Marketing Matters Boost Your Firm’s Brand

Drafting a Nonbinary and other LGBTQ Lawyer’s Biography

I was interested to read that a partner at an Am Law 100 law firm recently came out as nonbinary — that is, this individual identifies neither as male nor female and (likely) uses they/them pronouns, rather than he/him or she/her.

Ross Fishman, JD

This decision generated many articles across the legal media, suggesting to me that the firm issued a press release or otherwise directed its public relations professionals to spread the word.

That felt like a positive development.

A large and prestigious firm was 1) advancing an important issue of inclusivity and 2) recognizing the benefit to marketing and recruiting in supporting LGBTQ professionals.

As both a legal marketer who’s edited literally thousands of website biographies and a father who’s been repeatedly educated on LGBTQ-related issues by his enlightened children, I immediately wondered how the firm addressed the pronouns of this individual, who we will call Connor, in their firm bio. So when I first saw the bio, I was mildly disappointed to see that the bio simply avoided using any pronouns. Instead, it just repeats Connor’s name each time a sentence referred to them ― seven consecutive “Connors” in seven sentences without a single they, them or their. (It’s important to note that the bio has since been updated and uses pronouns.)

I get it. I have many liberal, over-50 friends ― executive committee members at prominent firms ― who aren’t yet quite comfortable or up to speed on the issue of gender fluidity. Others are concerned about the reactions they’ll get from clients and prospects.

According to a new study by The Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Law and Public Policy at the UCLA School of Law, there are 1.2 million nonbinary people living in the United States. As society gradually learns more about the spectrum of human gender and sexuality, professional firms are working — perhaps struggling — to adapt to the new reality. Still largely controlled by folks who grew up before out gay people were prominent in the public sphere, this is a lot of change in a short amount of time. I see it as an issue of culture and education — i.e., are you the type of person who is willing to be open-minded on this issue? And, if you are, has someone taught you about it?

Obviously, you can educate yourself if you’re so inclined; there’s a lot of good material online regarding gender and sexuality.

Skip to content


In professional profiles, the unstated rule is a 3:1 ratio between the person’s name and pronouns. That is, the text seems to flow most comfortably if you open with the person’s first name, then use pronouns the next two times, then repeat the person’s name, followed by two more pronouns.

As a workaround, the biography’s author opted to avoid pronouns entirely and simply repeated the lawyer’s first name at every personal reference ― seven consecutive times. To the average reader, failing to include personal pronouns feels suspicious, like someone’s hiding something. Further, it’s a missed opportunity to casually normalize the use of they pronouns and educate more members of the legal, business and marketing community.

Many marketers haven’t yet had the occasion to address these issues. So I’m going to try to lay out some basic principles as I understand them.


You must be careful not to inadvertently create any confusion for the reader regarding who or what the pronouns refer to. Consider this blurb: “Brittany is a lawyer who represents companies. They …” At that point, it may be briefly unclear to the reader whether “they” is referring to nonbinary Brittany or the companies. This means that the bio must be structured to avoid any accidental confusion. That’s just the careful editing that every professional’s profile deserves.

“You won’t have a good long-term relationship with those who don’t respect your most fundamental values.”

There’s a simple editing work-around. First, set the stage at the very beginning by including “(they/them)” at the top, alongside the person’s photo, name and contact info. In addition, introduce the person in the first sentence using the gender-neutral “Mx.” honorific (pronounced “mix”) if they’re amenable to it. It’s similar to “Mr.” for men or “Ms.” for women (e.g., “Mx. Smith is…”).

But that’s just the start — less educated readers may still not understand what that means. It can feel awkward or intimidating for people as they begin to get comfortable with “they” as a singular pronoun, so consider it an opportunity to positively influence your audience.


Open by using the pronoun in a context where there is no chance of confusion over singular versus plural. For example: “Connor is a trial lawyer specializing in international arbitration; they have particular expertise in banking cases. (Note that I intentionally avoided using the plural “arbitration cases” here, which could have led to a momentary misunderstanding.)

This addresses the issue at the very top and informs the reader to be aware that any upcoming they, them or their might relate specifically to Connor, not exclusively to groups or plural nouns.

Further, it could have been helpful to provide some additional context. For example, Connor’s biography ends: “Connor maintains an active appellate and pro bono practice.” A quick look at their LinkedIn profile shows that most of these pro bono efforts are in support of LGBTQ groups and organizations. Specifically naming these groups would provide additional relevant information.


There’s not much downside to describing an individual thoroughly in his/her/their biography. Fishman Marketing has been branding individuals and law firms for 25 years. My strict rule is that both firms and individuals should clearly decide who they are and what they offer and then proclaim that attribute loudly and proudly.

If you do, those who are seeking that trait will be drawn to you, as a client or employee. Similarly, those who eschew it will avoid you. Frankly, you want them to ― you won’t have a good long-term relationship with those who don’t respect your most fundamental values.

Be clear about who you are and the benefits of what you offer, and like-minded people will be drawn to you. If you’re tough or creative or friendly; or a particular nationality, race, or gender; or a large or small firm, let everyone know. Those who don’t want that aren’t likely to be a successful relationship anyway. There’s plenty of work to go around — don’t try to be something you’re not. Just seek to attract those who value you.

These are conversations that need to be had, I sincerely applaud Connor and the firm for taking this positive step and helping create a more diverse and inclusive profession.