This article originally appeared in the July 2023 issue of Of Counsel: The Legal Practice and Management Report
Designing a new website can be such a time-consuming, painstaking, expensive task that, when it’s finally launched, it’s no wonder lawyers have lost interest in it. They quickly move on to other pressing projects that feel more important—and frankly, more fun.
Return on this investment—the sought after ROI—happens over time with continuity, consistency, and commitment. Post-launch, when certain exasperated lawyers ask, “Why did we spend all this money?!” an acceptable answer for any leader in your firm to give is, “What have you done to invest in it? Have you kept your bio current? Have you provided experience details to the marketing team so they can update the website, pitch, and proposal materials?”
Of course, they haven’t. Hold all your lawyers accountable for getting the ROI you deserve. If you believe it should be everyone’s job to keep it fresh and growing, read on.
What do lawyers care about? Their bios. Once they realize that the majority of your website visitors are viewing lawyer profiles, they quickly get very self-focused. How does my bio look and how does it read? If lawyers are confident in the quality of their personal pages—the photos, and the currency and relevance of their experience lists—they seldom give the other 5,000 or more pages of your website much thought. That page count isn’t an exaggeration; AmLaw 200 firms have at least that and the largest firms have multiples of that.
But what about the quality of your colleagues’ bios? Fine if your bio represents you well, but what about your partners’ bios? Do the bios of the partners you bring in on client matters who are critical to the success of a deal or the outcome of a trial represent you—and them—well? After all, the reason you should care is that you’re asking clients to trust these colleagues. You’re transferring the trust they have in you to these other lawyers.
This is a critical hand-off that happens every day but it often doesn’t go very smoothly.
As unrealistic as what follows sounds, you should care about every bio on your law firm website as though it were your own. You might boast, “My clients hire me, not the law firm.” But unless you are a solo practitioner and you work entirely alone matter after matter, this is not entirely true. The law-firm collective is significant in generating the most desirable results for your clients, even if you’re the lead when it comes to driving the relationship.
If you doubt that, consider the lateral partners who have left your firm to go to another firm and the ones who have joined your partnership from a competitor. Both of those lawyer groups promised that “their” clients would follow them. How did that turn out? Statistically and anecdotally, the number of clients who work with several partners in a firm who then follow a departing partner is considerably smaller than what was promised in the sales pitch to that partner’s new firm.
The First Three of Ten Practical Tips for Your Website Content (the Rest to Come in Part Two):
But First, Change your Attitude. If you’re thrilled to be a part of the community that your law firm offers, then care about everything in the firm that represents it. There are few tools available that can encompass most of the strengths of your firm, tell your differentiating story, highlight your culture and values, have the flexibility to be updated within seconds, and have the power to reach clients and prospects in every corner of the world that matters to you. But your website is, uniquely, one of these tools. So, stop thinking that your firm’s website is someone else’s job. It should be everyone’s job to care for and feed it.
- Your marketing and business development team desperately needs updated experience details from you. Don’t make them beg. Buyers of legal services want to know three things: What have you done? For whom have you done it? How did you do it? The answers to these questions won’t necessarily get you hired, but they will guarantee that you’ll be on coveted shortlists. And, if you don’t provide them, you have little chance of getting hired, because your competitors are providing these details. Once on the shortlist, then it’s up to you to persuade the buyers why you/your team are the very best choice.
Be the “experience advocate” in your firm—walk the halls (virtual or in-person) and cajole your colleagues into regularly updating their bios and service/industry pages, too. Your valuable experience is where the future money lives in your firm.
- Be concise. Website visitors scan, they don’t read. Craft action-oriented, compelling content throughout the site that clearly communicates all your talents (not just the nuts and bolts of what you do). You’re writing a story—explore ways to capture their attention by showcasing relationship skills, responsiveness, inventive thinking, and the time you pulled a rabbit out of a hat at the eleventh hour. Use relevant quotes, callouts, and highlights in colorful containers or boxes to catch their eyes. Use short, crisp, conversational, and informal phrases and sentences.
- Prove you’re a trusted authority, but never make any claims you can’t prove. Thought leadership and industry insights can be wildly effective IF they tell interesting stories that are relevant to what’s going on in the world. High-quality articles, white papers, case studies, and webinars can generally be improved by humanizing the details. Take a hard look at what you and your team are producing—what story are they telling and what does the quality of this content say about you? [See the August issue for tips four through ten.]