Sep. 17, 2008

What Elements Constitute the Best Web Design for a Law Firm?

According to this AmLaw Daily article, Still Loading: Law Firms lag behind the Rest of Corporate America on the Web, "there are still law firms of substantial size that have relatively poor Web site offerings, surprisingly poor Web sites."

Yet as Sonny Cohen pointed out in his previous blog post, Award Winning Websites Announced By Web Marketing Association, legal websites that get their web design right are recognized and rewarded.

So what's the real story here? Are law firms' web designs lagging or worthy of lauding?

If you're comparing American law firms to corporate America, apparently you'll find lag in the area of website usability, interactivity, and innovation in design. But many law firms are going beyond "brochure-like" content towards client-centric and service-oriented site designs.

I appreciated Sonny Cohen's comments on the AmLaw article, saying "the targeted personas for law firms are clients, prospects, potential lateral transfers and first year lawyers" and basically pointing out to other commenters that matching the needs of the users of the law firm's website is more important than criticizing it based on their own personally-formed beliefs. Plus you need to tie the design into the firms business objectives - and being bookmarked isn't a business objective. A persona-based approach to website design makes a lot of sense to me, and metrics for judging the effectiveness are a must.

The AmLaw article ends with a ranking list of the Top 100 AmLaw firms web sites. One note it does give you as a takeaway is that you can't correlate web site design with revenue per partner. Yet without metrics there's no way to prove this takeaway one way or another.

I found the AmLaw article informative but the comments were just as important - when analyzing effectiveness of a design or handing out rewards, make sure the criteria for judging the content and design matches that of the users of the site. Nicely done.

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