We had a superb time at the brilliantly organized LMA Northeast Regional Conference last week. One session that stood out amongst the packed schedule was a masterclass on the law firm website of the future. The breakout room was absolutely packed listening to Nancy Stein, Siobhan Burns, and Lynn Tellefsen-Stehle talk about how to build the law firm website of the future.
As law firm marketing has evolved over the last 30 years, web capabilities have also moved on dramatically with a firm's website becoming its most important digital asset.
With the discussion broken down into 3 sections, we've shared our notes on what was a really useful session.
1. Brand: Your Strategic Foundation
"A BRAND is a promise of performance, reinforced by a consistent experience, that results in a preference."
Establishing a strong brand is the first pillar to building a successful legal website.
Your virtual assets should bring your brand to life, creating unique experiences for your clients and stakeholders to engage with your firm and your people.
You should have a clear idea when it comes to answering the following questions:
- How does your firm stand out?
- How are you different from the law firms you compete with?
- Who are your ideal clients?
- Who do you want to be engaging with?
The challenge for law firms when it comes to establishing this unified identity, is that the firm can differ vastly from practice to practice OR even on an attorney-to-attorney basis. This is why it's paramount to create a brand that focuses on what makes you unique, how you differentiate, and why your lawyers/clients choose to work at your firm compared to others.
This clear vision of your firm's identity is going to make it easier to position your differentiators through one consistent website experience.
Beyond your website, your brand should be at the heart of everything you do - deciding to onboard a new client, firm recruitment, launching new initiatives/marketing campaigns.
This is why it's paramount to get the following stakeholders involved in developing your firms brand:
- Your Current Leadership Team - it's important that they are involved from the get-go - they can use this project to set their vision and ambition of the firm
- Your Future Leaders - speaking with your future leaders will get you to think about your firm of tomorrow (where you want to be positioned in years to come)
- Speak with your Clients - this can be a great way to engage your clients in the process and understand why they chose to work with you
- Look at what your Competitors are doing - go beyond this and look outside of the legal category. What are the best consumer brands doing? What are other professional advisory firms doing - the likes of The Big 4, McKinsey, etc?
2. Content is King
Content, unsurprisingly, is the next critical part of building your firm's website. Once you have layered the foundation with your brand, content is the part of your website that is going to bring this to life.
What your content says and how it's organized on your website speaks volumes - particularly around showing that you understand your clients & their needs.
A few practical suggestions for making sure that your content is developing your brand identity:
- Perform a Content Audit to observe whether your current pool of content is supporting your brand and positioning your attorneys as the 'go-to' trusted advisors in their niche
- Develop a set of Content Guidelines that indicate what good content looks like and explains explicitly the content you do not want on your website
Being very deliberate with how your content is mapped out against your desired user journey will improve the experience you are able to deliver. Think about what information your clients & stakeholders need/want from your website and try to deliver this in a simple and engaging format.
Content TOPIC Not TYPE
Move away from organizing your content by TYPE (Client Alerts, Blogs, Podcasts, Reports, etc) and focus on TOPICS. This can be disruptive to the traditional way that a law firm builds its content blocks, but you need to shift from an internal to a client-focused perspective. A client doesn't want to click their way through your various content categories to find content relevant to them. The content type itself does not matter, the desired experience should focus on authentic, relevant, and valuable insights. Shifting the focus to content organized around TOPIC and not TYPE puts the wants and needs of your client first. Think McKinsey & PwC for firms that execute this experience effectively. There is also a cross-selling benefit to having an industry/topical focus beyond content solely structured around type and practice groups.
- Make it shorter
- Focus on problems in the context of solutions
- Attention-grabbing headlines
- Short paragraphs. Short Sentences.
- Include Call-to-Actions
- Must be timely
SEO - Google's algorithms change all the time - create rich, quality, client-relevant thought leadership
"YOU WILL NEVER GO WRONG IF YOU PROVIDE VALUE".
3. Functionality & Technology
How does your website facilitate your marketing strategy, functions, and tactics?
Your website should be your digital command center.
Question how you can make your marketing function more effective by leveraging technology as part of your integrated marketing stack.
Insist on adopting an AGILE framework for your website development & broader marketing delivery.
Your website is never 'DONE' - it should continuously evolve to meet the solutions clients want. Focus on the idea of continuously delivering value.
Look at what you currently have in terms of web capabilities, do a gap analysis, develop a clear vision of where you want to get to (destination), and make a plan for how you're going to get there.
It is essential that you include your IT Team / CIO in your technology decision-making process. They will bring questions and perspectives that make sure your technology is future-proofed, specifically around integrating with your existing MarTech stack.
FUNCTIONALITY + TECHNOLOGY = CLIENT EXPERIENCE
- Accessibility is HUGE - especially for driving experiences with wide-ranging and diverse audiences
- You need to develop and maintain stakeholder buy-in on an ongoing basis
- Geo Locations - geographic-based sites are becoming increasingly important, especially for global/international firms
- Your web project is never finished - focus on delivering continuous value!
- AGILE methodology (don't set it and forget it) - prioritize your delivery checklist and review it regularly
- Have to have a tolerance for failure - TEST in small batches and then refine based on results/data - test your hypotheses before you hit scale
- What we've learned over the last few years is that law firms can pivot when they need to - they can be creative & innovative - need to continue this
- Folks are directly accessing the information they need wherever they are - find out where your clients are as that is where you need to be!