It’s obvious to say that lawyers starting a new law firm need a new website, less apparent though is the need to build a law firm website that works.
As specialists in law firm marketing strategies we spend a fair amount of time consulting with new clients on effective marketing solutions to promote their new business. Regardless of whether they are first-time entrepreneurs embarking upon their first business or experienced lawyers with valuable contacts, venturing into a new practice either alone or in partnership with other lawyers, our philosophy remains that there isn’t a “one size fits all” solution.
Each website should embody the law firm’s expertise, personality and content for the target market. Since your website is likely to be the first interaction your new practice will have with potential clients, it’s essential that it creates a lasting first impression and that it effectively showcases your law firm’s expertise.
When you select office premises you make your selection mindful of how it will appear to your clients when they visit. The same applies if your furniture is no better than milk crates or bean bags for chairs. Your clients will rightly wonder if you are struggling and have ever won a case or actually represent anyone else.
When developing your website, the problem is exacerbated because your reach or footprint is much greater than those who attend your reception and sit on the milk crates. You can explain away the reception chairs once the new client arrives but skimping on your website will cost you a fortune because the new client will never arrive! Conversely, if you build a law firm website that works you will please your clients and convert prospects/leads into new clients.
Misleading Theories for New Websites
Bigger is better
New start-up businesses are often misled into believing that large websites create a perception of prominence and experience. However, the significance of a website lies more in the quality of its content, the experience it provides for website visitors and not in the volume of its pages. Today self-serving statements about how good you are, do little for a more sophisticated and questioning audience.
Less is more
Converse to the approach above, many new entrepreneurs are of the impression that having a basic website is all they need to achieve an online presence. This is far from the truth, particularly in today’s digital world where most people look to the internet to satisfy their needs or solve their problems. Your new website needs to portray your practice in a stronger light than it may actually be (especially if you’re still establishing your new practice).
Less is not more! ‘More’ is determined by what your prospective clients want. At a minimum, they want relevant and valuable information about the services your law firm offers, staff profile details about the scope and breadth of your experience, proof that you help your clients (tip - don't forget the testimonials) and a visually attractive website that depicts professionalism and trust.
Many new business owners are lured into believing that they need to invest in brand awareness advertising campaigns in order to get their name out there. Such ‘brand awareness’ campaigns typically require volume and reach and are therefore extremely expensive and mostly ineffective in promoting your law firm if you don't have a great website that reinforces your advertising.
Yes, of course promotion is important for your new practice, but this can be successfully achieved through a more cost-effective online marketing strategy and a professional website. As a new law firm, your aim is to drive enquiries, appointments and with time, your reputation will drive brand awareness.
Essential Website Qualities
It’s imperative that your website is pleasing to the eye, modern yet professional and representative of your company and image. Customise your website such that your firm’s personality shines through using powerful images of high-quality and a colour palette that reflects your brand.
A website’s navigation is listed as one of the most important aspects that determines the success of a website. Make it easy for your visitors to find the information they require in as few clicks as possible. Ensure your navigation is positioned where visitors expect it to be and that the top-level navigation labels are informative and not generic (tip - use keywords where possible for your navigation labels).
Navigation is extremely powerful in influencing a user’s experience and thus impacts upon bounce rate, time spent on the site and the number of pages per visit - all of which are critical elements affecting your search engine rankings.
The quality and value of your content is a key ingredient that will determine the success of your website. A high-quality content-rich website will always win hands-down over a light weight, non-informative website and is the difference between returning and non-returning visitors/clients.
You need to showcase what you do in a manner that makes it clear you have a deep understanding of the area of law and set out in a way the reader finds informative and valuable. The aim should be to satisfy the reader that they have found the law firm they were looking for and give you a call.
Your competition won’t disappear, and potential clients could keep searching and find them, so your web developer must build a website that works. Once you get the call it’s over to you; but we find most lawyers convert leads from this point well, so the key is to get the online enquiry or the phone call.
Professionally designed & maintained
Since your website is the shop-front of your new law firm, it’s vital that it’s designed and built by experts in their field. Furthermore, having it hosted by a specialist hosting provider is paramount. Such providers offer enhanced security features to protect your data and that of your customers, provide reliable services guaranteeing maximum up-time of your website and invest in infrastructure and technology to ensure faster page-load speeds. Slow loading websites are extremely frustrating and contribute to negative user experience, causing visitors to abandon a site and go elsewhere.
Considering all these factors, the ideal scenario is to have your website professionally built in advance of starting your new law firm. Not only will this give your new clients a sense of trust in your firm but will also give your referrers confidence in that they are referring their customers to a reputable law firm (and since your starting out, your dependence on referrers will reach new heights of importance).
If your circumstances prevent you from launching a professional website ahead of starting your new law firm, then you should aim to launch it as soon as possible thereafter. It is remiss of any new entrepreneur to underestimate the power of influence a well-designed, professional website will have on the success of their new business venture.
With the power of the internet now well established for law firm marketing and with trends clearly showing more people check the internet when buying their legal services, you need a website that properly showcases your firm. An underperforming website might not seem to cost much at all but ask yourself if it has really cost you a fortune, it’s like saving money by not putting oil in your car. It will cost you over and over if you don’t build a website that works.
In real terms an average website means you are going backwards and will experience fewer leads and less frequent enquiries. So new firm or not, if you need a new website or simply want an expert to look over your existing website, give me a call or send me an email.
About the author
Peter Heazlewood is a management and marketing consultant, he specialises in helping law firms develop their practices using business planning marketing and performance reporting techniques refined in his own successful law firm. Peter lives in Sydney with his wife and is the father of five adult children.