When it comes to marketing of legal services in the 21st century, no law firm or solo practitioner should be without a firm Internet presence. Online listings and advertisements for attorneys are everywhere these days: on social networking platforms, directories, AdWords, banner ads, blogs, publications, and more. These are all marketing fragments that should converge upon a single element that ties everything together and ultimately converts an interested party from prospect to client. That single, defining element is the firm or solo attorney’s website.
The legal profession has often been accused of missing the point when it comes to website design. To be fair, many other industries can be accused of the same, and several culprits have been identified: mistrust of the Internet as a serious originator of business, an overabundance of cheap templates, poor attempts at do-it-yourself web development, and a simple lack of vision as to what constitutes an appropriate style.
Image and Branding
Not every law firm or solo attorney has the means to retain a marketing director or image consultant. For those brave souls who are looking to do marketing on their own, or with limited resources, the time taken to concentrate on establishing or improving the right image is well invested.
In the legal industry, there’s a tendency to emulate the established and the distinguished. It pays to look at what the others are doing, so let’s take a look at the websites of the Big Law firms and the images portrayed therein. It all starts with Google, so go ahead and search for Skadden, Greenberg Traurig, and Jones Day. Notice how the links for their sites neatly appear at the top of the search results. That’s very effective Search Engine Optimization, and it is an essential aspect of a firm’s image.
The Skadden and Greenberg websites are remarkably alike; they are simple, yet stylish. Both feature plenty of white background and similar layouts. The emphasis is on visually appealing typography, thoughtful expressions, information, and directing the visitor to the right place. The logos are tastefully displayed. The Jones Day site layout differs a little by directing visitors to scroll down a bit, but all three homepages mostly fit within the browser.
The images conveyed by the three Big Law sites described above denote an earnest approach to doing business. The visual style is accessible and does not come across as stuffy. Those are images worth emulating.
Content is Still King
Internet users these days wish to be engaged more than ever. When they visit a law firm’s website, they aren’t just looking to get a phone number or directions to a brick-and-mortar office. They want to learn about the practice, and they would absolutely love to see answers to their questions, or more information about their legal issue. For a criminal practice specializing in DUI defense, for example, the latest news about the sorry state of breathalyzer testing machines could be of interest to visitors. For family law attorneys, an article with advice about the positive effects of an amicable divorce can be encouraging.
While the right content goes a long way in developing a positive image, attorneys must always remember to follow ethical principles and abide by local rules. A recent disciplinary decision by the Virginia State Bar against a small law firm practicing criminal law for their blogging activities is a sobering reminder of the fine line between ethics and marketing. There is also the Matter of Michael Hensley Wells decided by the Supreme Court of South Carolina earlier this year. In Wells, a small law firm was caught stretching the truth regarding its image right on its website.
Legal marketing is all about appealing to the intelligence and emotions of clients. The branding of a law firm consists of packaging the right image. A law firm’s website should clearly display the image that clients wish to see. Most clients will pay a retainer based on image, but some savvy clients may want to dig a little deeper. There are clients who would like to see a firm’s track record, a successful David v. Goliath victory, a thoughtful article published on a legal journal, some pro bono work, or a spectacular favorable decision before a tough appellate court. For these clients looking for substance, a separate section of the website should be reserved.
Professional websites and logos say a lot about a company. It is your first impression to the world. Avery Petersen, a legal marketing consultant and marketer, provides his clients with advice on how to put their best foot forward. Click here to find out why he trusts Logo Mojo for his clients’ logo designs.