One of the country’s best law firms no longer has one of the Internet’s worst law firm websites.
As you may recall, four years ago, Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz was ranked by the American Lawyer as having one of the industry’s worst websites. According to the article, Wachtell’s website was “reminiscent of a seventh-grade history project.”
Having seen endless examples of terrible law firm websites, I’m not sure it was fair to call Wachtell’s old site one of the worst. There is no disputing, however, that it was crushingly boring.
The analogy to a middle school project was sound. The old site’s idea of spicing things up was to put its extra special passages in italics or bold — or, if they were feeling particularly crazy, italics and bold.
It seems that Wachtell has finally grasped the notion that websites should be attention-grabbing. Or at least marginally attractive.
Check out Wachtell’s transition into the modern Internet era….
Thanks to the Wayback Machine, we can see just how bland and uninspired Wachtell’s website has been over the years. Let’s start with the landing page. Here’s what the old site looked like as recently as last summer, if not later:
All that white space is not a mistake. That’s all there was — just the firm name, a handful of links to other pages on the site, and pale gray links to disclaimers about attorney advertising. And, based on the copyright, the site apparently hadn’t undergone much of a change since 1998.
What about this was supposed to entice either potential clients or potential employees? I’m going with nothing.
Here’s what we see now:
Now, I love Red Hook more than most people do, but I have no idea why it, or any part of Brooklyn for that matter, is the backdrop for Wachtell’s opening page. My confusion, however, is offset by my love of old-timey maps, so I’ll let it go. Particularly when you compare it to the gaping void that was the old landing page.
On the new main page, we get snazzy drop-down menus that bounce up and down as we click through the links on the top row. This is already a drastic improvement.
In addition to bumping up functionality and interactivity of graphics, Wachtell appears to have spiced up its narratives over the years and, more importantly, graduated to fonts and text layouts that go beyond those that might appear in a legal brief:
While the new website isn’t particularly exciting, it is at least befitting of a firm that can afford to hire a real web designer and not some student intern off Craigslist.
Beyond advances in web design, the archives of the Wachtell website provide a virtual time capsule of how, even just five years ago, some major law firms wasted few words on issues that are today at the forefront of most recruiting efforts.
For starters, take pro bono. Five years ago, the Wachtell site spent three paragraphs saying little more than “we like pro bono, really”:
Today, we get a whole page assuring us that “we like pro bono, really,” plus a list of representative matters, community activities, and the standard assurances that summer associates will get to work on pro bono matters. Of course they will.
Diversity is another example. Four years ago, it was efficient to point out in an ever-lawyerly fashion that the firm was a signatory to various bar association diversity initiatives:
On the new site, we get a lengthy discussion of the firm’s commitment to diversity, complete with an extensive discussion of the firm’s diversity committee, initiatives, programs, and rankings. Now you even have to scroll down to read it all.
One thing notably absent in the newer iterations of the firm’s website is a discussion of compensation. Four years ago, before anyone contemplated the blood-letting that was about to spread through the legal market, we got promises of higher-than-market salaries, work-life balance, and encouraged vacation:
Today, not so much. Instead, we get a promise of a surgically-implanted Blackberry, disguised as a promise to “provide our attorneys with the necessary support and technology to allow for the practice of law at the highest and most responsive level.”
Ah, how times have changed.
Overall, the best thing that can be said about Wachtell’s new website is that it is unremarkable, but not nearly as boring as it used to be. But, in a world where some major law firm websites revolve around pictures of pigeons and cheesy slogans, maybe unremarkable is a good thing.