In an overcrowded and competitive market, how do law firms create a distinctive online presence? In this blog post, second-year BA (Hons) Law student Isobelle Bramley-Hill highlights the techniques law firms use to stand out from the crowd.
As a result of the advancement of technology and the way it is used in businesses, it is now integral for law firms, especially small and medium sized firms, to retain an interest in their online presence and the market in order to keep evolving to meet the needs of clients. This is pertinent with the rise of alternatives to traditional law firms now offering legal services. A firm's website is often the first point of contact between an individual and law firm and therefore it is crucial that it is accessible and clear.
Given this, which law firms are getting it right?
Darlingtons website appears professional but not at the expense of ease of use. The heading 'Solicitors who are dynamic and results driven' establishes that the priorities of the company lie in the achievement of outcomes for their clients.
A key area in an increasingly visual world is video. Darlingtons home page includes a video showcasing the firm's history and providing the chance to get to know the people involved, further enhancing visitors' familiarity with the firm. The opportunity for clients to connect personally with a firm and do their own research prior instils a sense of trust which encourages individuals to choose a firm.
We can find a more minimalist approach with a different strategy on the Streathers Solicitors site. This contains an introduction to the firm and highlights the areas in which their lawyers have won commendations and awards, providing the visitor with a positive view of the business and the services available to them.
Steathers' site also promotes the fact they have a number of branch offices in London. This demonstrates clients can have all the benefits of convenient local advice from a firm with a strong reputation, breadth of services and with a central London presence.
One of the key differentiators in websites that demonstrate an appreciation of changes in the legal market is a results-based approach and an understanding that it's essential to demonstrate trust, expertise and value.
Google has explicitly stated that for professional services, the google search engine requires websites and pages to demonstrate Experience, Authority and Trust - E.A.T). The central London firm Gannons seems to understand this well, with every expertise page including guidance on seeking assistance. It also contains sections on 'Why you would want to work with us' - for example here and here - which is supportive of clients' needs and eliminates any doubt, whilst setting Gannons apart from its many competitors.
Social media integration
Mischon de Reya's website states: 'It's business. But it's personal', and this is evident throughout their website. It features social media integration which creates personal interest and greater promotion of their causes and values, which are rooted in justice and breaking away from tradition, linking to the firm's international influence. The 'Latest' section contains videos, interviews and podcasts. These forms of media are strikingly modern, and the issues that they highlight include topical ones, such as Brexit and feminism. This will generate interest from younger people and displays the broad expertise of the firm.
Similarly, Womble Bond Dickinson's website immediately addresses topical issues, displaying an invitation to learn more about 'Life after Brexit' on the first page and varied insights below. This shows that a firm is maintaining an interest in current events and can advise clients in a changing legal climate.
On this same note, the firm boasts programmes including panel-based events, seminars, training, and networking opportunities as well as a monthly digital digest available to clients which are easily sourced through the website.
Shentons' website expresses that their focus is in making the law work for the individual. This is reflected in the approach of using client's testimonials on the first page beneath the company's contact details. This helps to gain confidence from other potential clients and encourage them to make contact - usually individuals will be more inclined to trust the words of other clients, because they are more likely to give a fair and honest assessment of the service provided.
Another strategy which can bear fruit is to be very niche and to demonstrate real expertise and specialism. A good example of this for family law is the Marilyn Stowe website where videos are used providing clarity on aspects of the law they practice. This gives potential clients a clear understanding on a subject quickly and is likely to give them the impression that instructing the firm will result in the same experience.
A website will be successful when it is accessible, expresses the values and identity of the firm, provides clear information and clear experience and a strong value proposition. Websites that are based on these features are those most likely to create trust and positive relationships between clients and firms and are a good indicator for students as to which firms are embracing the increased competition and change in the legal market and which are trying to resist change.
Isobelle Bramley-Hill's blog post was the winning entry in a University of Winchester competition for aspiring solicitors run by Darlingtons Solicitors. Isobelle's prize is one week of work experience at Darlingtons Solicitors. The competition was launched at an event hosted at the University by the University Law Society, when Craig Sharpe, a marketing specialist from Darlingtons Solicitors spoke about how marketing has become more important to law firms, a fact which applicants need to be aware of when applying for jobs.
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