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Five key challenges of managing a law firm website

  • By 3chillies

Managing a law firm website is both exciting and challenging, making a significant contribution by creating a valuable marketing channel, helping validate the expertise within the firm, and generating essential leads. In a previous article, we looked at seven of the key features of a a law firm website that need to be focused on, including partner and associate profiles, legal know-how, and search functionality. In this follow-up post, we'll examine some of the particular challenges that digital teams managing law firm websites face.

  1. Law firms are risk averse
  2. It won’t exactly come as a surprise that law firms are some of the most risk-averse organisations around. Given their core services and the need to maintain a reputation while meeting various regulatory requirements and being consistent with the advice they give clients, this understandable caution can present challenges for website teams and digital marketers.

    There will inevitably be many internal reviews involved in implementing any new digital initiatives or creating a new site, leading to inertia and potentially limiting what digital marketers can do. However, once the risks have been addressed, web teams can have considerable influence in enabling what they want to do and lawyers can be open to ideas, as long as it goes through the appropriate reviews and processes.

    However, if you're new to a legal firm culture, you may feel that you have less creative freedom than you would in some other organisations across different sectors.

  3. Lawyers are time-pressured
  4. Lawyers are very busy, and this can lead to some issues. For example, law firms often require a review of technical content from subject matter experts. Understandably, this content needs to be very carefully reviewed, but it can lead to operational bottlenecks in getting content out quickly. Those subject matter experts who may need to review this content, often prove to the most busy. However, there are ways to circumvent this, especially involving professional support lawyers who sometimes write content and develop appropriate approval workflows to get articles out quickly.

    The time-pressured nature of the legal profession also means that sometimes website teams have to take a pragmatic approach and resign themselves to doing more of the less glamorous work associated with website management, such as basic content uploading.

    Another challenge is when lawyers need to approve a new site but prove to be too busy to do so; they may then leave everything until the last minute and come in with a long list of changes just before the launch. This is a common issue in all organisations but it is particularly prevalent in law firms.

  5. Legalease versus everyday language
  6. Law firms have a lot of technical content that needs to be written carefully and will be written in legal language. This is not necessarily a problem when the intended audience are other lawyers. However, if an article is meant for a non-legal audience, it can be challenging to make the content more accessible. Marketing teams may struggle to make the text engaging while ensuring the text is still technically accurate and may not even be in a position to do so. However, lawyers reviewing content don’t necessarily have user-friendly text as top of mind.

    Brevity is also not a traditional strength of legal content. Lawyers tend to be quite wordy in their descriptions, so text can sometimes be too long, and titles in particular may not fit into the templates within your content management system. Again, this may not be ideal for the digital marketing team.

  7. Marketing automation is not mature
  8. Law firms have clear marketing processes that lend themselves well to marketing automation, such as events and subscriptions to newsletters. However, in some law firms digital marketing and related automation is not particularly mature. This may mean that there are some manual tasks, activities and workarounds that the web team need to make which can be time-consuming.

    Marketing automation may require a CMS, a mass emailer and a CRM system to be integrated. Integrating popular CRM systems like Microsoft Dynamics and Salesforce with a CMS tends to be supported by out-of-the-box connectors, but many law firms use a CRM system like InterAction, which may require customisation to fully enable marketing automation. Not every law firm will want to invest in a potentially expensive integration; this can impact the ability to introduce marketing automation and move things forward.

  9. Taxonomy and terminology
  10. Law firms typically have structured approaches to describe their practice areas, expertise, services and offerings. This is reflected in their internal systems, where larger firms are likely to have a standard and controlled taxonomy of terms with active management to ensure relevance and accuracy. However, applying this taxonomy and terminology to an external website can cause a lot of debate and disagreement. Everybody has a view!

    This is particularly true when it comes to establishing a hierarchy of practices areas, sector specialisms and services offered and reflecting this on your website. How these are structured – in particular if there is a hierarchy – tends to provoke a lot of discussion and can divide opinion. How expertise and specialisms are described on partner and staff profiles can prove to be even more contentious.

    Digital marketing teams involved in restructuring a site or reviewing profiles may find themselves in the middle of a seemingly endless debate that goes around in circles and where it is hard to get an approved structure, and where objections from individual lawyers may be vocal. Overall it’s a difficult process, requiring consensus and effort to achieve. As the old saying goes, getting everyone to agree really is like herding cats.

Managing your law firm website

One thing we believe is that managing your law website shouldn’t be challenging on the technical side of things. We’ve helped many digital teams in legal firms successfully deliver a great website that then keeps on improving. If you’d like to discuss your legal firm website project, then get in touch!

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