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 If you want your law firm to grow and be successful in the modern marketplace, your website needs to be your friend and not your enemy. Your website is the backbone of your business, supporting all your marketing efforts. It must be professional, and like a good friend, stand by you in both good and challenging times.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, the very state and quality of your website is a desperate necessity. If you don’t have a website, or if it isn’t effective, or if it is poor (as judged by others), then it’s like an enemy working against you and, in all probability it’s game over for your firm.

With people working remotely, your website is most likely your sole source of brand representation, making it a key component in the survival of your business during these difficult times. In the current climate, it is unlikely you will bump into your key referrers in the street and you can forget about a coffee catch-up or taking a client to lunch. Like all of us, if they weren’t already, your potential new clients and existing clients are searching online.

How good is your firm’s website right now?

We are dealing with lawyers and checking out their websites all the time and have a bird’s eye view of the Australian legal profession when it comes to law firm websites. In the last few weeks alone, we have analysed literally hundreds of law firm websites. Most we would categorise as ‘poor’. Sadly, even some newer websites which would have cost the principals a lot of money are just not going to deliver.

These observations about Australian law firms may influence you or help you review or consider where your firm’s website sits and if that matters to you:

  • A minority of law firms do not have a website. If you fall into this category it is highly likely your firm will wither on the vine and ultimately fail. Principals who defer a website thinking they will be saved by continuing to get work by word of mouth are likely the most at risk.
  • Most law firm websites for small to medium sized firms are rubbish in that they are not content rich, provide nothing to compel a viewer to call the firm, and confuse what they do without even knowing it is confusing (read this article to the end for solutions here).
  • A small minority of small to medium sized law firms have exceptionally good websites.
  • Most of the Big Law websites are good.

What does this mean? It means that no matter which suburb or region your firm is located in, or whatever work you do, we think the majority of your competitors have a website that is rubbish. Or conversely, very few, if any of your competitors have very good websites.

Why has this come about?

There are a combination of factors; we are inclined to think that many lawyers are focussed on their legal work rather than marketing their firm (and no one is tapping them on the shoulder), even when it is to their own disadvantage (tap tap?). In other cases, lawyers are less than objective about the quality or strength of their website. Some lawyers think that because they have a website that is all they need. Others are simply delusional about it. Others have no money and cannot even invest in their own firm.

What does this mean for your firm? In a word – opportunity.

Do online trends support the need for a good website?

Yes. To gain new clients, you need to understand where your prospects go when they are looking to find legal help. In today’s world the place where most people in most markets go is to the internet, specifically a search engine like Google or Bing. These search engines are the big two and account for over 90% of all searches. Google is by far the biggest with about 75% of searches (higher on mobile).

Here are some recent statistics:

  • 93% of business decisions start with a search engine search; or
  • according to the eCommerce Foundation, 88% of consumers will research product information before they make a purchase online.

These figures relate to consumers generally rather than legal services specifically, but the fact remains that with 93%, or any % within a bulls roar of it, means if you don’t have a website, you are only selling to 7% of your market. That is right, you are reducing the potential size of your business by 93%.

The key point here is that most consumers are looking online for information that will help them make smarter purchasing decisions. This buying behaviour trend emphasises the importance of not only having a website but having a good website.

Search traffic behaviour since COVID-19

With the onset of COVID-19 we are operating in a different legal landscape and you need to move with it and adapt your marketing accordingly.

As indicated above, not only is the importance of having a good website increasing, the number of consumers searching online is increasing as well.

So, whether your firm is still operating as it was, or if everyone is working remotely, consumerism globally is being driven towards a digital platform and away from an in-person meeting or engagement. Essentially, if you are not already online and catering to the overwhelming size of the current digital population, it’s time you hop on board.

Even if COVID-19 hasn’t affected your firm to date, it will in the future as its drastic effect on consumerism continues to increase the already expanding platform of online businesses.

Professionalism

If, in today’s age, you don’t have a website there is a good portion of the legal market that will not even consider you as an option when they are looking for legal help. The same goes if the website is poor. Some referrers are reluctant to refer people to firms with poor websites as it is a bad reflection on them! Consider your own buying patterns here. If you are referred to someone today the likelihood is that you will check them out online first.

If a website says a firm is IT savvy and provides professional services, and yet to “the reasonable client” the website clearly demonstrates they are not IT savvy, then the website reflects poorly on them. The potential client thinks – is this the firm for me; are they my trusted advisers? Nope, next.

Professional Web Design – create the right first impression

Your website is often your prospects’ first impression of your brand. Even if you are a firm that depends on local foot traffic, there is a good chance that your clients and referrers are researching your business online before they come in or refer someone. This is another reason why it is vital that you have a professional website.

Recently a survey from Business 2 Community showed that 94% of people stated that web design is the top reason that they mistrust or reject a website.

Professional web design should include, but is not limited to, the following four elements:

  • Simple Navigation It should not be hard for visitors to find what they’re looking for on your site. So many sites we see have unnecessary forms or pages that lead to ‘dead-ends’. Navigation menus should be clear and simple, helping visitors find what they are looking for in just a few moments. Many firms confuse their own areas of law with confusing labelling, mixing up what we might call main areas and sub areas.
  • Attractive clean clear look – Your site should be attractive, using colours and images that align with your brand while also being pleasing to the eye. A professional site has a balance of attractive design and content that’s easy to read and quick to load.
  • Helpful & content rich information – The content on your site should be informative and help visitors better understand your services. It needs to contain valuable content which helps to compel a person to give you a call. You need to demonstrate your depth of knowledge here. Self-serving reassuring content is useless.
  • Search Engine Optimisation – Your site structure and content both need to be optimised for search engines like Google. Professional site design can include SEO services that ensure consumers can find your site online.
  • Fast Site Load Times – If your site does not load quickly, statistically your visitors will not stay and wait. Professional website design will ensure quick load times to improve the user experience.

Providing access 24/7

Like a friend, a website is there 24/7. It provides accessibility to your target audience around the clock. Even when you and your team have checked out for the day, your website is still working hard to bring more clients or prospects to your business which in turn generates profit.

Imagine how many more prospects you could convert to clients if you never slept. With a website, you provide a place for people to see what you are about, and learn more about your services, any time of the day or night.

While being constantly discoverable is a great marketing opportunity, it goes to underscore the importance of getting it right. That is, if the website undersells the calibre of your services then it will work against you just as much. Just like a reception area can give a new client an insight into the firm, so does your website.

If your website is your enemy, it will harm you financially by its failure to convert leads into clients for as long as it underperforms.

Positive ROI

Attracting your new work is vital to every law firm. It’s the only way that you can pay the staff and keep your firm up and running. Getting new work is the best way to improve the health and success of your firm.

By having an online presence through your website, you can reach more potential clients. By having a good online presence, you have a better chance of converting those leads into clients.

If a new website were to cost $5,000 how many new files do you need to generate to pay this back? If you consider your current hourly rate my guess is that you may only need one or two new matters to make your website investment worthwhile.

The chances of your website generating more than a couple of new matters over the course of the next five years (assuming it has a 5 year life span) is a safe bet.

As a marketing strategy, if you do the maths and stop and give this more than a moment’s thought, investing in your firm by getting a new website is a sound investment with a good ROI.

Lasting Value

The great part about a website is that once you invest in it, you could have it for five years before you will need to significantly reinvest in it. By comparison to advertising, as a marketing strategy, it continues to work for your firm each day over and over. It’s not a one day wonder. The money you spend on the newspaper ad is gone and you can never get it back. If you don’t get a return on investment from it, you never can. The same is true for Google Ads, Facebook Ads, LinkedIn Ads, a yellow pages listing, magazine ads etc.

Your website also plays an important role in your email marketing. If you are using email marketing, in the form of newsletters, to reach and engage your clients, then you need somewhere to send them to convert. Your website is the perfect place to guide your email subscribers to when you want them to learn more about your firm or its services. Your newsletter articles sit on your website and from our direct experience in providing these services to law firms you can take it from us that whilst on your site reading articles, your readers ‘take a tour’.

Increasing your geographic footprint

By getting a website it makes it possible for anyone in the next suburb, district, region state or even on the other side of the world to find your firm. Your reach is so much greater than would otherwise be the case. Other legal practitioners can find you if they need to refer a matter to you.

Having a website means you can gain clients that are outside the geographic reach or the usual reach of your marketing efforts.

Next step

For lawyers today the importance of having a properly built and effective website cannot be overstated, but if this website is unattractive or hard to navigate, then you may be turning your potential clients away without even knowing it.

We build websites for start-up firms, for firms new to the online world looking for entry level websites, to sites for national firms and every firm in between.

Having a deep knowledge of the legal profession is a massive advantage as we know what to ask even if you haven’t considered it.

If you are still not convinced that you need a website, or if you’re unsure whether your website is your friend and working towards your law firm’s interests, email me [email protected] or call me on 0407 018 109 for a free audit.

About the author
Peter Heazlewood

Peter Heazlewood

Peter Heazlewood is a management and marketing consultant, he specialises in helping law firms develop their practices using business planning marketing and performance reporting techniques refined in his own successful law firm. Peter lives in Sydney with his wife and is the father of five adult children.
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