Rainmaking Mistakes 101: Being All Things to All People

“Simply put, if your bio reads as if you could be a bankruptcy attorney or specialize in real estate, it is doing more harm than it is good.”

rainmakingYou have probably heard the old saying: “Jack of all trades, master of none.” Obviously, this saying is intended to convey the message that if you are a generalist who claims to be able to do everything that means you do so much that you can’t possibly have mastered any one thing. Because, after all, if you were a master of one thing that would be the one thing you would do—and that one thing would be enough because everyone who needed that one thing would recognize you as one of the few go-to people in the industry capable of handling that one thing.

As commonsensical as it is to strive to be a master at one thing, or perhaps a few closely related things, so many attorneys market themselves channeling their inner infomercial host. “It dices, it slices, it swivels, it pivots—but wait! There is still more.” This is a huge mistake, it sends the wrong message, and it almost certainly will drive the best, highest paying clients away from you.

Over the years, as IPWatchdog has developed and we have transitioned into hosting webinars, seminars, and conferences, I spend an ever-increasing amount of time looking for speakers with an interesting point of view, but who also have the knowledge and expertise to be able to have a contemporaneous and unscripted conversation about a particular topic. Yes, we will choreograph presentations and panel discussions, but the best, most interesting discussions occur when you bring together several thoughtful experts who have different perspectives. What this all means is I spend a lot of time reading LinkedIn profiles and firm bios. And while there are some who do a good job conveying their expertise, there are many who are various levels of bad—even disastrous.

The Virtues of a Good Bio

Virtually every partner-level person in the intellectual property space has the opportunity to introduce themselves online in a way that makes them seem interesting, accomplished, and worthy of being hired. But all too often, bios read as if they are written by marketing professionals who know little or nothing about the practice of law, and less about intellectual property. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I read bios that proudly proclaim, often in the first paragraph, how the partner in question is unique because they focus on needs of the client to prepare a cohesive, complete, and budget conscious plan of action that forwards the goal of the client. If your bio reads like that, how does it distinguish you from any other attorney?

It is imperative to think about how the  language you use  will convey information about technical competence, experience, peculiar expertise representing clients in front of a particular tribunal, or expertise with thorny issues, such as patent eligibility as it relates to software—or better yet as it relates to specific types of software, like artificial intelligence models.

Bad attorney bios frequently go on to explain how clients of this partner praise his or her responsiveness, attention to detail, and candid advice. I could go on, but it is sufficient to notice the common thread. If what is written could apply to any attorney who specializes in any area of practice, why would you expect your bio to resonate with the type of client you most want to attract? Simply put, if your bio reads as if you could be a bankruptcy attorney or specialize in real estate, it is doing more harm than it is good. Those with hiring authority expect you to be responsive and they expect that you will be complete and thorough; the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct actually require all of this from every attorney. By not focusing on experience and technology prowess you are missing an opportunity to “soft sell” yourself, which will help prospective clients determine that it is you they should be working with.

Getting it Wrong

Recently, I came across several profiles that were extremely bad, not because they were vague, but because they were so specific it was clear that the attorney—or whoever wrote the description—was trying to appeal to everyone who needed any type of intellectual property work at all. One profile spent the first two paragraphs discussing the work the lawyer previously handled, speaking in the past tense about many years of pharmaceutical litigation experience early in this attorney’s career. The third paragraph is where the bio first mentioned the attorney’s current practice, which was an entirely different subject that focuses on trademark prosecution, Trademark Trial and Appeal Board appeals and false advertising. Obviously, there is nothing wrong with such a career evolution, but the order is all wrong. You are more likely to be hired to do what you currently have expertise with, not what you used to do a decade ago, particularly when your old experience is so uniquely specific and unrelated to what you are doing currently.

But wait, there is more! In addition to primarily handling trademark matters currently, in the fourth paragraph it became clear this attorney also engages in mechanical and electrical patent prosecution and licensing and technology transfer, as well as basic contract drafting and copyrights too. How many of the “right clients” are going to hire an attorney that does everything but specializes in nothing? It is as if this bio was written by marketing to include as many keyword search terms as possible.

If you are marketing to individuals, or small startups with a limited budget, the ability to handle everything they need could be seen as a plus. But if you are not marketing to that segment of the potential client marketplace where being a jack of all trades will be a plus, attempting to be all things to all people is a huge mistake.

Know Your Audience

Before you settle on a bio you need to know who you want to attract as a client, and you need to be realistic. If you are currently doing trademark prosecution and patent prosecution you really can’t expect a biopharma company is going to hire you to do complex pharmaceutical litigation when there are entire firms that specialize in that one very specific thing and do it very well. And if you aren’t happy with the work you are doing now you need to initiate a plan to develop expertise in a different area, which can include writing articles to develop the perception of expertise—but that is a different story for another day.

Image Source: Deposit Photos
Author: artursz
Image ID: 211138690 


Warning & Disclaimer: The pages, articles and comments on IPWatchdog.com do not constitute legal advice, nor do they create any attorney-client relationship. The articles published express the personal opinion and views of the author as of the time of publication and should not be attributed to the author’s employer, clients or the sponsors of IPWatchdog.com.

Join the Discussion

6 comments so far. Add my comment.

  • [Avatar for Yenrab]
    March 26, 2024 09:16 am

    What has worked for me? My undergrad tech degree and my USAF active duty experience.
    All patent attorneys went to law school somewhere, but not that many have a technical degree from a place like MIT, Purdue, or Cal Tech. Clients notice that sort of thing, whereas they have no idea what law school really is. Most think Torts are a German dessert.

  • [Avatar for BWL]
    March 25, 2024 10:54 am

    Thank you for the insights Gene. I am going to take another hard look at my bios and probably make some much-needed changes, keeping my target audience at the forefront.

  • [Avatar for Pro Say]
    Pro Say
    March 22, 2024 04:13 pm

    “LOL imagine trying to make money off of individuals or small startups.”

    Generalizations like these obscure the diamonds among all markets — including the legal market.

    The key, you see, to making money (earning a good living) off of individuals and small startups is to work the RIGHT individuals and the RIGHT startups.

    Indeed, there are attorneys and small law firms which have become set for life by quietly, presciently trading part or all of their legal services for equity in startups.

  • [Avatar for come on man]
    come on man
    March 22, 2024 03:41 pm

    LOL imagine trying to make money off of individuals or small startups.

  • [Avatar for Pro Say]
    Pro Say
    March 22, 2024 12:16 pm

    An attorney for everything is a (great) attorney for nothing.

    Specialization is the key to the kingdom.

  • [Avatar for Anon]
    March 22, 2024 09:46 am

    One of my pet peeves:

    The large majority of bio’s that simply repeat a possible list of tasks one with a registration number may partake in.

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