This article was originally published in LMA's Strategies & Voices in March 2021.
The past year has certainly been one for the history books. In the US, we witnessed two impeachments, an insurrection, months of protests over racial injustice—and, of course, a deadly pandemic that has kept everybody painfully isolated.
Fortunately, there are signs of improvement, and history tells us that after periods of chaos, societies emerge transformed. So, you can expect 2022 to look very different from 2019.
What does this mean for legal marketers? It’s too early to say for sure. But we see one obvious trend: more of our time will be spent online.
The pandemic has fostered a work-from-anywhere culture that will clearly outlast COVID-19. And therefore, we should expect that more business development will happen over Zoom. And less of it will happen in-person.
It also means that your firm’s website will be more important than ever. Judging by the number of new-website inquiries we have fielded over the past several months, law firms realize this. And they are looking to make serious investments in their online personas.
So, what should a law firm’s post-pandemic website focus on? Here are a few ideas.
1. Messaging. Now is the time to rethink your firm’s message.
During times of crisis, the pace of change accelerates. The business and cultural landscapes noticeably shift. And businesses of all types need to respond to stay competitive.
As we are approaching the tail end of a crisis, now is the perfect time for your firm to reconsider your brand message (and how you communicate it on your website). As you go through the process, here are some questions to consider:
- Has demand shifted? Does the firm need to appeal to new markets?
- Are the demographics of your buyers evolving? Industry trends show that buyers of legal services are becoming more culturally diverse—and less male—than ever before.
- Does your message need to be adapted to today’s cultural environment? Disruptive events like the Black Lives Matter protests and the pandemic can change clients' perceptions.
- Is your current message too generic to connect with anyone?
For more ideas on how to approach your brand message, check out our whitepaper Market Positioning for Law Firms. The paper provides a framework for law firms as they consider how they want to present themselves to the world.
2. Diversity. It’s now a business development issue.
Last year’s massive protests over racial injustice put a spotlight on issues of “workplace diversity.” And since then, diversity has become an existential issue for law firms, as large buyers of legal services have made it a requirement of their vendors (as seen in Coca-Cola’s new missive).
So, how does a firm best communicate its dedication to diversity? After examining the Diversity content on over 100 large law firm websites for a series of recent blog posts, we have some ideas, including
- Think beyond the “Diversity section” of your website. Although a lush Diversity & Inclusion section is definitely a plus, you also need to consider the rest of your website. There’s value to be gained by looking for places on your website where you can raise the profile (and amplify the voices) of your diverse team.
- Sincerity is key. A firm’s diversity content can fall flat if it doesn’t appear to have the sincere support of firm leadership. One way to combat this impression is to capture your Managing Partner (or other top brass) on video making a personal statement about their dedication to diversity. People will take notice (inside and outside your organization).
3. ADA Compliance. Enforcement lawsuits are becoming common.
For years, website compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was an afterthought. Our clients would inquire about attaining compliance and, upon seeing the price tag, they would strike it from the project scope. This has changed as the number of ADA enforcement lawsuits has sharply increased.
Lawsuits are the primary enforcement mechanism for ADA compliance. If consumers see a non-compliant business, they can sue that business to enforce compliance (and win a monetary award).
In 2016, just 262 businesses were sued for non-compliance with ADA rules for website accessibility. By 2019, that number had jumped to 2,235 cases. One can only imagine that the number of ADA lawsuits will continue to grow exponentially and that ADA compliance will soon become a must-have for law firm websites.
4. Speed & SEO. Google now insists that your site be fast.
Nobody likes a slow site. In fact, one recent study of 100,000 user sessions found a direct relationship between website pageload speed and stickiness. Visitors stuck around and viewed twice as many pages on speedy websites.
But there’s another reason to care about pageload speed: Google rankings.
Recently Google elevated the importance of speed in determining page rank. They measure speed using a tool called Google Page Speed Insights, which scores websites from 1 to 100. As the graphic below shows, most law firm websites do not perform well.
Research by Great Jakes indicates that the only way to achieve top page speed scores is to build your website using the newest front-end technologies, like React. React, which was originally developed by Facebook, enables lightning-fast pageload (among many other benefits) and has been widely adopted by thousands of leading companies like Uber, Netflix, AirBNB, and Amazon.
For more about the business benefits of React, check out our whitepaper ReactJS: The new, new thing for law firm websites.
5. Visitor Journey. You need a “beyond-the-homepage” strategy.
Typically, less than 40% of the traffic to a law firm website enters through the homepage. For large law firms, this number is closer to just 20%. Visitors are now bypassing the homepage by clicking links found in Google, emails, and social media that send them directly to content deep within your site.
When planning your next website, consider the user-experience of a visitor who lands on an article or alert in the middle of your site. Ask yourself these questions:
- Are your articles and blog posts dead ends? Or do they tease related content?
- Are the pages deep within your website well-branded? How do they look?
- If your firm has a big announcement, will people see it if they bypass the homepage?
- If the user’s journey ends without having visited the homepage, what kind of impression have you left?
6. Engagement. Is your website too passive?
It is no longer sufficient for a law firm website to be a static repository of content, like a library. That’s too passive. In a world shaped by Instagram and TikTok, people expect to be engaged.
How can legal marketers respond to these shifting expectations? The answer is content teasing. Algorithm-driven content-teasing tools can automatically tease new and relevant content to visitors. So, if a visitor is reading an article on Securities Law, they will see teasers for recent blog posts, case studies, and upcoming events relevant to that subject.
Advanced content-teasing tools provide benefits that will please website visitors and your marketing team alike. Here are just a few:
- A Fresher Site – Content-teasing tools automatically promote the site’s newest content. This keeps your website feeling fresh and relevant.
- Cross-selling – Your website can cross-promote content from related services such as Real Estate, Land Use, and Environmental Law. This can enable cross-selling by letting people know about your broad expertise.
- More Page Views – Visitors are prompted to read more of your newest and best content. This means that they will spend more time learning how you can help them achieve their goals.
When times are good, it can be painfully difficult to effect change. Nobody wants to mess with a good thing. However, in times of crisis, even the curmudgeons are suddenly open to considering all sorts of change.
Thanks to a difficult year, the window of opportunity is now open. Do you want to change your firm’s positioning or its tagline? Or reexamine the goals of the firm’s website? Or rethink how the firm substantiates its claims of expertise? There has never been a better time than right now.
Best of luck, legal marketing friends!