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The Evolution of Law Firm Websites

Tim ThurnWritten by Tim Thurn
Apr 13, 2016 1:00:05 PM

Think back to ten or even just five years ago and you’ll find some major pieces of our lives have changed significantly. From the way we consume information to the cars we drive, things have evolved quite a bit. This includes law firms and their websites. The way we do business in general has transformed quite a bit over the past few years and we need to transform along with it. People are more informed than ever before and tend to do a lot more research on their own before ever reaching out to someone for information about a service. This includes legal services. So how have law firm websites evolved to meet the needs of the evolving clients? Let’s take a look.

evolution_body.jpg(image via: Phillip Wilke)

Law Firm Websites of the Past:

Most law firm websites used to be a static, single-page site that covered just about everything someone could possibly need (which was not much) before picking up the phone and calling. Since then, we’ve moved on to multi-page sites that offer much more information to the visitor. These sites were still fairly simple and included a homepage, an attorney profile page, sometimes a page or pages about the practice area(s) and a page with contact information. In a word they were boring. Furthermore, once outdated they also became ineffective.

Latham & Watkins in 2000 vs. 2016: (via archive.org)

law_firms_body.jpg

As time went on, law firm websites began to include more media including higher quality images, some videos, and even testimonials from clients. Sections were created for news and thought leadership. In the example above, the new site for Latham & Watkins actually has a section titled "thought leadership" in the bottom right. Websites have moved from something that most law firms had just to have - to a valuable business asset that sets the tone of all future engagement with many potential clients. Today’s websites include high-quality images and video, in-depth attorney information, specific content about practice areas, and content that builds trust and establishes thought leadership for the lawyers.

Responsive Law Firm Websites

Beyond just the look and feel of websites evolving, the way we access them has also changed. We’re able to access websites in ways and places we never could before. Now, you can pull up a law firm's website on your cell phone during lunch, on your iPad on the train ride to work, and soon - even on your watch! And yet, many law firm websites are still not responsive to different device types. To be successful it is an absolute necessity that your firm's website become responsive

Speed Matters Too

Around the time we were still used to waiting for dial-up internet, websites sites still loaded very slowly; and we were okay with that. This is obviously not the case anymore. Now, we have the fastest internet and the shortest attention spans so we expect things to load almost instantly. In fact, 40% of people abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load (kissmetrics).

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All Pages on Your Site are Important

Traffic to law firm website homepages decreased by nearly 20% in 2013 alone. In fact, on average less than 40% of traffic now enters through the homepage. (Great Jakes) Why is this? Well, things like social media sites, Google searches, and email marketing have become more popular in recent years. This means traffic from these referral sources is bringing users to specific pages of content such as posts for services, blog posts, or relevant landing pages designed to convert strangers to known contacts. These visitors are coming in through other pages on the site and potentially never even seeing the homepage at all.

What does this mean for web design?

Firms can no longer get away with only having a homepage that performs well. All pages must be taken into consideration. Your entire site must be branded to feel like your firm, including your content. This means the style of your pages as well as the images you use and even the tone in which you write. Given that users are now typically bypassing homepages entirely, your website as a whole needs to put its best foot forward. You also need to give users both a way and a reason to navigate further through your site and not just bounce right back to search results or their LinkedIn without considering contacting you or at least learning more about you.

Social Media is Stealing Spotlight

Lawyer bios used to be one of the most highly trafficked sections of a law firm website, second only to the homepage. However, many lawyer bio pages are now taking a backseat to LinkedIn profiles. By designing lawyer bio pages that provide added value such as a video interview with the lawyer, links to their published work, or the ability to read something they’ve written recently can keep people on your site and help them build trust with your firm. Plus, this type of content written by lawyers is often shared and helps expand the audience of people who may come to your site.

What is Content Really?

Developing valuable content for your site helps lawyers get back to the important thing: building a good reputation. If we can stop thinking of it as marketing and rather as helping people and building relationships, it becomes much easier and comes with more of a purpose with which lawyers can align. Google has placed a huge emphasis on content creation. If you’re not publishing content on a regular basis then it’s time to get started if you’re serious about your marketing.

Today’s Websites Build Trust

The fact is, people do business with people they trust. When you optimize your website you’re optimizing for trustworthiness. Websites are now starting to feature things like stories about clients, guest insights, curated blog posts or other insight from lawyers that is displayed more prominently on the site, and yes: social media. 

Today’s great law firm websites help to strengthen law firm’s reputation, build trust with visitors, convert warm leads into inquiries and drive more traffic to the site via optimized content. These sites respond well to all device types and are easy to understand and navigate from any page on the site. Elements of great law firm websites today include: a captivating and modern design, high-quality photos and videos, search engine optimization, content that builds trust and develops thought leadership, and even a nod to your social media presence.

Are you ready to bring your site up to speed? Get started today by learning more about DuoLaw:

Topics: Marketing

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