Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility
Home / Commentary / LEGAL CENTS: Don’t be afraid to open up a little

LEGAL CENTS: Don’t be afraid to open up a little

Jane Pribek is a former family law attorney and Wisconsin Law Journal’s editor-at-large. She can be reached at [email protected]

It’s been said that most people hate lawyers in general, but love their own.

I’m baffled by that first clause, since the lawyers I know tend to do so much good. As for the second clause, I agree there’s much to admire about most of you. There are exceptions, but most lawyers are smart, caring and quite likeable, with interesting lives and pursuits outside law.

But maybe lawyers get a bad rap because they don’t share enough of that “human” side with the public.

Firms such as Buelow Vetter Buikema Olson & Vliet LLC, Brookfield, are trying to change that by offering more personal bios on their websites.

Buelow Vetter posts “Up Close and Personal” information about each attorney at the bottom of their website bios. The information goes beyond listing an attorney’s degrees, affiliations and accomplishments to include an informal Q&A to outline hobbies, favorite books and movies. One lawyer even posted his favorite lawyer joke.

Managing attorney Joel Aziere said the firm decided to post such information when it formed 3-½ years ago. His law partners Nancy Pirkey and Susan Love championed the idea, Aziere said, as a way to stand out among their competitors.

They have received positive feedback on the personal touch, he said.

“We tend to form very tight relationships with our clients,” Aziere said. “We don’t represent nameless, faceless, huge organizations. We represent the people that make up those, and form close relationships with them.

“In order to get that, you have to kind of open up a bit.”

The personal details serve as an ice breaker with new clients, he said. For example, when first meeting prospective clients or other attorneys, Aziere said some have mentioned his military service before commenting about their own or the service of a loved one.

“It creates the ability for us to have a conversation and get to know each other personally,” he said. “That opens up opportunities for business. … It just gives us something else to create a connection that might not otherwise be there.”

Stafford Rosenbaum LLP, Madison, four years ago added an “Off the Job” section to its website, which offers brief narratives conveying an attorney’s community service, professional volunteerism and hobbies. Others follow the Q&A format and tackle topics such as favorite comfort foods and artists, places recently visited, and more.

Clients often comment favorably about the information, managing partner Chris Hughes said. The personal details show, he said, that the firm’s attorneys are well-rounded, bring a variety of life experiences and are involved in their communities.

“Still in this day and age, attorneys kind of have a black eye and are not always viewed as being interested in their communities,” Hughes said. “There’s nothing further from the truth. This really highlights the importance our attorneys place on being community members.”

But be careful not to overshare. If you Google “best law firm bios,” you’ll see many in the blogosphere debating whether Marque Law in Sydney, Australia, takes it too far. Marque’s managing partner, Michael Bradley, has been criticized for including that he “regrets that the Spice Girls aren’t together anymore.”

I personally like lawyers with a sense of humor, and I kind of miss Posh, et al., too – but maybe that’s not for you.

Aziere acknowledged that making personal information public invites the risk of misinterpretation. For example, lawyers often engage in due diligence of their opposing counsel, starting with reading website profiles.

Someone reading his might think he’s a big softie: He adopts rescue dogs. Lots of them.

Then again, remember his military service? Never mind.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*