Need a website or internet marketing services for your law firm? Here is some stuff we think you should know.
Okay, so I’ll come clean that this post on law firm website design is really more appropriate for a landing page or sell sheet directed specifically towards attorneys. But, frankly, it ended being simultaneously a little long winded but substantive — two qualities better suited for a blog post than a pithy landing page. So, without further adieu…
Working for lawyers for so long has left us both impressed and shocked…
Impressed by the insight and intellect our attorney clients so regularly exercise.
Shocked by how such seemingly smart people can repeatedly make such bad decisions regarding who they let design their websites or provide them with with internet marketing services.
So, with no self-interest at all (cough, cough) we’ve put together the following list of things to do and things to avoid, when you’re looking at your next law firm website design project.
Don’t rent when you can buy.
Like I said, we love our attorney clients. We know they’re smart. And, because I was always the “Smart Alec” in my family, I love to tease them about their own decisionmaking prowess. There’s a parable I tell all our lawyer sales prospects. I call it “The Lawyer and the Hot Dog Stand Vendor. ” Here’s how it goes:
There once were two business professionals. One was a lawyer at one of Philadelphia’s most pretigious law firms. One owned a bunch of Hot Dog Carts around town. The Hot Dog Cart vendor and lawyer both needed new websites. The Hot Dog Cart vendor came to see us for a quote on a site. We sat down with him and explained how we work with our clients. ‘Basically, Mr. Hot Dog Cart vendor, we’ll design and write a beautiful website which accurately positions your business uniquely within the competitive marketplace of downtown lunch cart vendors. Not only will it be well-written and functional, it will also be easy to find by others on the web. When we finish, you’ll pay us money and then that website will be all yours, for as long as you’d like to use it.’
The lawyer went to one of two very well-known-nationally “legal marketing and information providers.” The lawyer noticed that all of their clients’ websites had a ho-hum sameness to them but he’d been getting all kinds of nifty legal products from them for decades so, ‘they must know what they’re doing, right?’
The lawyer talked to one of the aggressive sales rep’s from one of the well known national legal data providers and here’s what they said. ‘Soooo, Mr. Attorney. We’ll design and write a brand, spanking new website for you. It will be beautiful (so he said), well-written and, hopefully, get you new business. You’ll pay us a lot of money at the outset and a really substantial monthly fee thereafter. Oh and, by the way, you won’t really own this website at all and, after you decide to stop paying us, it’ll come down and you’ll never see it again…”
The lawyer got his new website — which he paid through the nose for — and which looked similar to many of his competitors’ sites. Eventually, his website went away when he got sick and tired of paying too much for it on a monthly basis.
The Hot Dog Cart vendor, meanwhile, loved his website for many years — until it was time to redesign — when he again hired us. His business prospered, his children grew up. Now they’re all lawyers.*
When I get to the end of this story, I always close with the question, ‘So, Mr. Attorney. Who was the smarter businessperson in this story. The Lawyer? Or the Hot Dog Cart vendor?”
The day when it seemed reasonable to rent a website is over, if it ever existed at all. Our first piece of advice to our attorney clients, then, is to stay away from anyone that doesn’t want to sell you their work outright.
Just because a firm builds websites exclusively for lawyers all day, every day, doesn’t mean that they’re any good at it.
The dawn of the Internet Era brought with it the emergence of “law firm specific” website design and internet marketing companies. Now, I’m not saying they’re all bad. Some of them are very good, in fact. But, the idea that somehow or another you get better work from a legal specialist is suspect. The first thing you need to watch out for is cookie cutter branding. If I were running a marketing shop where all my clients were in the same industry sector, there would be a natural tendency for “messaging and design bleed” to take place. Take a look at that legal marketing firm’s portfolio. Do all the sites look the same? Is there originality and rigor to the thinking behind them? Would you want to hire one of their attorney clients if you were looking for legal services? Based on the answers to those questions, you should either hire them or move on…
If that same website design company also says it offers law firm ‘internet marketing,’ your eyebrows should raise…
Capitalizing on the same captive audience they’ve worked so hard to get, many “law firm website designers” these days have expanded their services and claim to be “law firm SEO specialists.” If my skepticism about ‘law firm only website designers’ was mild, my skepticism about industry-specific SEO is profound. Here’s why:
The idea that a firm offering organic SEO services would specialize in only one industry sector is contrary to the best practices of SEO itself. Think about it. The job of an SEO firm is to get a client new business by increasing it’s prominence in organic search results. That means that, for instance, if I’m working for a Personal Injury Law Firm, I want to get them on Page One. Sounds good, no? But what happens when I get ANOTHER Personal Injury Law Firm client? How can I serve one client’s best interests when I’m working for one of their competitors?
Specializing, then, in one industry sector is almost antithetical to the idea of a “best practice driven” SEO shop. Be careful.