April 23, 2013 • Micah Buchdahl
In the 15 years or so that law firms have had websites, many developers in this space have come and gone. Truth be told, a number have found that dealing with lawyers can be exhausting. Others have stuck around and prospered, realizing that law firms are often willing to devote significant resources to online marketing.
I’ve enjoyed working with law firms on developing first, second, third, fourth and in some cases, fifth generation websites. As most readers of Web Marketing Today know all too well, the Internet is constantly evolving and what is right today may be wrong tomorrow. The developers that have survived and grown in the legal industry have done so by rolling with the punches and staying current.
With that in mind, this month I asked some of the more prominent developers of law firm websites to pick one from their arsenal that they are most proud of, and tell us why. In doing so, I’ve approached a few different styles of developers — both in terms of what they do and the type of law firm they focus on. For the reader — especially the law firm or professional service provider thinking about what it needs to do online next — this should provide some excellent case studies for consideration. At some point, I’ve interacted with all of these companies, either on a project or through reviewing proposals on behalf of a law firm. The purpose is not to rank, review, or critique, but simply to showcase a recent project. Notice a wide range of styles, formats, and strategies implemented by each of these companies. I was especially fascinated to see what each developer chose to highlight, when posed with the same inquiry.
The following are listed in random order. All have done some great work. While this certainly is not an all-inclusive list — I’ve worked with dozens, if not hundreds, since 1996 — my goal was to include some of the longer-term companies. If I were creating a request for proposal for a new law firm site today, I’d start by looking at the areas highlighted below by the companies themselves.
Inherent, based in San Francisco, has been around since 1993 — practically the beginning of websites — and has developed more than 300 law firm sites, with many in the midsize-to-large firm category.
The McElroy, Deutsch site is tablet and smartphone friendly.
The site it has chosen to highlight is for McElroy, Deutsch, Mulvaney & Carpenter, with more than 300 lawyers in ten offices across seven states. Because McElroy, Deutsch is tech-savvy, it needed to make sure the website was tablet and smartphone friendly. That is certainly a capability that is critical, in 2013, for the end user. The home page utilizes an assortment of images, avoiding Flash. This is another area that has seen change in recent years: Flash simply does not fit into the design function for the type of information-focused site that law firms generally require. The data sections — attorney biographies, practices, industries, publications, events, and offices — have the option of cross-linking. The biographies offer tabbed content sections, rather than a one-page-fits-all resume or narrative. Among the other features of which Inherent is most proud includes:
Hover functionality allows visitors to sneak a glimpse at the attorneys, viewing each attorney’s photo and phone number before visiting their full biography page;
High-quality PDFs of the attorney, practice area and industry pages are available, created using up-to-date information from the content management system;
Vanity URLs are used throughout the site, improving the search engine optimization of the attorneys, practice areas, industries, publications, and office.
The printer-friendly page tool removes excess items, such as navigation, prior to printing, reducing wasted space on the printed page.
Founded in 1999, Duo Consulting is based in Chicago and has moved from being a website developer to more of a consultant for anything “online.” Duo points to the site for Freeborn & Peters, a Chicago-based law firm. The site focuses on industries served — not practice groups — which makes it unique.
The Freeborn & Peters site focuses on industries served, not practice groups.
According to Duo, Freeborn Chief Marketing Officer Ian Turvill inherited a site in 2011 without a lot of current content and with little social media compatibility. The new site development tied into a branding initiative. The uniquedesign allows small-device mobile visitors to be directed to a separate mobile style sheet.
Among the features that Duo highlights on the Freeborn website are as follows.
Unique gesture-based navigation. Most notable on the frontend is the unique side-to-side navigation. It is functional on desktops devices and, also, the site can be navigated entirely via hand gesture on hand-screen-sensitive devices.
Mobile optimized. Decisions related to the mobile and usability resulted in Duo’s creation of a mobile style sheet that emphasizes usability features such as “fat” buttons (for fat fingers), press-to-call phone numbers, mobile-friendly search functionality, and quick access to main menu functions (box with three lines is the universal icon for menu).
New attorney bios. Signaling good intentions to both upgrade and grow content, Turvill mandated a rewrite of all attorney bios. Each bio begins with a quote selected by the attorney that ties to the firm’s core values.
Read more at the link above and via Law Firm Websites: A Developer’s Review | Web Marketing Today.