LMAtech2013: Law firm websites: Why practice area pages suck – and how technology is changing that.


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Robert Algeri, Partner, Great Jakes Marketing Company

Market forces, in conjunction with technological innovations, are about to spur significant transformation in practice area sections of law firm websites.

Practice area sections – long the neglected stepchildren of legal marketing – are going to become more focused, more information-rich and more dynamic. And, as a result, law firms will require better technology in order to build and manage the next-generation practice area sections.

The current state of practice areas: Typically, less than 10% of traffic to law firm websites visit the practice areas. Why? Because the content contained within is generally useless. These sections are almost always composed of generic-looking pages with long-winded narrative text that essentially says, “We do practically everything for practically everybody.” In the new business landscape, this approach won’t win new clients – and thus it is primed for change.

Robert Algeri will paint a picture of how the next-generation practice area will work online. he will cover:
•Positioning – Practice areas will increasingly find value from narrowing their market positioning. The “we do everything” message will fade away.
•Content Changes – In an effort to demonstrate market leadership in their niche, practice groups will create more content – and more rich media content like videos, podcasts and graphical presentations.
•Graphical Changes – Uninspiring, text-driven pages will become obsolete. The main pages of a practice area section will be much more dynamic – more like a website home page – featuring images, sidebars and teaser text.
•Functionality Changes – New CMS tools that can quickly deploy new pages that contain a wide range of new media, social media or custom content are now available to law firms. Robert will discuss how these tools will be used, customizations that firms will seek to have, and benefits gained from enhancements like the inclusion of social media.
•Advanced User Tracking – Tools under the banner of something called “marketing automation” will finally provide the actionable data marketing departments have been craving. These tech tools will allow firms to know exactly who is visiting which pages and to know when visitors come back. All of this will greatly enhance a practice area’s ability to engage users.

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  • Practice area descriptions have long been the neglected stepchildren of legal marketing.
    And traffic data tells us that barely anyone visits them.
  • Great Jakes did a study a few years ago about law firm website traffic patterns and found that 56% of traffic happens in the bios section.
    And, on average only 9% goes to the practice areas…
    Why does this happen?
  • Well, I think one reason is what it looks like.
    As marketers, we’ve all learned a long time ago that long passages of dense text is not the best way to engage website visitors.
    But looks aside, I think the reason why the practice area pages get so little love is evidenced in the text.
    The typical practice area description offers very little to distinguish itself from other firms.
    In fact, many practice area descriptions seem to go out of their way to be undistinguished – to be all things to all people.
    Let me read an example of what I mean by this…
  • Our veteran [insert practice area] attorneys provide a wide range of legal services and advice to individuals and businesses in a wide array of industries. Our vastly versatile and experienced team…
    I think you’ve heard this before…
    This is typical practice area text, and it says a lot of nothing.
    In my conversations with in-house marketers and writers of practice area descriptions, it’s clear that writing something that doesn’t say a lot of nothing is hard!
    And the reason is that most practice areas want to keep the door open to do any type of work, for anyone.
    But the unintended consequence of that approach is that it fails to resonate with anyone.
    Nobody reads this and says “I’ve finally found the lawyers that can help me.”
  • But for us, as the guys that build the websites, the saddest part of this story is that firms spend tons of time and effort working on the practice areas.
    And this effort doesn’t yield much.
    So, could practice areas be made better?
    At Great Jakes, we thought a long time about this question.
    We challenged ourselves to imagine how practice areas could be better. What could the most perfect practice area page look like?
    What content could it contain?
    At the end of the day the team designed a mockup.
    Here’s what they came up with.
  • Clear crisp positioning [point to headline / name]
    Text that clearly describes value.
    Magazine-style layout with engaging visuals
    Social media integration.
    It’s a multi-page section with case studies, news, publications, related events, blog posts, and anything else that’s going to help that practice area communicate what it does and the value it offers to potential clients.
    Basically what you have is a dossier of cutting edge thought leadership, resources and people, – all packaged in one place.
    Isn’t this great? In an ideal world, every practice area would be treated like a separate business unit – and receive this type of marketing treatment. <pause.>
    I’m going to be honest with you.
    When I volunteered to make this presentation, my intention was to speak about this re-imagined practice area.
    And show you all of the neato CMS tools
    that we’ve developed that allows firms to create remarkable pages like this for
    all of their practice areas.
    …and then we realized…
  • It’s never going to happen.
    As the listeners of this webinar are aware, the forces that relegate practice area pages to mediocrity are very powerful.
    For starters, it’s difficult to get a practice group to agree on a single mission and marketing message. There’s a lot of competing interests.
    Additionally, marketing resources are – unfortunately – stretched too thin.
  • If you’re a sizable law firm with 60+ different practice groups–that means having 60 different messages to 60 different audiences.
    You might be able to create a remarkable practice area page for a few of those practice groups.
    But most firms won’t have the budget to support this kind of effort for 10 – never mind 50 or 60 different groups.
    So what’s the answer?
    What should law firms do about awful practice area pages?
    I’m going to throw out a crazy idea.
  • What if we just don’t fight it.
    What if we just get comfortable with the fact that your “Structured Finance” practice area may always be a page with dull, undifferentiated text?
    So, instead of redoubling your efforts, maybe we don’t. 
  • In fact, maybe we do the opposite.
    Maybe we do less with the practice areas.
    Chop down the 2000 word practice area description to 200 and take whatever energy currently being spent on your practice areas – and focus it somewhere else.
    Focus it on something that might actually help develop business.
    So what could that be?
  • Emerging Issues.
    Focus your online marketing efforts around a small handful of Emerging Issues.
    What’s an emerging issue?
    These are issues that contain 3 key characteristics:
    are just coming onto the radar of your clients
    Are disruptive, and have the potential to reshape an entire industry
    and – most importantly – they deal with matters which your firm could sell profitable services around.
    Emerging issues are often centered around
    Big new laws, like Obamacare, or
    New disruptive technologies like nano tech
    Or, a disaster the BP oil spill.
    So, I went back to my team and asked them to strap on their thinking caps again and imagine what an emerging issue section could look like on a law firm website.
    And here’s what they came up with.
  • So, why emerging issues?
    Because they’re exciting.
    Big change that has the potential to alter entire industries, is exciting.
    Turmoil is exciting.
    And if there is something new, exciting and poorly understood, people will be seeking out information on that topic.
    Ok… an interesting idea, right?
    Something worth mulling over…
    But you’re probably asking yourself: Is anyone actually doing this “Emerging Issues” thing?
  • If you’ve got some time, check out Nelson Levine – they’ve done a pretty good job implementing this strategy.
    Their firm is focused on the insurance industry – and they have created microsites for a dozen Emerging Issues facing that industry.
  • When Superstorm Sandy occurred last year, they launched a new emerging issue section – complete with articles and resources – in less than a week.
  • Nelson Levine is a small firm, less than 100 attorneys, with a marketing staff of 3.
    But they saw that they could command the attention of the industry that they focused in, and the media
    by packaging valuable information into a single section of their website.
    The result was that they positioned themselves as an authority on a major issue;
    And positioning is key…
  • And what exactly is positioning?
    Positioning is about focusing.
    Focusing your marketing efforts on a
    highly specific market niche as a means of distinguishing yourself from your competitors.
    Practice areas – by their very nature – often lack good positioning.
    They try to be everything to everybody.
    And this lack of positioning makes them incredibly difficult to market.
  • While practice areas often lend themselves to bad positioning --
    Emerging issues, on the other hand, lend themselves to remarkable positioning.
    So, what’s remarkable positioning??
    Remarkable positioning occurs when your market niche is
    so unique – and your expertise in that niche is so deep –
    that you radically reduce the number of viable competitors.<pause>
    That’s the promise of Emerging Issues –
    They give you the opportunity to reduce the number of viable competitors.
    Do that,
    And you’ve achieved marketing Nirvana.
    And you’ve paved your firm a path
    to business success.
  • LMAtech2013: Law firm websites: Why practice area pages suck – and how technology is changing that.

    1. 1. @greatjakes Your practice area pages awful. Should you care?
    2. 2. @greatjakes
    3. 3. Our veteran [insert practice name] attorneys provide a wide range of legal services and advice to individuals and businesses in a wide array of industries. Our vastly versatile and experienced team of litigators is able to handle a broad range of legal issues for our clients in both recurring litigation or unique
    4. 4. @greatjakes The saddest part
    5. 5. @greatjakes It’s never going to happen.
    6. 6. Air Quality Generation-Skipping Transfer Tax Mergers and Acquisitions Alternative Energy Gift Tax Oil and Gas Antitrust and Competition Law Global Projects Practice Partnership Tax Appellate and Supreme Court Practice Government Relations Patents Hedge Funds Pipeline Projects Asset Management Transactions Income Tax Privacy and Data Security Banking and Finance Infrastructure Private Clients Bankruptcy and Workouts Institutional Investor Representation Private Equity Funds Capital Markets and Securities Intellectual Property Litigation Project Finance Committee Representation Intellectual Property Management Real Estate Complex Business Litigation Intellectual Property Practice Compliance and Enforcement International Environmental Law Securities Law Enforcement and Regulation Construction Litigation International Tax Securities Litigation Corporate Investigations International Trade Sourcing Corporate Practice State and Local Tax Corporate Tax International Trade Commission Practice (ITC) Crisis Management Joint Ventures Tax Practice Cross-Border Transactions Labor and Employment Tax-Exempt Organizations Downstream Leasing Telecommunications and Media Litigation Energy Litigation Licensing and IP Transactions Toxic Tort and Environmental Litigation Energy Regulatory Life Sciences Litigation Trademarks and Copyrights Environmental Coalitions Life Sciences Practice Transportation Environmental Practice Litigation Practice Trust and Estate Administration Estate Tax LNG Projects Venture Capital and Emerging Companies Financial Instruments Marital Property Issues Waste and Remediation Franchise and Distribution Master Limited Partnerships (MLP) Water Quality Strategic Permitting
    7. 7. @greatjakes Forget about practice areas.
    8. 8. @greatjakes Do Less.
    9. 9. @greatjakes Emerging Issues •New •Disruptive •Profitable for you
    10. 10. @greatjakes Positioning = Focusing on a highly specific market niche
    11. 11. @greatjakes Emerging Issues  Remarkable Positioning Radically reduces the number of viable competitors