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I am a first-year associate tasked with writing my bio page for our website. Do you have any tips on how to write a bio that is not god-awful?
– Autobiography of a Face
Dear Autobiography of a Face,
As a first-year associate, you have no skills or experience that any client reading your bio cares about. Whether you graduated Order of the Crotch Coif or have rudimentary knowledge of Latin is immaterial to whether you can send around the dial-in, make copies or create binders. I know your semester abroad in Seville and internship at Footlocker are important accomplishments to you. But to the outside world, your bio page exists solely to cover the remote possibility that the partner, senior associate and midlevel all die in a plane crash, and the client needs to shoot you an email about getting other people staffed on the project ASAP….
Internally, your bio is of course critical because it’s your Facebook page. And just like your frenemies on Facebook, your new coworkers will silently judge you based on your bio and photo. For instance, colleagues will assume you’re an idiot who failed the bar if your admission to practice date and law school graduation date are too far apart. They’ll make outlandish assumptions about who you are based on where you did your undergrad (e.g., Wesleyan = threw Zima parties and did thesis on Victorian pornography, UMich = partier who knows when to be serious, Chicago = easily offended geek, Columbia = pretentious loner, Colorado = carabiner pothead, McGill = defensive because couldn’t get into American school). And they’ll deem you crushworthy — or uncrushworthy — based on your firm mug shot. In other words, your bio is your dating profile.
Obviously, you can’t control what people think about items that you need to disclose (like schools and admission states and dates), but you can hater-proof the rest of your bio by keeping it short and sweet. Include your practice group, when you joined the firm and language fluency only.
And above all else, make sure you look bitchin’ in your firm picture. A hideous firm picture will dog you at the firm and haunt on Google cache long after you leave, ruining future job and dating prospects.
I hope this helps.
A couple of months ago I was on a panel and somebody in the audience asked a question about how to craft the perfect personal statement for law school. The other panelists gave all sorts of really helpful advice. When it got to me, I said: “If you had a choice between the best personal statement ever written, OR a personal statement written in Crayola PLUS five extra points on the LSAT, you should take the five points and work on your crayon calligraphy.”
Similarly here, I’m not inclined to pretend that your law firm bio is important beyond where you went to law school and whether or not you were on law review. That’s it. That’s all anybody cares about for your opening bio. You can try to spice it up with non-law review things (I’m looking at you, Moot Court people), just like you did on your OCI resume. But your problem is that every single one of your peers will know exactly what you are doing and they will not respect you for it.
My first year bio was something like: “B.A. Harvard; J.D. Harvard; Expertise, being allowed to talk to rich alums who went to Harvard.” Then I dipped the whole thing in crimson, chanted the appropriate invocation in Latin, and went back to my conference room to continue reviewing documents. And nobody ever spoke of it again.
Importantly, nobody ever talked about these bios either: “B.A., State University of Getting Laid; J.D., Flyover School of Law; Expertise, busting my ass every single day.” Nobody inside or outside your firm cares what your first-year bio says. When you get actual experience (bar admissions, case victories, special recognitions for pro bono or other work), then you can add to your bio. Your bio shouldn’t be static; it should grow over time. Don’t pull a George Costanza and try to condense every thing you’ve ever done into one single day. Trust that as you develop you’ll earn things that you can add to your bio.
First-years should treat bios like men treat Valentine’s Day: just don’t screw it up. You can’t win, you can only lose or live to fight another day. It’s bios that look like this that people hate and will make fun of: “B.A. Look I Totally Blew it in High School; J.D., I DESERVED to get into Harvard but a black person TOOK my spot, I’m sure of it; Experience, Maybe I just didn’t want law review to distract me from my studies — so I did these 1,800 other activities instead; Expertise, Let me list some things I like and hope you are confused and think these are things I know something about; Publications, I may or may not have given a hand job to the professors who wrote the following articles…”
Don’t be that guy. Your bio is not the place to distinguish yourself. You’re a professional now; you will distinguish yourself by your work.
– Bizarro.James Lipton
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