For most lawyers, referrals are the No. 1 driver of business development. Research on the client side supports this; according to Clio’s 2019 Legal Trends Report, 59 percent of clients who needed an attorney sought a recommendation from someone they knew.
After receiving a referral, the next logical step for many prospects: a little cyberstalking. How effective is your website at converting a warm lead into a client?
To capture the full ROI of your referral base, it’s imperative to strategically craft your website to be a closer for your business. Far too many websites are the online equivalent of the receptionist who answers the phone “Hello, law office” – they are generic, and they fail to persuade prospective clients that you are the absolute best solution for their problem.
A strong law firm website should take a position; it should make the case for business. Take a “show, don’t tell” approach, and incorporate these four types of evidence to prove your capability.
The most compelling marketing material you have is your body of work: the cases, transactions or projects that show a potential client you have handled a problem like theirs. Indeed, in the Clio survey, 77 percent of clients said they wanted to know a lawyer’s experience and credentials; 72 percent said they wanted to know what types of cases they handle.
Client confidentiality is paramount, to be sure. But an up-to-date and user-friendly Results section is a must when marketing a niche law firm or practice.
These can vary in presentation:
- Bartimus Frickleton Robertson Rader, a plaintiffs’ firm, allows users to quickly filter results by type of matter, from coverage disputes to class actions.
- Wyatt, Tarrant & Combs, a large corporate firm, writes case studies that detail the challenge, approach and result – along with a link to the relevant lawyer bio.
- Brown & Curry, which helps veterans with benefit claims, uses a ticker to show the basics for recent wins: dollar amount, branch of service and location.
It’s important to include wins in your practice area pages and lawyer biographies too – but do not underestimate the importance of a standalone Results section (or Experience or Our Work or what have you). According to Google Benchmarking, the average user will spend 38 seconds on your website: Make it as easy as possible for them to find examples of your success.
Two: Happy Clients
The exact techniques will vary depending on your field and your state’s Rules of Professional Conduct, but how can you show website visitors that your clients like and appreciate you? Some possibilities could include testimonial videos, testimonial quotes or references to strong online reviews, such as Avvo’s “10 out of 10” rating badges.
Get creative. If you do not have direct client testimonials, comb your verbatim reviews from Chambers & Partners. If your firm conducts client feedback, look for trends in the quantitative data; in a given year, one firm I worked with earned a perfect score from clients when asked to rate its ability to “give an honest assessment of my situation.” We used that as evidence that the firm gave clients straight talk and clear advice.
Remember that your prospects want to see that you’ve handled a problem like theirs; they also want to see that you serve people like them. Consider this in your selection of stock images, whether of people or places. A banking practice should have a fundamentally different look and feel than a construction boutique.
Three: Subject-Matter Prowess
Lawyers who dominate their niches are true subject-matter experts. They speak at the relevant conferences. They write articles for the trade publications. They publish their own content – client alerts, newsletters, podcasts – on their websites.
According to the Clio survey, nearly 60 percent of potential clients will shop around. For clients with niche needs, showing a sustained pattern of thought leadership will prove your expertise.
(Think about this from a defensive standpoint, too: According to BTI Consulting, nearly 60 percent of law firm clients said they use online resources to compare their lawyers to the other side. How do you fare in this matchup? Will your website make your client feel confident in their choice?)
Four: Third-Party Endorsements
While awards and rankings may not make the sale on their own, they can provide further reassurance that you are a safe and established choice, akin to a “USDA Prime” badge on a steak.
These badges also are also nice fast visual cues for readers who are doing a quick skim; they may not read all of your practice group materials, but it takes just seconds to see that you are among the Best Lawyers in America.
Pay heed: Not all badges are created equal. Do not waste money or valuable website real estate on fly-by-night rankings. Reputable accolades include those issued by media outlets (local, national or trade) or the “big three”: Best Lawyers in America, Chambers & Partners and SuperLawyers.
For law firms that serve consumers or small businesses, I recommend the “Best Law Firms” badges from Best Lawyers in America/U.S. News & World Report. While “Chambers & Partners” doesn’t mean much outside the industry, U.S. News is a credible household name.
While niche-ifying your law firm website is important now, it will become even more so in the decades to come.
The Clio survey asked respondents how much they cared about their lawyer’s website. While only 21 percent of Boomers said websites mattered, that jumped to 48 percent of Millennials and 49 percent of Generation Z.
At the same time, the younger clients valued referrals less: 60 percent of Boomers cared about a recommendation from a peer or friend, but that dropped to 46 percent of Millennials and 47 percent of Generation Z.
Take a look at these statistics together. Websites already have edged out referrals as a driving influence for younger clients: 48 percent to 46 percent for Millennials, and 49 percent to 47 percent for Generation Z.
Crafting a purposeful website with clear and convincing evidence will position you to close more referrals now and attract more clients in the future.