Consumers tell us time and again that when they look at lawyer profiles on Avvo, they gravitate toward the headshots. So, one has to wonder: are people judging lawyers by their attractiveness? Do you have to look like Brangelina to win business?
Academic research has examined the influence of appearance on professional success, and many of these studies have generated interesting hypotheses. For example, Dario Maestripieri, a psychobiologist whose theories have often been met with controversy, argues that since attractive people are more appealing as potential sex partners, we subconsciously choose to do business with them because it increases our chances of having sex with them. This means that if you’re generally known among your circle of friends as “the hot one,” some of your clients might be hiring you with the subconscious hope that they’d . . . you know . . . maybe get some.
But if your looks aren’t movie-star caliber, don’t run out and get a personal trainer or plastic surgery. According to Avvo research, only 12% of legal consumers think that a lawyer’s looks are an important factor in the hiring decision-making process. At some point, consumers tell us, the decision to hire a lawyer is made at the gut level. Photos don’t say much about a lawyer’s skill or expertise, but they do get people a little closer to sensing a lawyer’s personality. People are looking for likeability, trying to get a sense of what each lawyer is really about as an individual, and trying to figure out if the lawyer they’re looking at online is someone they can stand to work with over a period of time. Headshots are not being used to judge whether you’re good looking or not.
As it happens, your age, gender, and ethnicity don’t matter as much as other things. Only 14% of legal consumers say that a lawyer’s age matters, but age is likely a proxy for experience. 11% care about gender, and ethnicity is important to 10%. But if you’re not the “right” age or gender for a consumer, no need to fret. You can compensate with reviews: half of Americans say lawyer reviews are very important in helping them decide whom to hire. Or, if you get back to potential clients quickly, they may care a bit less about your physical features: 59% of people say that lawyer responsiveness is very important.
In the end, headshots give clients a chance to feel you out virtually. Clients look at headshots and tap into their gut and intuition. They’re focusing on the “feeling” they get when they see your photo. One woman looking through the Avvo directory even told me she saw auras. So, get a headshot that makes you look professional and gives people a good idea of who you are. Practicing law isn’t working in the movies; don’t worry your pretty face about not having the prettiest face.