Sam Borrett, founder of the legal sector marketing agency Legmark, sets out the five big mistakes she sees too often on law firm websites – plus a whole lot more. (Updated 13 June 2023)
Your law firm website is a golden opportunity to attract clients and set out what makes you special.
Creating the perfect website isn't easy. But just by avoiding common mistakes you are already halfway there – and well ahead of many of your competitors. How many of these problems apply to your firm's website?
The big five website mistakes
1. The lawyer-centred website. Your clients are interested in what you can do for them and how you help them with their problem. So focus on this and use their language. Avoid waffling on about yourself (yes, you are experienced, but so are your competitors).
2. Lowest common denominator. Your website focuses on avoiding mistakes and keeping everyone in the partnership happy. Or, worse still, it was designed by committee. The result is a dull website that does nothing to set you apart from other law firms.
3. Confusion. There's a lot to say about your firm, but squeezing together too many different messages dilutes their impact and leaves potential clients confused about who you really are.
4. Mobile unfriendly. Visitors to your website are more likely to be using mobile devices than computers. Modern websites must be built using 'responsive' design (so that they work well on all the common browsers and devices). Otherwise visitors aren't seeing what they should and you are missing out on potential clients.
5. What next? The primary purpose of your website is to get clients to call you. At a minimum, you need to make it easy – with clear contact details visible throughout the site. Better still, include clear calls to action that encourage visitors to make contact, with tracking so you can monitor where the leads are coming from.
"The partners should set the goals and budget for the new website, then stand back. Your marketing team, and the agency you hire, can then propose expert solutions and designs to meet those goals."
Ben Trott, managing director, Marketing Lawyers
Web content weaknesses
6. Unstructured text. Visitors don't generally read websites the same way they read books – they scan it looking for key phrases and links to the information they are after. Use short sentences and paragraphs. Break up long pages with subheadings.
7. Thin content. If your website is nothing more than a list of services and locations, while your competitors are offering genuinely useful and interesting content, who will clients (and Google) prefer?
8. Basic mistakes. It's all too easy to make spelling and grammar mistakes or leave outdated information on the site. But will clients trust someone who makes these kinds of mistakes?
9. Inactivity. A typical website project begins with a burst of enthusiasm which fizzles out once the site has been completed. Worse, firms sometimes start a blog or news section – only to leave it in place with the latest entry two years old. Inactivity like this leaves visitors (and again, Google) thinking the site is unreliable, and creates the impression that your firm isn't actually doing anything.
"Check that each page of your website is focused on the web visitor, provides clear messaging and includes a call to action to direct them to contact you."
Rachel Tombs, founder and owner, Orion Legal Marketing
10. Cluttered pages. As with the text, your aim is to convey simple, clear messages. Overactive pages don't do that.
11. Poor organisation and navigation. Visitors want to get to the right information, quickly. They aren't interested in learning how your site works – they expect it to be intuitive. A well-planned site architecture, consistent use of page templates and the right terminology all help.
12. Weak (or missing) search. It's the same principle of helping visitors find what they want. In larger sites, search is essential – and it should be intelligently designed so that visitors can find the right content even if they use the 'wrong' search terms. User search is also a great tool to help with content and structure going forward.
13. Weak images. Clichéd images of the scales of justice or a dartboard (to show that your lawyers 'hit the target'); photos of lawyers that look like mugshots from a school yearbook (or posed in front of their law books). The message? We're boring, unimaginative lawyers.
14. Distractions. Flashing or rotating images don't work well – they're typically a sign that you couldn't work out what your message should be. Clever design tricks (eg parallax scrolling) seem exciting and clever but distract the user.
15. Annoyances. Pop-up windows and autoplay videos (with sound) force themselves on unwilling visitors. Instead, encourage visitors to choose their own journey through your site.
16. Missing links. Linking your website with the firm's social media accounts is a simple way to encourage visitors to engage with you and share your content.
"Pick out websites that work well and discuss why they work well. The usual ingredients are great images, plenty of white space, and an easy journey to the point of making contact."
Rich Dibbins, founder, Staxton Digital
17. Missing opportunities to integrate. Your website and user experience can be more automated than ever in an extremely customer-friendly way if you have the right integrations. This might be with a CRM, an email marketing platform or other internal systems. The name of the game is improving efficiency and offering better contact and information to your clients.
18. Slow load. If a webpage takes more than a couple of seconds to load, visitors give up and look elsewhere. Large image files are a particular problem for mobile browsers. Overcomplicated website technologies and inadequate web hosting arrangements can also cause issues.
19. SEO. Basic search engine optimisation is a must. If your website team don't understand all the technical details, get some expert help.
20. Accessibility. Having a website that isn't properly accessible (for example, if visitors use a screen reader) isn't just failing your visitors. As a law firm, it's an embarrassment.
21. Contact systems. If the website's aim is to encourage potential clients to contact you, it's equally important to manage how you respond to enquiries. If you deal with private clients, that could well include evening and weekend website visitors.
22. Cybersecurity. Every website is at risk, law firm websites perhaps more than most. Being hacked is embarrassing; data protection failures are even worse.
23. Marketing. You can't just create a website and expect visitors – and new clients – to rush to you. An active marketing plan is essential.
24. Analytics. If your website isn't set up to generate useful data, you are working in the dark. Analytics are a crucial tool for understanding what works and how you can improve.
"Being the first law firm to respond can be the key to winning new business, particularly for services such as conveyancing – where clients shop around."
Emma O'Day, chief marketing officer, Cashroom
Why do law firms choose The Cashroom?
It’s because outsourcing a firm’s legal accounting and legal cashier activities to Cashroom provides efficient, reduced risk and compliant legal accounting.