The 5 Most Common Mistakes Law Firms Make on Their Websites

by Larry Bodine on November 23, 2011 · 14 comments

in martindale.com

Christina canright, website, blog, law firm marketing, legal marketingThis is a guest post by Christina Canright, the President of Canright Communications in Chicago. Her firm loves to help companies create presentations, websites, marketing materials that are distinctive, compelling, and effective.


One of the most important sales tools a company has these days is its website. It’s often one of the first impressions a potential customer has about your firm. Often I hear owners or principals in firms say they don’t want to bother with their site. I get one of two responses: Either they’re embarrassed by their site, and don’t want to spend the time and money to rework it. Or they say they have a site they just had done, and it is “fine.”

Considering how much a website could do for the firm, those responses essentially amount to wasting a valuable sales resource. Many firms will put a lot of money into making their reception area look impressive and comfortable, because they understand the value of that impression. The website is in that same category, except it can be set up to deliver leads and tell a lot about your firm before a potential client even contacts you.

But what if the firm decides to go ahead and redo its site. Here are the five most common mistakes I’ve come across:

1. Looks like everyone else – impersonal. Many sites try to look like each other, or follow what the trend is for websites. They start with a home page with too much content. These often feel cold and impersonal. If you try to find a phone number, you get sent to a form. A site needs to reflect the firm’s personality – whether it’s “we play tough, nothing is too difficult for us to tackle” or “we listen to you and will handle all your legal issues with expediency, so you don’t need to worry.” The tough players will have an in-your-face site; and the service-oriented firm will have a warmer, more accessible feel. Professionalism comes through for both.

2. Internally focused on the company rather than externally on the client. Frankly, clients don’t care that much about your company’s mission. What they do care about is: What can you do for them and what kind of reputation do you have? And when you focus more on the benefits you offer, your prospect senses you will focus on them-and you more readily differentiate your firm.

3. No resources that support specialty practice areas. This is where a firm can show what it knows and what it specializes in. Client alerts and articles in your areas of expertise show what your firm and its people feel passionate about and have special expertise in. A firm can gain a lot of credibility if it provides client briefings and backgrounders on especially complex issues. It helps to include articles written not only for law journals but ones written for the general public.

4. No calls to action. Many sites make it difficult for interested people to contact the firm and get access to any resources it does offer. Use download buttons and links that are obviously buttons to click on. Guide them on the site to what you want them to do, whether it’s calling you, downloading issue briefings, reports or white papers. Buttons also make it easier for them to see where to sign up for a newsletter or how to access your blog if you have one. (You should.)

5. Photos that don’t relate to what the firm does (pictures of the city) – artificial. There are exceptions to this, but because so many sites use the city they live in as the main home page photo, it’s best to stay away from a city photo. (One good exception is how Sanchezdh.com integrated the city with an oversize image of Sanchez, the founding partner.) Look for images that are compelling but not cliché. How many law firm sites have the Scales of Justice as a dominant image? How many have people sitting around a conference table? How many use stock photography and models rather than real people? Every firm can find creative ways to present its work without breaching client confidentiality. Find a design firm that can help you come up with something fresh.

Some websites that work:

  • Mofo.com – great URL based on company names, sense of humor
  • Gtcr.com – In your face, the people behind the success
  • Sanchezdh.com – personality, service-oriented
  • Willmont.com – good content, knows who they are

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The Top 5 Most Common Mistakes Law Firms Make on Their Websites | Coastal Legal Marketing
February 8, 2012 at 9:17 pm

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Steven J Fromm wrote onJuly 2, 2012 at 3:11 pm

Great article. The point about pictures is thought provoking but you do not really say what to use only what not to use. I currently have a picture of Philly. I do tax, estate and trust work but am at a loss for what my home page picture should be. Any thoughts?

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Larry Bodine Larry Bodine wrote onJuly 5, 2012 at 8:47 pm

Steven, consider opening an account with Thinkstock.com and downloading stock photography that represents your clients. For example, you could depict adult children talking with elderly parents about their estate plans.

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Steven J Fromm wrote onJuly 23, 2012 at 12:06 pm

Thanks for the tip Larry. Are there costs associated with joining and using the photos?

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Steven J Fromm wrote onJuly 23, 2012 at 12:26 pm

Is it thinkstockphotos.com?

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Mike Mintz wrote onDecember 5, 2011 at 4:30 pm

Hi Sarah: I didn’t write the article, but can comment on your question, as I have written a similar piece on this blog.

You should definitely consider syndicating your blog content on your law firm website’s homepage, especially if you are getting a lot of traffic from your blog. At the very least it will help you get more hits to the firm main page via search because it sounds like you are generating traffic through your blog content. At the very least it will give site visitors something current and interesting to see when they visit your main page.

Anyone else have thoughts on this?

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Christina Canright wrote onDecember 2, 2011 at 6:54 pm

I double-checked the sites I listed at the end of the article, and all of them allow you to call people directly and/or include the direct email address. They have not used the roadblock “fill out this form and we’ll get back to you” to screen potential business. Thanks for mentioning that. It’s a good indicator of how much a company is oriented toward service.

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Sarah Lavender Smith wrote onNovember 29, 2011 at 3:18 pm

We’re a nearly-year-old litigation graphics firm and are at the point where our start-up website definitely needs an upgrade, especially with its overall architecture and its portfolio page, so your pointers are helpful.
I’m curious, what are your thoughts on whether the main site’s home page should pull content from the firm’s blog? Our home page is very clean and static, and our blog is separate (a sub-page of the main url) and frequently updated. Perhaps not surprisingly, the blog gets a lot more traffic, whereas the website functions more like a static brochure that people come to only if they have a reason to research the firm (e.g. they’ve seen our business card or found out about us through social media). I’m wondering if our redesigned site should integrate the blog more, though I’ve read advice that they are most effective when separate so that the website can be the marketing piece and the blog can be the personal, opinionated forum.
Thanks very much for your helpful post.

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Larry Bodine Larry Bodine wrote onJuly 23, 2012 at 9:12 am

Good point – if you have a well-read blog, do you really need a duplicate website? It would make sense to combine the two, so that blog posts appear on the home page of the Website. The blog’s fresh content will attract visitors.

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Steven J Fromm wrote onJuly 23, 2012 at 12:08 pm

Yes, I also have the same question and I have seen a lot of debate concerning this. Anyone have any thoughts on this issue?

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Elizabeth Kramer wrote onNovember 23, 2011 at 10:28 am

Great article. One thing I notice quite a lot is firms that will not provide any email address on their website but want you to fill out a form instead. I assume this is to avoid spam, but may be costing them countless leads and customers.

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Larry Bodine Larry Bodine wrote onJuly 23, 2012 at 9:15 am

Failing to provide an email address on a law firm website is a mistake. The whole point of being on the Web is to make it easier for people to contact you.

It turns off visitors when the site forces them to complete an online firm to contact the firm. The sender doesn’t know who, if anyone, will read it. The better practice is to provide *everyone’s* email address using v-cards.

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Steven J Fromm wrote onAugust 1, 2012 at 12:39 pm

Hey Larry, great idea with the v-card. I assume you mean via outlook?
How do you actually set up a v-card at your website? Are there specific steps to use at your website?
What about a blog at wordpress.com; do they have a specific widget or way to do so?

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Larry Bodine Larry Bodine wrote onAugust 22, 2012 at 10:35 am

Using Outlook, I can insert a v-card into an email and send it to someone. I simply open a new email, click “Business Card,” click “other business cards,” and select a person from my contacts.

You would need to hire a web developer to put the code for a v-card onto a website, but it’s totally worth doing so.

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