How does the "last mile" relate to lawyers' website biographies?

How does the "last mile" relate to lawyers' website biographies?

The "last mile" is a supply chain management term (and a single released by hard rock/glam band, Cinderella, in 1989, and also a play and movie from the 1930s) that refers to a product's last mile before it gets to market and on store shelves. Apparently, it's the hardest and most expensive leg of the process.  According to Wikipedia, "This last leg of the supply chain is often less efficient, comprising up to 28% of the total cost to move goods. This has become known as the "last mile problem."

Tom Fishburne, a self described "Marketoonist," created this cartoon that reminded me of lawyer website biographies.  (You can subscribe for free to his weekly marketoon at www.marketoonist.com.)  His cartoons reach more than 100,000 marketers each week and have been featured in The New York Times, Fast Company and Wall Street Journal.

Law firm marketing and business development professionals struggle to inspire their lawyers to regularly update their website bios.  While this cartoon is applicable to a branding campaign or website as a whole, I want to narrow the focus and ask you to consider how buyers of legal services are evaluating their short list of professionals. 

Here is how the lawyer selection supply chain works: 

  1. Buyers seek a referral from trusted colleagues or friends.
  2. They make a short list of three to six lawyers to review.
  3. They Google the lawyers' names to see what surfaces on page one or two of results.
  4. Then, these buyers visit the lawyers' websites and biographies.
  5. These buyers frequently print the bios and lay them side by side on a conference table and continue their evaluation, filtering out those lawyers who aren't meeting their criteria.
  6. The buyers may call one, or perhaps two or three of the short list lawyers to interview.
  7. They choose one lawyer over the others because the references were strong, the experience that the biography presented was current and relevant to the buyer's need, and the telephone or in person connection and communication between the lawyer and the client was warm, engaging and on-point.
  8. The right lawyer gets hired.

Here is how the lawyer biography supply chain works on the law firm side:

  1. The firm begins a website redesign or refresh.
  2. Marketers contact the lawyers about updating their bios for the new website.  Perhaps there is a new bio format, so the old bio material must be (and it should be!) reorganized to better fit with today's scanning readers with short attention spans and viewing on mobile devices.  Lawyers are given a deadline of two months before launch.
  3. One month before launch, only one-quarter of the bios have been updated, another quarter were sent back with "no changes" written at the top, and the final half of the lawyers have been radio silent.
  4. Two weeks before launch, in the middle of beta testing, marketers continue to hound the firm's top professionals.
  5. The site is launched with less than half of the bios updated.
  6. And they stay that way for weeks, months or years.
  7. The buyer of legal services views the bio of the lawyer referred to him and dismisses the candidate as "not the right fit."  The bio is dated, the photo is ten-years old and the lawyer insisted on being referred to as "Ms. So-and-so" throughout the bio instead of using the more accessible and familiar first name.

For the lawyers who refuse to update their bios, you aren't hurting your marketing team (although their frustration is mounting), you are hurting your chances of competing and getting hired.  If your bio is dated, bland or sounds like 1,000 other litigators, employment lawyers or corporate/securities/M&A lawyers, you will quickly be dismissed by buyers of legal services as irrelevant. 

For those lawyers who do update your bios, but don't focus on what truly differentiates and distinguishes you, you may or may not get the chance for an interview.  Why take that risk?

For the small  handful of you who write an overview that is compelling, up-to-the-minute with regard to the work you are doing today, and include representative experience that answers the questions:  what have you done, for whom have you done it, and what can you do for me -- you have the greatest chance of rising to the top of the thousands of lawyer website biographies. 

And, bonus, your Google search results will be more relevant, too.  Google typically pulls the first 150 characters in a lawyer's bio for the search results.  "Marty" Truss (James M. Truss) is a litigation partner at Cox Smith in San Antonio.  Here is the overview for his bio. 



And here is the top Google result when searching for "marty truss."  This is how Marty is known, and wants to be known.

Lawyers, please update your bios every quarter - refreshing them with new, more current keywords (think of the search terms your target buyers would use to search), recent publications, speeches, board appointments, and most importantly, experience.

More than 50% of your website visitors view the lawyer biographies.  And typically, these pages are viewed more frequently and longer than other pages on your website.  Website biographies are consistently the most important business development tools that lawyers have today.

Read more insight at the Law Firm 4.0 Blog.

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