On December 31st, in this blog, Content Pilot announced the 2010 Ten Foundational Best Practices for law firm Web sites. We wait with anticipation American Lawyer Media’s announcement of the 2010 AmLaw 100 firms – those law firms whose Web sites we will review against these Ten Foundational Best Practices. Between now and May 1, 2010, I will preview each of the Ten FBPs, starting today with “Communicating your Message, ” the first of the ten. Perhaps with the exception of foreign languages or personalization, it applies equally to the largest global law firms as it does a local firm with one office.
Remember, the Ten Foundational Best Practices are “foundational” – the must-have elements and features of your site. These best practices do not address the latest, coolest fringe widgets and functions of today (although they might be added to the Ten FBPs in future years). Historically, firms focused too much on “cool” and not enough on usability and quick delivery of relevant content.
The attributes of this first FBP are:
1. Logo, firm name and strategy copy stand out
2. Practice and industry focus are apparent
3. Geographic reach are important (one office/40 offices)
4. Contact info is clear and easy to find
5. The site features:
a. Links to foreign language translations
b. Personalization, if it supports strategy
This FBP is, simply, about the first impression your site makes. And, in how few seconds your visitor can figure out where to travel next. Does your home page give a preview of what it’s like to do business with you? How hard does your home page work for you in the critical few seconds you have a visitor’s attention?
Your logo should be visible, but not over-power the rest of the page. It is an anchoring element both navigation-ally (always linking back to the home page from the interior pages) and design-wise. But beware of super-sizing it – it’s not necessary. Visitors get it.
“Strategy copy” is a short, compelling positioning statement or short paragraph about your firm. Resist the temptation to merely recount features (700 lawyers, 10 offices) – that information can be handled elsewhere. Step out and put your stake in the ground — capture the position that you can own. This strategy copy should preview the tone and voice of the rest of the content in the site. Be critical about it and ensure that you are talking to your visitors about something that matters to them (clients/prospects/new hires, etc.) – not merely focusing internally on the firm.
We recommend cascading navigation that previews your listing of practices and industries. Likewise, use such navigation to list and link to your offices, list them on the site or in the footer navigation on the bottom of the page. Listing and linking enables visitors to quickly peruse the options and choose the one most relevant to their interest. The most important benefit to visitors: you are not wasting their time.
Many large firms have so many practices and sub-practices that they feel it’s impractical or cumbersome to list them in a navigation box or traditional cascade (the list can extend below the fold). Box navigation (see www.millerchevalier.com) can accommodate a long list as you can see on the Miller & Chevalier Web site.
Show personality, show what it’s like to do business with you.
All AmLaw 100 firms are global and represent clients with global operations. Including foreign languages supports your foreign offices as well as target clients and prospects around the world.
A terrific example of personalization that supports firm strategy is Davis Wright Tremaine (www.dwt.com). Visitors can quickly register their preferences so that content that is most relevant to them is pushed to the home page. DWT’s strategy copy is very clear about its bespoke service: “A law firm devoted to helping our clients achieve success as they define it by providing service customized to their particular needs.”
In my next post, I’ll jump to Foundational Best Practice #4 – Lawyer Biographies.