Every business sector has its own personality. The legal industry is no exception. It’s usually a good thing, something web designers, developers and content creators can tap into to create an online presence that reflects the business in question accurately and sympathetically. But now and again it gets in the way of doing an excellent job.
Here are the downsides of the legal sector’s typical way of working. If you allow your website designer to circumvent these common pitfalls, you’ll end up with a website that’s head and shoulders above the rest. If you follow the usual legal profession herd, your site will never perform as well as it might.
Multiple areas of law to cover
Law firms often cover multiple areas of law. If you describe them all in detail you end up with a bloated website that’s far from consumer-friendly. At the other end of the scale if you simply list them, you end up with a website that’s far too sparse. It’s vital to find the middle ground. The process involves creating the content your prospects and customers want to see, not what you want to tell them. It’s also important to make the information easy to navigate from a consumer perspective, putting people’s needs above those of your fellow professionals. People, whether they work for businesses or are individuals, are your audience.
Lawyers write for other lawyers
Law firms tend to write for themselves and other lawyers, not for their audience. It’s one of the most common faults in law sector websites. At worst they’re written in legal speak, at best in corporate speak, and plain English rarely gets a look-in. Plain language always works best, whatever sector you operate in. You never need to use legal language, corporate speak or any other communication style that isn’t perfectly plain, clear, elegant, precise and simple.
It’s all about recruitment
Most law firms see their website as a recruitment tool, a place where they flex their credentials and encourage the brightest graduates to apply. Trying to recruit online isn’t a bad thing per se. But surely your core audience is ‘people’, whether it’s members of the public or individuals who work for businesses. Slant your content too far towards impressing graduates and you lose out on your website’s most important function: driving lucrative new customers your way. Get it right and you appeal to everyone with a vested interest in your services. Get it wrong and you end up with a site that doesn’t speak clearly to anyone.
The world is changing. Actually it has already changed beyond all recognition. But too many law firms are stuck in the corporate past, operating in a time warp. This is 2014. You don’t need to be conservative and your website doesn’t need to be corporate. The old adage that the people with money are older and more conservative no longer applies, so step outside your comfort zone and enter a world where very few of your competitors currently live. Think of it as a competitive advantage. There is absolutely no reason why your website can’t be engaging and simple to use, far from the same old tired and ineffectual model.
It’s a challenge avoiding cheesy stock photography, all those fake grinning business people, images of scales and poor quality, boring law firm office shots. But it’s well worth avoiding them and while it takes a lot of creative thought, care and attention to detail, it’s something we’re experts in.
The dreaded one site fits all model
The British legal world often seems to think one website solves every issue. As a result almost all legal sector websites are a mess, trying to be everything to everyone at once. They could learn a lot from the USA’s ivy league legal schools, which cater for just as many disparate subjects as a UK law firm, all beautifully branded. But they also understand the impossibility of trying to attract everyone to a single site. To meet their audiences’ very different needs, they differentiate themselves within the marketplace by creating highly specific mini sites or detailed landing pages, each covering individual market segments and qualifications. Yes, they have a single unifying website for credibility, but the real money is in their tightly-targeted, carefully differentiated online presences.
Decision by committee
– Put simply, making decisions by committee doesn’t work. But it’s still very common in the legal profession. Trying to create or approve website content by committee is always disastrous. Trying to approve a web design by committee is always a nightmare. Decision making by committee is usually a ridiculously slow and torturous process, too. All the nitpicking and fiddling rarely – if ever – results in a website worth having. You end up making poor decisions in an effort to please everyone.
What sits at the heart of these common legal profession issues?
You’re an expert in the law. We’re experts in web design and digital marketing. You know the legal profession best, we understand web design. Bear that in mind and together we’ll create an unbeatable website that drives masses of new business your way, giving you a distinct competitive advantage. Which, in a highly competitive world, is something worth having.