Third Person vs. First Person on LinkedIn

Bad Joke: So the third person walks into the first person who says, “I didn’t see the mirror either.”

When writing your LinkedIn summary should you write it in the first person or in the third person?

For those of you that need a quick refresher course on the difference between first person and third person:

First person is when I write “I’m the best ping-pong player in all of Buffalo.”

Third person is when I write “Adrian Dayton is the best ping-pong player in all of Buffalo.”

The real difference is one of tone. When we write about ourselves in third person, we are putting a journalistic tone to our writing. We are writing as a reporter, that sounds goods—right? Not really, if a reporter was saying it, it would be very good, they aren’t. You are just talking about yourself. If you are going to talk about yourself, when would you talk about yourself like a reporter does?talking about myself in third person

Beside the awkward feeling of reading someone’s summary that has been written in the third person, there is also a certain sense of detachment that comes from reading a bio that has been written in the third person. It begs the question, if this person has a summary that is written in third person, did they really write the bio? Are they approachable? Would they answer my call or email if I wanted to hire them?

When professionals create bios in the third person they are clearly focused on one thing, “will this bio make me appear credible?” When they should be thinking one step further, they should also be asking will this bio make me seem approachable? Will this bio make me seem likable?

Likability has been overlooked for far too long in our online profiles. Potential customers can find thousands of people just like you who can do the work, but who do they want to work with? The people they feel like they can connect with on a personal level. A bio written in the first person is more conversational and gives the writer the chance to inject some personality.

First person isn’t without its challenges, though, the writer must be careful when drafting a bio in the first person to avoid appearing too braggadocious. Rather than use I, I, I, frequently, I prefer lawyers that instead write their bios in a narrative format. Tell stories about work and cases you have worked on that illustrate your competence. “Show me, don’t tell me,” as my English teacher used to say.

In choosing first or third person, the first rule is to know your audience. Lawyers, for example, have a reputation as being somewhat serious and in some cases stuffy, so their audience doesn’t want to see that in their bios, as a general rule they should stick to writing bios for LinkedIn in the first person. On the other hand, I sell services to lawyers, and so in an effort to match their behavior I have written my bio in the third person. The important thing is to choose something your potential clients are comfortable with and that you are comfortable with too.

In conclusion, I just felt the need to share with you that I’m not even very good at ping-pong, regardless of what I said above. I should also mention, Adrian Dayton isn’t very good at ping-pong either.




How to share without appearing self promotional

My father is a master conversationalist. He follows the first rule of a gentleman: Don’t talk about yourself. I’ve observed my Father over the years, and he is very effective at deflecting questions. That’s not to say that he won’t answer questions, but he always gets back to listening to others more than talking about himself. This is a lost art in my opinion, and nowhere is this more apparent than online.Rottenecards_1149199_kkdt69n3n5

This past weekend I had a conversation with the president of a successful PR firm and she asked me, “How do I get all the good I am doing for clients out there through social media? I don’t want to just talk about myself, and say ‘look at all the great press I got my client,’ but at the same time, I want people to know.”

First, I’d like to applaud her for having the presence of mind to resist blasting out every success to an uninterested audience; Second, I’ll tell you what I told her—Talking about your self and your own successes will almost always fall flat because generally speaking that isn’t information people need. It doesn’t help solve their problems. Your friends will send you back messages of congratulations, but they already love you.

So how do you get the word out about your success? The best way is to have others speak highly about you.

This is an interesting phenomenon. We don’t trust people that are congratulating themselves but if someone else compliments them we are much more likely to believe it.

So, how do you share without appearing self-promotional?

The first and most obvious solution is to simply help and promote others around you and wait for them to pay-it-forward.

The second is to use amplifiers. Amplifiers can take many different forms. It could be a news site like Forbes, National Law Journal or The Huffington Post posting an article you’ve written. The other type of amplifier is a lynchpin that has a large targeted network in the social media world. If you can get a few of these people to share positive information about you, you’ve struck gold.

The third and final way is just to share information about yourself or your content no more than 20% of the time — 80% should be about other people and great content.

There is an additional tricky issue: Why would these sites or these people want to talk about you? There’s only one answer. You give them something valuable to share with their network. You’ve written a white paper, completed a research project, or simply written an article that is helpful. There’s no better way to convince others to promote you, than to give them ammunition in the form of great content.

Creating great content requires the ability to listen to your customers; Seek to understand before you seek to be understood—Just like my father always listens far more than he talks in conversations.

The amazing thing about my Dad is that people always say, “I had a great conversation with your father,” even though they were likely doing most of the talking. It’s the same online. If you do a better job of listening, eventually people will care about what you have to say. When you keep talking about yourself to a minimum, the conversation will be far more enjoyable for everybody.

Writing Articles: Not Just for Associates

In my travels to law firms across the country, I have come across two types of law firms. The first type is law firms that embrace creating articles, alerts, and blogs and then we have the second type, law firms that merely tolerate article writing and content creation. Here is one comment from a partner I spoke to a few months ago,

“Writing articles is for associates, I’m a Partner.”typing

another one,

“Nobody every brought in business from writing articles, that’s why associates do it.”

Can you guess which type of firm these quotes comes from?

These partners at the second type of law firm are missing one major trend in the legal industry. Hyper-specialization. One of the seven key findings of the Law 2023 report that I blogged about yesterday here: Are law firms capable of driving innovation?

Here were the seven trends to look for in the next decade:

1. Technologies will enable lawyers to bill for real value

2. Firms will develop offerings that transcend jurisdiction

3. Demand for responsive institutions create new markets for accountability

4. Firms will tap new talent and enable new pathways to practice

5. Transparency will push firms to seek hyper-specific markets

6. Firms will launch R&D departments to create new offerings

7. User research and innovation will shape client experience of legal products

I’ve highlighted number 5, because this is a trend we are already seeing of hyper-specialisation. The age of the generalist is over, we have entered the era of the hyper-specialist. Companies don’t want to hire a lawyer that can help them with a ERISA claim, they want to hire the ERISA guy. How do you show complete mastery of a topic? How do you show your are the best in your field? The old adage was that to build a good reputation as a lawyer you need an expensive suit and 30-years of experience. There is no replacement for experience, but what good is experience if nobody knows about it? How do people find you? How will they know you are the best?

I’ll stop asking the questions that have an obvious answer, writing is the answer to all of these questions. When a lawyer sacrifices their own non-billable time to educate the market and to give great information, they are rewarded by not just building a better reputation, but by also gaining huge exposure online and through Google, Yahoo, and Bing searches. Studies show that an increasing number of buyers of legal services are using the internet to find their lawyer, and nowhere is this more true than it is for the search for specialists.

Article writing is an essential strategy to help associate quickly gain a reputation in a certain niche or specialty, but for them it is an uphill battle, they just don’t have the real experience to go with the content they are creating. For Partners, creating content should be much easier because of the wealth of experiences they have gained over the years. Now they just need to put some of the wisdom into articles and it will live forever online building up their reputation. Partners can keep letting associate write the articles if they want, but it is these same Partners that have the most to gain by writing the articles themselves.


Are Law Firms Capable of Driving Innovation?

Law firms are creatures of habit. The successful firms that have been around for a long time have figured out a model that allows them to handle a large volume of legal work at a very profitable hourly rate. But what if things change in the future? Are they prepared to evolve? A bigger question is whether some firms are actually capable of driving innovation?

These thoughts come on the heels of the Law 2023 findings. This was a year long investigation that started by asking the simple question, what will the legal industry look like 10 years from now? You can grab a PDF of the report here: Law 2023 Minifesto

The report is concise and worth reading, but just to summarize, here are the 7 key findings or predictions based on research and interviews:

1. Technologies will enable lawyers to bill for real value

2. Firms will develop offerings that transcend jurisdiction

3. Demand for responsive institutions create new markets for accountability

4. Firms will tap new talent and enable new pathways to practice

5. Transparency will push firms to seek hyper-specific markets

6. Firms will launch R&D departments to create new offerings

7. User research and innovation will shape client experience of legal products

You can find interviews for the findings at

The big question I ask is, how well are law firms currently managing these seven principles and what could potentially change in the near future that would enable firms to radically change their leadership model in a way that would allow them to prepare for the future?


As you look down this list, you can see one or two ideas that certain firms seem to embrace, but then you take this idea of R&D departments that is absolutely standard in every other major technology company. This doesn’t exist in the legal industry. Akerman LLP is looking to change that. They are taking the lead and have formed an R&D Council that is designed to truly function as “skunk work” according to the Akerman press release and will have a high degree of autonomy. This is an exciting step, but it is fraught with challenges. Most truly successful skunkworks, according to Clayton Christensen, author of The Innovator’s Dilemma (think IBM creating a completely separate business unit to create the mini computer in a separate state from where the mainframe computers were built) have to operate by their own rules with complete autonomy. This is not an easy step to take within the structure of a law firm.

I love that Akerman is taking the lead on this and for the sake of the legal industry I hope it is a huge success immediately, but I predict it will be far more expensive  and take longer than Akerman anticipates to see results. The first products or variations to legal services that the R&D Council comes up with may fail, but failure and risk taking must be embraced if this is going to work. Innovation is hard and expensive, but more than either of those things it is a completely different animal for law firms.

I started out by asking the question, are law firms capable of driving innovation? My immediate gut reaction would be to answer that they just aren’t set up for it. Existing operations at most firms seem to go in the opposite direction. Yet, many big law firms today will still be around 10 years from now and a small few of those will be the leaders driving innovation but I’m guessing the majority of the firms that survive will continue to be followers. Unfortunately, firms don’t really like to set a new precedent, but they are all pretty comfortable following it.

Where LinkedIn Accounts Go To Die

LinkedIn-Connect-With-People-For-No-Reason-At-AllThis morning my friend Michelle Golden posted the story about an individual named Heather Bussing that deleted her LinkedIn account because she disagreed with the terms of services. You can see the entire post here: Why I Killed My LinkedIn Account. The author of the post is not happy with the draconian terms of service or maybe just wants to write a shocking post that gets her a lot of attention.

She has some sincere gripes and some imagined, one of them being that on Section 10.2 of the LinkedIn Terms of Service there is a long list of “don’ts” that pretty much prohibit anybody from using LinkedIn in a way that would be productive. Here is where her argument falls apart, though, she doesn’t dislike LinkedIn nor has she had a bad experience on LinkedIn. She simply finds the terms of service unacceptable. Should more lawyers be worried about the terms of service? In my opinion, the answer is no.

When joining any social network you are entering into an agreement. In this agreement you are willing to give up a substantial amount of information to the social network and in exchange you are able to access a treasure trove of information. It doesn’t cost money, but it does require you giving something up. Two weeks ago I wrote about this at greater length on my post What is LinkedIn? LinkedIn survives because of the positive network effects. It isn’t anything that LinkedIn is actively doing, but just that fact that they facilitate everybody sharing information in a way that allows people to communicate better. Will we see more people leaving LinkedIn in the coming months? I’m sure there will be others that trumpet that fact that they are leaving in a melodramatic last and final post, but LinkedIn will continue on for the foreseeable future.

Every month for the last five years there has been an article published entitled, “Is Facebook Dying?” that seems to spell out all the reasons people are leaving Facebook in droves for something new and shiny. But they never pan out, because sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter are now so large that a mass exodus from any of the sites is extremely unlikely. If you do decide to take the time to read LinkedIn’s terms of service (because as a lawyer I’m sure you like to do those sorts of things with your free time) and you aren’t happy with what you see. Here are the instructions per Heather Bussing on how to delete you account step-by-step:

Go to your home page.
Find the little picture of you in the upper right-hand corner and move your cursor over it.
A drop-down menu should appear
Click on Privacy and Settings
You may be asked to sign into your account again.
Click the Account side tab near the left bottom corner of the page next to the shield icon
Click Helpful Links
Click Close your account.

I’m sure you will still find success without LinkedIn, but that isn’t the point. LinkedIn doesn’t need you, it can achieve the positive network effects without you because the other 90% of professionals are participating and sharing. Leave LinkedIn, but do it at your own peril. Adrian Dayton is a non-practicing lawyer and as the author of the book LinkedIn & Blog for Lawyers: Building High-Value Relationships in a Digital Age (West 2012, co-authored by Amy Knapp) so he may be a little biased. You can connect with him on LinkedIn at He hasn’t quit Twitter either, you can find him there @adriandayton. Don’t look for him on Facebook, unless you are his friend “IRL.”

Ideal Length for Everything: Research Backed

(3 minutes to read)

Let me start out by saying I was wrong—I’ve been wrong about things before.

The new research coming out from on this post shows that we may be writing blog posts that aren’t quite long enough:

The Ideal Length of Everything Online, Backed by Research

Some of the research here won’t be as useful to some of you (like the ideal length for a Google+ post and the ideal length for a Facebook post) but there are some real gems. Here were my three favorites:

1. “The ideal length for the blog post is 7 minutes, 1,600 words.”

There has been general consensus online for some time that short posts, around 500 words, were a good target length. This new research suggests that people want more than just 500 words. Data shows that you have up to 7 minutes before you lose readers, but there is a caveat: If you use pictures on your post—another suggested best practice—then you can have shorter posts, around 1,000 words.

In summary, my recommendation to lawyers wanting to become bloggers used to be that generally 500 words and an image or two were ideal; The new recommendation is 1,600 words. If you have images, then you can shorten this to 1,000 words. Shorter posts are still OK, but the research shows that if we take the time to write posts that are longer than 500 words, people will keep reading.


This graph from shows the estimated length of a post versus the actual amount of time people spend reading it—7 minutes is the optimal length that readers will stick around for.

2. Ideal Headlines: Only Six Words Long (See what I did there?)

I have been saying for years that lawyers are generally terrible at writing headlines, but this data gives me some very simple advice to them, “Say it in six words, or don’t say it at all.” Short headlines are powerful. This is not a hard fast rule, but because statistically, six-word headlines are more read, unless you have a compelling reason to write a longer headline, use a shorter one.

3. The ideal length of an email subject line is 28-39 characters.

This was the one data point that isn’t very helpful: Turns out the length of a subject line is not really that important.

The substance, however ,is extremely important.

A few days ago I was hired to help a big-time attorney to re-work his LinkedIn bio. After reading through his entire resume, online bio, and LinkedIn bio I was blown away—This was a very impressive litigator. I then asked him, “How can you give me that same positive impression in the first three sentences?”

He argued that anybody looking to hire a lawyer would spend ten minutes to read his entire bio. I disagree. Online, you only get those 10 minutes of attention if you convince someone it’s worth their time to keep reading or to open the e-mail in the first place. The subject lines on emails should be thought of the same way. Ask the question: Would I open an email that came to me with this subject line?

The length here isn’t nearly as important as a timely call to action or a subject line convincing the recipient that this is information they need to know.

Conclusion: The whole point is to create quality content, but what good is quality content if nobody reads it? Your headlines, subject lines and the length of your posts are all factors that help decide whether or not anybody will ever read any further. Think of it like the cover of a book or the wrapping paper on a present. Whether we like it or not, the outward appearance significantly affects our opinion of the substance of the article.

How much does inefficiency cost your law firm?

Over the last week, I had two very unrelated experiences that were big eye openers. The first happened on a phone call yesterday when I taught a lawyer how to cut and paste information into his bio on LinkedIn. He had been practicing the law and using computers for decades, but didn’t know you could highlight information, right click, select “copy” and then right click again and “paste” the information somewhere else. He was amazed by how easy it was, it was as if I had just taught the first caveman to make fire. The second experience happened in Tapei, Taiwan. I was speaking to a group of lawyers about incremental innovations (like faster internet, better software) and I compared these to breakthroughs like the introduction of the fax machine or the introduction of email. I broke the lawyers up into groups and I asked each group to come up with their best ideas for incremental innovations. What small changes could they make to their daily processes, with the help of technology, that would help them be more efficient?

The best idea that came out of the ten groups? Learn how to use Outlook. One highly efficient partner color codes his emails in four ways: one color for him, one for his assistant, another for his secretary and the last one for his associate. 3 out of 4 of those he never reads, the subject line is enough for him to send it on to the right person to take care of it. Other set up folders that filter out all of the distracting messages that don’t need quick responses.

This example made me ask the question, what types of efficiency gains could lawyers experience if they simply understood how to use the best features of software like Word and Outlook? Partners don’t need to attend Word or Outlook training, I don’t think that would work, they literally need someone to sit down with them and follow them throughout their day to see what processes they are currently doing manually that the existing software could help them improve. These are two very simple pieces of software, we aren’t even talking about CRM systems like Interaction that firms aren’t even scratching the surface with.

Lawyers need to learn how to better utilize software, and I’m not sure the best way to help them get there. The problem is that they don’t know what they don’t know. The lawyer I taught to copy and paste, had heard the term before but had no idea there was such a simple solution. Another issue is that most law firms don’t have efficiency aligned as a priority. The lawyer that bills $750/hour takes 20 minutes to print and markup a document to have their secretary retype it when they could have copy and pasted it in a few clicks. Teaching that lawyer to copy and paste may have just saved their clients hundreds or even thousand of dollars. But it cost the firm.

Efficiency and innovation are mission critical concerns at almost every other type of company, it’s about time that law firms start taking them seriously as well.

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