I just presented the Keynote address at the 2013 LMA Legal Tech Conference in San Francisco, previewing the results of the 2013 AmLaw 100 Websites research findings. Congratulations and thanks to Clare Ota and Adam Stock for organizing a sold-out, superior conference.
Sponsored by Content Pilot LLC and supported by RightHat, the Study analyzes the nation’s largest websites based on Ten Foundational Best Practices, which include several attributes within each FBP. These attributes are foundational – the must-have features and functionality that visitors expect and require to ensure a good experience with your site. These Foundational Best Practices are not just applicable to large law firms – they scale well and most also make sense for small and mid-sized professional services firms.
I started conducting this research in 2005 because law firms were collectively spending millions and millions of dollars on their websites and they weren’t making visitors any happier. Five AmLaw 100 surveys later (2005, 2006, 2007, 2010, 2013), we continue to ask the question, “How are the world’s largest law firms doing in this medium?”
And the question that law firms should be asking is — Do you feel like you’re getting your money’s worth from your website investment?
For anyone doing a website redesign or refresh, this research will give you a framework for the conversations you need to have inside your firm. It will make it easier to make visitors happier, for you not to mess up, for your project not to get derailed and for you to stay within budget.
This blog post will be the first in a series where I share the results of the 2013 analysis. I have already written posts that are worth reading: The most startling finding from the 2012-2013 AmLaw 100 Websites research – a troubling deficiency and Website visitors don’t read (and we’ve known this for a long time).
For each of the Foundational Best Practices, I list the FBP, the attributes under it, the average score (on a 100-point scale) earned by the 99 AmLaw 100 firms (list taken from the 2012 American Lawyer top 100 firms, which is actually only 99 because of the failure of Dewey LeBoeuf), the pie chart of results for each FBP and note a few findings. I’ll also share the names of law firms that performed well in each category.
If you are interested in a Ten Foundational Best Practices audit of your website, contact me at email@example.com for more information.
The scoring grid for each attribute within each Foundational Best Practice:
- 86-100 = Excellent
- 71-85 = Good
- 51-70 = Fair
- 26-50 = Poor
- 25 and below = Unacceptable
FBP#1 – Communicating your Message – 72.6
- Clear and differentiating positioning strategy – 39.1
- Practice and industry focus are apparent – 81.2
- Geographic reach is apparent (1 office or 40) – 98.3
- Contact information is clear and easy to find – 93
- Site features or links to foreign language translations – 47.8
As I noted in the blog post linked above (The most startling finding . . . ), the average score for these big important firms for “Clear and differentiating positioning strategy” was 39.1, or “Poor” – a pretty dismal showing for strategy. Firms have lost courage when it comes to showing differentiating strategy on their websites – it means the large firms are increasingly looking alike. The AmLaw 100 firms performed much better on strategy in 2007 than they do now.
42 AmLaw 100 firms have rotating carousels on their home pages, obviously a very popular and successful feature. The carousel enables firms to showcase practices, industries and other commitments of the firm. Because of its high adoption rate in the legal industry, it’s important that firms focus on making it unique to their firm – a differentiating strategy is the best place to start.
All AmLaw 100 firms boast that they are global, but only 47.8 of the firms have non-English translations – marginally up from the 45 firms in the 2010 Study.
The total score for Communicating your Message was 72.6 – barely “Good.” This is down almost 10 points from the 2010 Study.
Seven firms scored 100, including Wilson Sonsini. Its positioning strategy is powerful – “Partnering with the world’s most innovative companies for more than 50 years.” While other Silicon Valley law firms certainly serve leading innovators, Wilson Sonsini can put this stake in the ground as one of, if not the first.
The others who scored 100 are:
FBP#2 – Graphics and Design – 77
- Bold, branded layout style, grid and use of white space – 83
- The site uses CSS@FONT-FACE web fonts to further branding design – 73
- Strong imagery reinforces the brand and is fresh and unique. It effectively advances the story about what the firm does – 76
- Site makes good use of HTML5 instead of FLASH – 73
- Site is optimized for = or > 1024 pixel screen resolution – 80
This FBP is not about how attractive the sites are, although we certainly looked at that. We look at the objective things we can measure, not our subjective feelings and opinions about the designs. Jeff Yerkey, Web/Interactive Director of RightHat, conducted the analysis of this FBP. We updated the attributes in this FBP from the 2010 Study, informed by broad web industry standards and best practices.
All these average scores fall within a ranking of “Good,” and the total score for this FBP is only 77. There is a lot of room for improvement here, especially on the lower end – 17% of the firms ranked Fair and Poor. 19% of the firms ranked excellent, with Goodwin Procter topping the list. Others in the top ten are:
- Blank Rome
- Drinker Biddle
- Cozen O’Conner
- Foley & Lardner
- Milbank Tweed
- Wilson Elser
- Nixon Peabody (the former Nixon site)
- Bryan Cave
I’ll soon post the results for FBPs 3 and 4, Navigation and Lawyer Biographies.