Posted by: johnocunningham | January 12, 2010

Law Firm Websites: 10 New Features

I regularly review and write material for law firm Websites, so I spend a lot of time scouring the Internet to see what leading-edge firms are doing.  Based on my experience, I have noticed 10 relatively new features that top notch firms are offering that should help to win business clients.

Those features and some of the firms offering them are as follows:

1. Public statements of commitment to service standards. These statements essentially amount to a service pledge, similar to that you might find at many great companies in the service sector. See e.g.:  Thompson Hine LLP and Goulston & Storrs and Collora LLP.

2. Statements of value proposition. Some firms are brave enough to put themselves in the clients’ shoes and ask “Why hire us?” A few have even been bold enough to answer that question publicly for clients. See e.g.: Quinn Emanuel and Collora LLP.

3. More complete access to “Our People.” Most law firms have their entire professional staffs missing from their directories that are often entitled, “Our People.” This is incredibly irritating to clients, who often need to find a paralegal for a routine question, or a management team person about an accounting or billing issue or maybe an IT issue related to extranets, e-billing or document management in litigation. Press people similarly want a contact – a PR person – for finding quick comments or sources for quotes. Now some client-oriented leading-edge firms actually list many or all of their professionals other than lawyers. See e.g.: Goulston & Storrs ; Miles & Stockbridge; and Burns & Levinson LLP.

4. Useful information about industries and clients served. Some firms keep their clients hidden from view and they make no effort on their Websites to speak to one of the business client’s biggest concerns – relevant industry experience. But other visionary firms are leading the way with more information about clients and industries served, and a few are even starting to organize their practices by industry (rather than just by legal specialty).  See e.g.: Reed Smith ; Quinn Emanuel ; and Miles Stockbridge.

5. Information about the firm’s mission, values or culture. Business people say “it’s all about the culture,” but some law firms think culture is about the kinds of paintings on your walls. It is not. It is about what you stand for, why go to work each day, and HOW you intend to get your work done. It is about what principles are guiding you. Some firms get that and display it. See e.g.: Holland & Hart ; Quinn Emanuel ; Wilmer Hale; Collora LLP and Bingham McCutchen.

6. Information about knowledge management and technology. Technology is now the single biggest competitive differentiator in business other than people. You need the best of both to be best in your field, and yet most law firms ignore or shun any mention of how they use technology to keep costs down, to deliver faster, to do more for clients. A few firms, however, are telling their clients and prospective clients exactly how they use technology for the client’s benefit. See e.g.: Littler ; Holland & Hart ; and McGuire Woods.

7. A way to communicate with alumni. Some law firms have realized that alumni are among their biggest potential referral and networking sources. They also realize the critical importance of maintaing good relations with alumni, who may go on to become in-house counsel, government lawyers or judges that influence and shape reputations. These firms have used their Websites to facilitate bringing alumni into the family fold. See e.g.:  Sullivan Cromwell Bingham McCutchen; and Nixon Peabody.

8. More information about law firm careers.  Some firms recognize that they are competing for the best people to serve their clients in all professional capacities. Those firms are dedicating space on their Websites to attract the best talent and inform them of career opportunities at their firms. They are also touting awards for “best place to work” or other recognitions that are important to employees. See e.g.: Bingham McCutchen; Nixon Peabody; and Alston Bird.

9. Value-added Publications. A good number of leading-edge firms are now using their Websites to promote their expertise by offering access to newsletters, articles, or even books. Some also make webinars or other digital publications available through their sites. One of the best in show is undoubtedly Littler Mendelson. See e.g.: Littler ; Bingham McCutchen; Alston Bird; and Nixon Peabody.

10. Law Blogs (sometimes called “Blawgs”).  These Website “appendages” often raise a related Website’s visibility, search engine ranking and value to clients. But, of course, it is very hard for large firms to give their imprimatur to the written work of any one lawyer on behalf of the firm (even though they daily give individual lawyers license to advocate publicly on behalf of clients). So, naturally you see more frequent blogging from smaller firms, but some larger firms are getting into the act. See e.g.: The Beasley Law Firm blog of Max Kennerly;  the NJ Employment Law Blog of the Steinberg Law Offices; and the Holland & Hart Healthcare Law Blog.

There you have it. Ten great ways to improve your Website in 2010. Call me, John Cunningham, at the number indicated on my blog if you want more info.

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