Law Firm Websites

Making people think you are not horrible is a full-time job for lawyers. Gallup did a poll on the most trustworthy professions in the United States and, you guessed it, lawyers are near the bottom. You know who’s the most trusted profession? Doctors and nurses, and they are the number 3 cause of death in the United States. Even historically, two hundred years ago, lawyers were drafting and signing the Declaration of Independence and doctors were using leeches to heal people. I’m pretty sure that, on top of killing fewer people, the average person will be overcharged in their life more by doctors and nurses than by lawyers, but whatever. So, again, making people think we are not horrible is an uphill battle for us.

The Internet is helping some of us tip the scales in one way or the other. Each one of these topics could be their own article, but for now, I wanted to give you a short primer on how to shrug off the shroud of horribleness we have as lawyers.

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The New York Times lost 80 million home page visitors—half the traffic to the nytimes.com page—in the last two years.

Likewise, traffic to law firm website home pages is down almost 20 percent in the last year. Only 39 percent of law firm traffic now enters through the home page per a study conducted by law firm website developers Great Jakes.

Law firms list their websites in online and offline directories. The home page URL is included on emails, business cards and social media profiles. Search engine optimization tactics are used to draw traffic to the firm’s home page. Website navigation schemas are developed to get users to browse from the home page to industries, areas of the law, about the firm, the people, office locations and articles.

The problem is that people no longer browse pages on a website by going through home pages. They’re coming from Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, blogs, Google+ and Google searches to visit specific content within the site….

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Am I wrong to be suspicious?

I knew a defense lawyer whose online bio said that he had “spent more than a year of his life in trial.” But I also knew the facts: He had tried precisely one case in his life; it lasted more than a year; at the end of the year, the jury awarded more than the plaintiff demanded in closing argument.

Despite having spent “more than a year of his life in trial,” I’m not certain he was a proven trial lawyer.

Google the words “consummate trial lawyer” or “quintessential trial lawyer” or the like. (The actual bio may use a synonym to those superlatives; I’m concealing my victim here.) One bio will pop up from a guy who has, in fact, tried a few cases. But he lost them all. He hasn’t secured a defense verdict at a jury trial since the early 1980’s. (He did manage to reverse on appeal several of his trial-level defeats, but I’m not sure that’s too comforting to someone who’s looking to retain trial counsel.)

These examples, of course, come from the guys who are being honest: The words contained in their bios are technically true. I’m not even talking about the folks who brazenly lie.

Given the skepticism that puffery breeds, how can you write an online bio that actually persuades a reader?

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Did you say threesome, Dean?

* The Magic Circle isn’t very magical across the pond in New York City. Four out of five firms from the U.K. — Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, and Linklaters — have yet to pull rabbits out of their hats in the Big Apple. [Am Law Daily]

* Dewey know how much this failed firm’s old domain name sold for at auction? At the conclusion of the sale, it ended up going for $210,689, which was just a shade over the initial asking price of $200,000. Someone just got ripped off. [Law360 (sub. req.)]

* The judge on this case against Skadden Arps isn’t sure that document review should count as anything other than practicing law, “even if it’s not the most glamorous.” Ahh, the luxurious life of a contract attorney. [Am Law Daily]

* Professor Raymond Ku has filed an amended complaint against Case Western Law Dean Larry Mitchell, and now the allegations are even juicier, including a possible ménage à trois. [Cleveland Plain Dealer]

* The number of people who took the LSAT in October has dropped for the fourth year in a row, this time by 11 percent. “This is a big deal” for law professors interested in keeping their jobs. [National Law Journal]

This afternoon I received the following email, from a representative of Hilco Streambank (and not a Nigerian prince):

“My company has been retained by Dewey & LeBoeuf to sell their domain name (dl.com). I thought Above the Law might be interested in the opportunity since (1) dl.com is a pretty great domain name for a blog and (2) Above the Law might find the prospect of purchasing Dewey & Leboeuf’s domain name amusing. You can find out more about the auction at HilcoDomains.com. The Bid Deadline is October 31st. If you would like to learn more about the auction let me know.”

This definitely piqued my interest, since (1) my initials are “DL,” and (2) domain names can be quite revealing. Back in 2007, the purchase of the DeweyLeBoeuf.com domain name by Michael Groll, at the time a partner at LeBoeuf Lamb, helped us uncover the news of the (ultimately ill-fated) merger of Dewey Ballantine and LeBoeuf Lamb. In the end, presumably because few people can spell “LeBoeuf” correctly, the post-merger firm used the DL.com domain name for its website.

So how much would it cost you to buy a piece of Biglaw history? Or, for people like me with the initials “DL,” a potentially useful domain name for a personal website?

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We all know by now just how many atrocious lawyer websites there are out there. Whenever I see a tip show up in my inbox about legal advertising, I prepare myself for yet another round of “What Were They Thinking?” But every once in a rare while, someone comes along who has mastered the advertising game. It takes a special talent to know what is just the right amount of crazy to be awesome.

It occurs to me that before today I never stopped to ask myself the important question, “What might Shaft’s website look like if he were a lawyer?” Which is unfortunate, because now I know the answer. And it is good.

So who is the man that would risk his neck for his brother man? Carl B. Grant. Right on.

Kids, it’s time to turn up your speakers, sit back, and enjoy the greatness that is Carl B. Grant, if you can handle it.

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I’ll take landmasses that are not countries for $200, Alex.

We make a little fun of DLA Piper around these parts because the large, global law firm seemingly has offices in every city on Earth. Maybe we shouldn’t be so snarky though. You’ll thank the stars when DLA Panem is there to help you with your complex cross-border transactions between District 12 and District 2.

Seriously, they have offices everywhere.

You’d think that by this point the people who run the part of the DLA Piper website that posts all of these offices would easily win the geography wedge in Trivial Pursuit. But a tipster recently glanced at the DLA website and noted that for all its global reach, the firm seems to have a blind spot when it comes to the African continent.

Oh, they have offices in Africa, it’s just not entirely clear the firm knows where they are….

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In the crazy world of cyberspace, personal injury lawyers are a dime a dozen. By now, we’ve gotten used to their crazy antics and low-budget commercials.

But not all personal injury firms are created equal. For the Law Firm of Gary, Williams, Lewis, and Watson, P.I., “low-budget” is a concept that just doesn’t exist. To the contrary, the firm wants to make it clear just how baller the life of a private injury attorney can be.

Dubbing himself “The Giant Killer,” the firm’s larger-than-life head partner, Willie E. Gary, never misses an opportunity to make his wealth and success known. Touting hundred-million-dollar verdicts and rubbing elbows with celebrities, Gary is on a one-man mission to prove that chasing ambulances is much easier when you’re driving a Bentley….

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Have you tried visiting the website of your favorite major law firm today and encountered something like this? Here’s a screenshot for Davis Polk (but you’ll see something similar for Cravath, Jones Day, White & Case, and many other top firms that tipsters emailed us about today):

Let’s find out why this is occurring….

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Tom Wallerstein

When lawyers form a new firm, one of their first, most important projects is usually designing their website. This makes sense because the website is often the first thing that a prospective client or referral source will see. Its importance cannot be overstated.

The process of designing a website (or printed marketing material) is considerably different for a new enterprise than it is for an established one. For an established firm, the process involves trying to portray to the outside world the essence of what the firm is and emphasize what distinguishes it from its competition.

For a new firm, however, the process is very different because you must first conceptualize what you want to be before you decide how you want to present yourself to the outside world. In this way, the website of a new firm is more aspirational than it is descriptive. For example, when a new firm proclaims that it handles practice areas A, B, and C, it often means that it intends to handle those practice areas.

This dynamic plays itself out in virtually everything a new business does. When it chooses a logo, or color scheme, or even its name, it engages in a process of self-conceptualization, imagining what it wants to be. I think that’s one reason why new businesses spend so much time, and so enjoy, focusing on relatively simple things like deciding on a logo. It’s fun to imagine your potential….

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