The 7 deadly sins of law firm websites

law firm websites

We’ve seen many a law firm website in our time, from many different countries and with many different specialisms. For some reason, the legal profession in particular seems to have many websites that are very similar (and very sober).

If you are responsible for your firm’s website, you might find it useful to know which website issues we come across most often in the legal sector. Is your firm guilty of any of these?

1. It’s really boring

Whilst it’s really important to project a professional image, most professional services websites are way too boring. If you want potential customers to notice you, then you have to stand out from your competitors. If your website looks like all the others, then why should they choose you over any other firm?

For some unknown reason, there is a great deal of similarity between websites in the legal sector. It’s almost as if there is an unspoken rule that legal websites must look dull to appear professional. Everyone seems to be playing it safe, not wanting to stand out. But why wouldn’t you want to stand out in a sea of bland mediocrity? Surely that’s the whole point?

How to fix a boring law firm website

Make sure that your website actually reflects the culture of your firm. Be sure to include high quality images of your own offices and your team. Stock images can be OK in certain circumstances, but use them sparingly. When it comes to the main images on your website, people genuinely want to know what your firm looks like.

Use your own branding as inspiration for your website colour scheme, but don’t be afraid to inject other colours too for accents. This will help to bring the website to life. There are far too many law firm websites with blue logos, blue headings and grey text. Here’s are some examples of law firm websites that use colour to great effect:

If you are a local firm, you can also use images of the local area. If you don’t wear suits to the office, don’t wear them for your photos. And people definitely don’t need to see any more pictures of gavels, books and scales on a law firm website.

Your aim should be to attract the type of customers that will feel comfortable working with you. Need inspiration? Here are some examples of legal websites which will definitely attract their target market (and they certainly aren’t boring):

Invite your customers to engage with you via contact forms, calls to action and chat features. Maybe include some really useful features like a probate quote calculator or downloadable pdfs.

A blog is a really good way of getting across what you do for customers, as well as the range of services you provide. It’s also really effective at improving your search engine results.

Speak to a web developer or web designer about how to inject more interest and personality into your website. It may be that a change of colour or font might make all the difference.

A good website expert will take time to understand the ethos of your firm, and they will be able to translate this into an effective and congruent design.

Don’t worry though – we’re willing to bet that even if your website is really boring, it’s not the worst one we’ve seen.

2. It’s too slow

Simply put, if your law firm website takes too long to load, people will go elsewhere. The main culprit is often large images (or videos) that have not been properly optimised.

When it comes to websites, the faster the better. A really fast website gives an impression of efficiency and attention to detail.

Most people are very impatient when it comes to browsing the internet, and in this day and age they will no longer wait around for a website to load.

If you get fed up waiting for your website to load, then you can be sure that your potential customers do too!

How to fix a slow website

Google Page Speed Insights is a useful tool that will give you an indication of how long your website pages take to load.

Google Page Speed Insights also gives recommendations for how to improve your website performance. But here’s a warning: don’t get too fixated on this as a tool. If you type Google’s own website into it, it won’t even let you see the result. I wonder why?

Some of the recommendations given by Google’s page speed insights tool are unrealistic, or just plain weird.

As developers, we generally prefer to use the Pingdom speed tool or GTMetrix, which tend to give a better reflection of what really matters when it comes to speed. But there are lots of speed tools available, and they will all give you different results.

You might well be able to fix some of the speed issues yourself. However, a good web developer will be able to speed your website up a good deal further.

3. It’s not responsive (i.e. it’s not optimised for mobile devices)

It doesn’t matter how good your law firm website might look on a desktop computer, the fact of the matter is that more website traffic now comes from mobile devices than desktops. So the majority of your visitors are likely to be using a phone or tablet to view your website.

Some older websites were not built with mobile devices in mind at all. Even more recently designed websites sometimes only work well on desktop computers (depending on how good your developer was).

If your law firm website does not look really good on all types of device (or maybe doesn’t even work properly on mobile devices), then you will be losing potential customers. One problem that we see very often on legal websites is that the full menu is not accessible from mobile devices.

It’s also common to see contact forms or maps that don’t work, bits of text hanging off the side of the screen, invisible or unclickable buttons and footers that don’t show up on mobile versions of the website.

How to fix a non-responsive website design

It’s really worth getting several people to test out your website on their own devices to see what works and what doesn’t. If your website has not been built with mobile devices in mind, then you may need to hire a web developer to sort it out for you.

4. You don’t have a security certificate

A professional firm that doesn’t care about security? Any potential customers will surely move on to one that does! The Google search engine and browsers (like Chrome, Firefox, Microsoft Edge and Safari) will warn visitors if your website is not secure. Visitors to your website are unlikely to stick around once they know that you don’t prioritise security.

SSL certificates have been around for many years now. If you still don’t have a security certificate (otherwise known as an SSL certificate), your website may still look OK, but it will be vulnerable to hackers. Furthermore, any information sent from customers via the website (like contact details in a contact form) will not be secure.

When deciding which websites to show in search results, Google also gives priority to websites that have an SSL certificate, so that’s another reason to make sure that you have one.

An SSL certificate needs to be configured correctly, which can be a little tricky to get right. If you would like to know how secure your website is, there’s a handy little tool which you can use to check.

Type your website address into the tester tool, and it will tell you how well your server security is configured. Anything less than A+, and you should check the security settings.

Here’s an example for one of our websites:

SSL Labs security checker tool

How to install an SSL certificate (or improve your security settings)

Unless you have experience of internet and server security, you should probably employ an experienced web developer to help you sort this one out.

Some website hosting companies might install an SSL for you, but please use the above-mentioned checker tool after they’ve done it. In our experience, they often get it wrong…

5. It’s really hard to navigate

Most professional services firms have quite complicated organisational structures. Just because it works for your firm doesn’t mean it works for your customers, or your law firm website.

It might be obvious to you, but think about your website navigation from a customer’s point of view. Do they really understand the difference between “corporate” and “commercial”?

We often see far too many pages on professional services websites, which can create confusion for new users. It can be difficult for them to find their way around. If you really must have lots of pages, make sure they are structured with a logical hierarchy.

Check that you don’t have any pages which are several clicks away from the main menu. And make sure you have useful links to other relevant pages throughout your content – this is good for search engine optimisation too.

How to fix poor navigation

Ask some actual customers to test out your website and report back on how easy it was to find things. We find that most customers prefer to search for what they want either by sector or service, so make sure that both options are available to them via the main menu.

Your website should include a search box where people can type some text in and get a list of relevant results. Check to make sure that those search results are relevant; you’d be surprised how often they are not. We very frequently see search results that are irrelevant and unhelpful on professional services websites.

If you need a better search function on your law firm website, then a good web developer will be able to help you.

6. It’s not compliant

Sorry to be boring, but some things just have to be done. If you don’t have a clickable SRA verified website badge (also known as the digital badge) on your law firm website, then it’s time you got one!

In addition, UK law firms have no excuse for not properly complying with GDPR requirements. Similarly, if you don’t have terms & conditions, a privacy policy and a cookie policy on your website then you probably shouldn’t be practicing law.

How to fix a non-compliant website

Task someone with working out what needs to be done and getting the appropriate content in place. If you need help with setting up the GDPR requirements for the website or the SRA digital badge, a good web developer that specialises in professional services firms will be able to help.

7. You have no testimonials

It’s well known that potential customers really value the experiences of past or existing customers when making purchasing decisions. When people are looking for a law firm or a solicitor, they like to hear about whether others have received a good service and enjoyed working with them. Good quality testimonials are highly valuable to legal firms, and help to build trust with potential customers.

How to get testimonials from your customers

If you don’t have one already, implement a process to ensure that all customers are asked to provide a review or give some feedback on their experience. This can be via email, as part of a wider feedback process or via a third-party review website such as ReviewSolicitors.

You can then use quotes from these reviews on your law firm website, as “social proof” of the quality service that your firm provides. Don’t forget to seek permission to use these quotes, and to include their names if possible.

Testimonials also make great social media posts, which can generate further traffic to your website.

Is your law firm website guilty?

Is your law firm website guilty of any of these? Let us know. Most of them are fairly easy to sort out. They could make all the difference to your website and help you to stand out in a competitive marketplace.

We’ve tried to be positive in this article and not name-and-shame all the worst legal websites that we’ve ever come across. But we do have a “wooden spoon” award to give to a particular group of legal websites that really should be able to better reflect the profession they purport to serve, and that’s local Law Societies. If anyone knows of one with an attractive and user-friendly website, then please let us know!

Outerbridge specialise in hosting and looking after websites for professional services firms.

Find out more about our WordPress website care plans.

Feel free to contact us if you’d like to discuss any aspects of your website with us in more detail.

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