Best Practices for Law Firm Websites

June 27, 2017

Law firms that make a conscious effort to optimize their websites and improve their online presence can make themselves increasingly attractive to new clients. In a recent white paper, marketing strategy and technology firm Content Pilot laid out ten foundational best practices for law firm websites. Researchers studied AmLaw Global 50 top-ranking firms and identified trends, insights and global standards for how these organizations can enhance their web presence. Deborah McMurray, CEO and strategy architect at Content Pilot, spoke with Aprio about what firms should do to emulate these practices and set themselves apart from the crowd.

What are visitors to law firm websites looking for, and what can a firm do to optimize its lawyer bios?

“Buyers of a legal service make their purchases on two levels. First, they evaluate the firm on a technical or intellectual level. Then, they make an emotional decision — from the heart — when they choose one firm or lawyer over the other. They ask whether they like them, trust them and whether they would have their back. The vast majority of lawyer bios are not distinguishing and not informative enough. To truly have your website presence work hard for you, lawyers need to create a ‘three-dimensional bio’ that demonstrates experience, proves relevance and shows humanity.”

How do law firms use their websites to attract clients?

“We’ve seen a shift in the past year from buyers. They ask colleagues and friends for referrals, and they Google those names. Previously, the buyer would simply find the firm website, but today they’re going to LinkedIn first and doing initial vetting there. They also use Twitter to see what they’re saying and if it’s relevant to what they need. After that, they visit the website to make sure the bio is selling on [the previously mentioned] three levels. If it is, then they will view other pages of interest — additional bios, practice, industry or news pages. If they don’t see what they’re looking for in the first bio they evaluate, they’re going to leave and eliminate that lawyer as a contender.”

What web features and enhancements are the most important and offer the most value?

“Search features are the most important. ‘Type A’ busy business people have expectations and assume the law firm knows exactly what they want. The larger the firm website with more robust content, the more search functionality they need to have. Another feature is video, which really drives more and longer visits — and the analytics prove it. Visitors stay on the site three times longer and view three times more pages after viewing a video. The good thing is, video production expectations aren’t that high (YouTube cat videos have lowered our standards). You can do some 10-second, 20-second or 30-second videos that are inexpensive to produce. If the subject matter is current and relevant to your visitor, it will pay off.”

What can firms do to set themselves apart from competitors?

“There needs to be a strategy that is unique to the firm — then you can start building features and functionalities that pay off your strategy. Our Global 50 law firm study found 21 of the world’s 50 largest firms had no visible strategy. Identify the signature practices where you are arguably number one or two, and go to market with those. Whatever design or development company you’re hiring, make sure they can help you create and craft a story that will resonate with the people you want to hire your firm.”

Of the 10 foundational best practices outlined in the report, which would you say are the most important?

“Aside from lawyer biographies, search and strategy, I would say content because that’s the reason people are coming to your site. As mentioned earlier — and it’s worth repeating — if they have a good experience on the lawyer bio page, they are going to link to another page and read an article, e-alert or news release. Another important foundational best practice is interactivity, engagement and social outreach. The law firm needs to think hard about how they can build engagement and relationship opportunities into their website.”

A comprehensive strategy for your firm’s website will give you an edge over your competitors who are less strategic. But you need to be prepared to do some serious overhaul if any area of your site is not following the ten foundational best practices. Depending on your needs, you can create multimedia content, ramp up your bios or add client success stories to engage your prospects in a new way. Ask current clients or potential buyers what draws them to a law firm website and what keeps them coming back, and remove anything that is old, dry or uninviting. Check in on your competitors and fill a niche they may have missed. By taking a critical eye to your current site, you will be equipped to improve your overall web presence.

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