Let's talk about "Strategy Copy" on a law firm (or any) website. This is simply a short, compelling description of your firm that reflects your unique positioning strategy. It should work very hard — it carries your branding message(s), distinguishes your firm and succinctly offers differentiating benefits or features.
It is your "welcome mat." It's your chance to invite visitors to engage with your site and to quickly tell them why they should care about you.
Firms without a clear positioning strategy in place struggle with this small, but critical task, and often resort to numerical lists of #s of lawyers, offices, how old the firm is – or they omit the strategy copy entirely. If your numbers really distinguish your firm, then such a list can be very effective. If they don't (if many of your competitor or other firms have similar demographics), then don't resort to this. It will not differentiate you.
The first Foundational Best Practice attribute reads like this: Logo, firm name and strategy copy stand out. Today's Amlaw 100 websites are at least third generation sites, with many being fourth and fifth. Most law firms understand the anchoring and navigation role that the logo/firm name plays. So the 2010 Amlaw 100 80.8 score (on a scale of 1 to 100) for this attribute is lower than it should be – and it's because of a lack of effective (or any) strategy copy. We think all firms should score 100. Things have improved, though, since the last 2007 study, where the Amlaw 100 firms scored 58.7.
Certain firms make interesting and effective substitutions. Jones Day (www.jonesday.com) uses a flash feature that turns "One Firm Worldwide" into "Jones Day." This is powerful and memorable in its strength and simplicity. Greenberg Traurig (www.gtlaw.com) also uses flash for its strong positioning, ending up in a bold statement, "Built for Change." Given the rocky economy the last couple of years and how tenuous some corporate counsel/law firm relationships are as a result, Morgan Lewis's (www.morganlewis.com) message, "We're in this together. Your team and ours." – preceded by a very short paragraph, gives a visitor comfort that this firm appreciates how tough things have been.
Note that Faegre & Benson (www.faegre.com) chose essentially the same message as Morgan Lewis, and almost word for word — "We deliver more together." (I don't know who put this stake in the ground first, but Faegre is listing a "TM.")
Several Amlaw 100 firms rotate single words (I am not going to name the firms here) that could apply to any firm – innovative, creative, collaborative, both global and local, etc. Avoid making claims that you can't readily (or aren't willing to) prove. Dig deeper for the more authentic stake-in-the-ground messaging that exists in your firm.
Many firms avoid strategy copy, but substitute rotating experience or news. Experience and case studies can be strong and descriptive, and are a worthy substitute. But because state bar rules often prohibit the specifics that make a case study truly distinguishing, they are watered down. Breathe life into these stories to the extent that your state bar and client permissions allow.
Rotating news is another story. Law firms view their firm and lawyer news as critical to clients, when in fact, the "news" section of a website is one of the least visited areas (according to the Google analytics that we follow). Rotating informative features about late-breaking business/legal news is more popular to visitors – publications and articles areas of law firm websites rank higher, especially if the firms have e-alert campaigns in place that drive traffic to the website.
Note that many of your competitors are also publicizing the same news. For example, in August 2010, more than one-half of the Amlaw 100 firms had a news item related to the "Dodd-Frank Act" listed on the home page. So, while it may be current and relevant (and worth having on your home page), note that it doesn't set your firm apart.
The bottom line is: dig deep to find the unique messages about who you are and what you do. Given that your culture and lawyers/staff are uniquely yours, if not your client base and reach, it isn't impossible to unearth it. Master both the art and science of it.
Next we'll climb into navigation.