The big problem with law firm websites

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The big problem with law firm websites

For reasons that will be of no interest to you at all, law firm websites have been much on my mind the past few weeks. So much so that I decided to carry out a survey into them.

To my complete lack of astonishment I discovered that:

·       90% of law firms build long-term relationships with their clients,

·       93% are passionate about offering bespoke legal solutions, and

·       100% say they put clients first.

OK, I’ll admit, the survey wasn’t exactly scientific and consisted of me pottering around online for a couple of hours. But the figures are probably pretty close to the mark.

Apart from the crime against the English language of “bespoke legal solutions” (for more on which, see below) there’s something odd going on here. Every law firm I speak to is at pains to point out that they aren’t like other firms. And they’re right – every firm is different. Yet all their websites say variations of the same thing. The result is that it is difficult for potential clients to differentiate between firms.

The problem seems to me not so much what they are trying to say but how they say it. Lawyers are honourable types (despite what some may claim) who take the meaning of words at face value. So, when they say they put clients first, build relationships etc., they believe what they say and expect the reader to believe them too.

These websites all fall into the trap of ‘telling’ the reader about the firm and how wonderful it is rather than ‘showing’ them.

The decision to buy something, even legal services, is based about 20% on logic and 80% on emotion. And the way to engage people emotionally is through stories; in short, through showing, not telling.

In a legal context, showing means two things:

·       Case studies that demonstrate all those aspects of your services that are important: legal expertise, dedication to the client, the strength of your long-term client relationships, etc.

·       Client testimonials. Third party validation is infinitely more powerful than blowing your own trumpet. Which is why people read Amazon product reviews assiduously and largely ignore the advertising guff that surrounds the products themselves.

It is through these case studies and testimonials that you can demonstrate how your skills and the way you tackle your clients’ legal problems set you apart from your competitors.

Which brings us to “passionate about offering bespoke legal solutions”. So many lawyers claim to be passionate it’s a wonder they get any work done. Saying you are passionate is meaningless, not to say lazy. It creates no picture in the mind of the reader in the way a case study would. It’s the legal equivalent of ‘GSOH’ in a lonely-hearts ad.

“Bespoke solutions” is equally worthless. “Bespoke” has become a horrible cliché. Is the idea to differentiate from solicitors who ignore the fact that every instruction is different and provide “off the shelf solutions”?

Similarly, “solutions” is so overused it has become an invisible word of no value. I assume some marketing wizard came up with the idea that the way to sell something was to promise to solve a problem. Hence “solutions”.

Put it this way. When the fire brigade saves a child from a burning building, no one wants to hear the fireman say he applied a bespoke firefighting solution to the problem of saving the child. We want to hear the child’s relieved mother say what heroes the fire service were to risk their lives entering a burning, smoke-filled house to rescue their bundle of joy.

Law firms would do well to remember the words of Anton Chekov: “Don’t tell me the moon is shining, show me the glint of light on broken glass.”

Simon Manuel, Ink & Dots.

Simon is the author of Why Your Law Firm Needs a Content Marketing Strategy – and How to Put One in Place, which is available for download here.