 100 lawyer bio reviews from the reviewer of this Foundational Best Practice. Read the numerous issues that several of the industry's largest law firms have:
- Each bio begins with a string of practice areas and subpractice areas, which does seem to work well with search engines but is not engaging. Bios often begin with other information before the strengths of what they are doing today (e.g., <a lawyer> whose first sentence says he is a former U.S attorney). B/W photos are generally small and poor quality, bios lack v-cards, and links to the site are very haphazard -- releases don't seem to be linked at all, internal publications are hit and miss, but exernal publications/presentations have numerous links.
- It is truly bizarre that lawyer bios are not an item of main navigation and cannot be displayed alphabetically (all As, all Bs, etc.). Bio text has standard office, position, practice intro, bios rank on first pages of searches. Color portrait photos are very good. Few bios have news/publication links and many bios list a large number of practices and subpractices, of which only a few are linked. Of bios that do have matter lists, they often are long and unedited.
- Bios are unchanged from previous review (in 2007). Partners follow a standard formula (practice, previous experience, education, professional activity) that gets first-page search ranking. Associates have no text, only brief boilerplate. All bios lack photos, links to practices and links to site materials (there are none).
- There are no bios or photos for associates, and very few links to publications, events or news for them; offshore associates often do not have education boilerplate. Partners have mediocre B/W photos, adequate links to firm materials, bios that begin with typical position/office/group statement. Spot search rankings were near the top of first page. Both matters and publications/presentations for partners are in unedited bullet lists.
- More than half of bios spot checked begin with an extremely brief practice summary paragraph (including partners and counsel) that does not rank well in searches, even with the same lawyer's LinkedIn page. Black and white photos and links to site materials are good, but a glaring omission is the fact that, even though the firm has an experience database searchable by lawyer name, matters are not linked to bios for lawyers in the database.
To contrast, here are three top examples of bios (and I am pleased to name names):
- Jones Day bios stand out. Three bio versions: popup on search page, narrative on first access, full with complete links. Information is detailed and extensive, photos current, linked material and matters limited to last 10 years. Lack of social media links is only negative. Here is a good bio example of a high-profile lawyer: http://www.jonesday.com/cball/
- Winston & Strawn. Text is very direct and focused, producing good search rankings. B/W photos are clear and crisp. Most bios have links to the firm's excellent matter database; some, interestingly, also have limited numbers of matters in the text that appear not to be in the database. Standout feature: "Share" feature on bios and all text pages that allow for sharing on over a dozen social network sites, including Digg, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.
- Haynes and Boone. Every bio has a concise one-paragraph career and practice summary that consistently ranks at the top of searches. Standout photos can only be described as stunning -- large "environmental" portraits each with a different background at firm offices. Representative experience is comprehensive, with extensive unedited lists in most bios along with a linked page with examples from firm experience database. Links to other firm materials are also extensive and select items are summarized on the bio page. Visit http://www.haynesboone.com/Lynne_Liberato/
There are other firms where the lawyer bios either scored at the top, or had distinguishing features - Howrey, Locke Lord, Drinker Biddle, Davis Wright Tremaine, Dorsey & Whitney. Take a look at the three firms above, as well as these other examples.
Bottom line, virtually all the AmLaw 100 firms should invest more time and energy in their bios. Partner bios should be current, relevant, informative, descriptive and distinguishing. Associate bios should include whatever they can to suggest professional gravity and strength. After all, clients are paying a lot of money per hour for these associates - what do they do to add value to client matters? Challenge your team to craft a bio for these young professionals that communicates value.