Solo Practitioners: Should You Write For Your Website In 1st Or 3rd Person?

by Jun 27, 2017

Choosing which perspective to write in is one of many decisions a solo practitioner makes when planning content for their law firm website.

Whether you choose to write in first-person, second-person, or third-person can affect how potential clients view your law firm and how likely they are to contact you.

So which perspective or point of view (PoV) works best for solo practitioners on their law firm websites? The answer depends on several things, including who your potential clients are and what message you’re trying to convey.

Here are a few ways to think about choosing the perspective that sends the right message to potential clients.

Choosing the right perspective for your law firm website

First, a quick refresher on perspectives:

  • First person uses words like I, me, and we.
    • Ex: “I provide aggressive criminal defense.”
  • Second person uses words like you and your.
    • Ex: “You need aggressive criminal defense.”
  • Third person uses your name, your firm’s name, or words like he, him, her, and hers.
    • Ex: “Attorney John Smith provides aggressive criminal defense.”

Choosing between these perspectives is a matter of strategy. You don’t necessarily need to use the same perspective on every page of your law firm website. Some pages may be more compelling in first person than in third person, or vice versa. It’s important to be selective about where each PoV is used.

Choosing the appropriate PoV depends on who your potential clients are and what message you’re trying to convey on a particular page.

For example, if you are a criminal defense attorney, you could write your attorney bio in the first person to make yourself more approachable to a potential client who is embarrassed or scared about their current situation. 

Whichever perspective you’ve chosen, be consistent within a page or group of pages. For example, if you’ve chosen a first-person PoV for your attorney bio page, don’t suddenly switch to third person in the middle of the page.

Using the first-person perspective in law firm website content

There are several reasons why solo practitioners may choose to write from a first-person perspective:

  • To develop a personal connection. Your potential clients want to know that you will care about them and their case or matter. The first-person point of view can help you seem more approachable and engaged, and it can help potential clients develop a personal connection with you.  
  • When you are blogging. Blog posts may be less formal than other website content, which can make the first-person perspective a good choice.
  • To create a compelling attorney bio. Your bio will likely be one of the most-visited pages on your website, and it is an opportunity to tell a compelling story about you and your work. A good attorney bio page shows not only what you’ve accomplished but why you do what you do and why you are passionate about your work. An attorney bio written in first person can convey to potential clients that you are sensitive to their needs and that you’ll care deeply about their case or matter.

First-person singular or first-person plural?

A question we’re often asked is when it’s appropriate to use first-person singular and first-person plural. 

For solo attorneys, it’s important to think critically about what the singular or plural can convey to a potential client.

You may want to avoid the use of first-person plural (“we” and “our”) in your website content if you are really the only person working in the law firm. When a potential client realizes that “we” is just a single attorney, they may feel uncomfortable.

But if you have support staff, or if that support staff will work with clients, or you expect to add more attorneys to your firm in the near future, first-person plural may be a better choice.

Let’s look at an example where first-person singular and first-person plural can make a difference:

In a case where an attorney writes, “I will take care of you,” the client may expect that they’ll have direct access to you, and that they’ll be working exclusively with you.

But if they end up working primarily with your support staff instead of you, it may create misaligned expectations, which can lead to dissatisfaction. For that reason, choosing first-person plural (“We will take care of you”) can help to set the right expectations.

Why solo practitioners might use second-person perspective

Using the second-person point of view puts the focus on the client and their needs.

Second-person perspective can be a good choice for evergreen pages that are directly related to your client and their needs.

Practice area pages, detailed law pages, local pages, and Q&A pages can be very effective in the second-person point of view. Blog posts can also be effective when written in the second-person perspective.

Using the second person on these pages helps a potential client learn more about their case or problem while reinforcing that you are focused on them and their needs.

Solo practitioners and the third-person perspective

The third-person perspective is more formal, and provides a sense of objectivity — one reason it’s usually used in academic and research papers.

In some cases, using this perspective in your content can make you seem more authoritative. When it’s used incorrectly, it can seem stiff and impersonal.

Here are a few examples of when to use (or avoid) third-person perspective.

Let’s say you’re a business attorney that happens to work with large businesses. In this case, you might want to take a third-person perspective to give the sense of tradition and seriousness.

But on the other hand, if you work with small businesses, the owners of those small businesses might want an attorney who provides personal attention to their clients. In that case, first-person perspective might be more appropriate.

Sometimes, the third-person is used ineffectively. For example, a solo practitioner might have a homepage that focuses on the personal attention that they provide to their clients. When a potential client visits the attorney bio, however, they see that it’s written in third person, which may make you seem unapproachable. This inconsistency can send a contradictory message to  potential clients.

Third-person perspective can also make sense in area such as case results, where you’re providing the facts of a case and crafting a story that your potential clients can relate to. (For more on that, see How To Write More Effective Case Results On Your Law Firm Website.)

Whichever point of view you choose to write in, be strategic about those choices. Think about how the point of view you write in can affect your potential clients’ perceptions when they visit your law firm’s website.

To learn more about creating compelling content that attracts and engages new clients, check out our on-demand webinar, Introduction to Content Creation for Lawyers.

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