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Getting the partner and staff directory right on your law firm or professional services firm website

  • By 3chillies

Law firms and other professional services firms (PSFs) provide services and advice that are based on the professional expertise and know-how of partners and staff. Therefore, establishing the credibility, experience and qualifications of the people that make up a law or PSF firm is one of the critical jobs for a law firm or PSF website.

Websites do this in various ways – through communications, updates, reports and overviews about different practice areas. However, a law firm website is not just about getting the right message across about the collective expertise of a firm, it is also about establishing the credentials of individual partners and staff.

One of the main tools for doing this is the partner and staff directory, which enables visitors to:

  • Search through a directory of people on different filters.
  • View the experience and credentials of an individual in more detail.
  • Get in touch with an individual through their contact details.

Marketing teams know how important partner and staff profiles are in a law firm or PSF website, creating connection and validate expertise. In this post we’re going to explore seven approaches which lead to a better partner and staff directory for your website.

  1. Consider everything from the user perspective
  2. Partner and staff directories are one website element that everyone in the firm has a view on. Some partners and staff will have robust opinions on what goes into their particular profile, but also on wider elements such as the ordering of profiles, the tags used to describe expertise and more. For example, some partners might want the ordering from a search to return partner profiles above associates.

    However, you choose to organise and design your profiles, it’s essential to consider everything from the user perspective and overall what you’re trying to achieve, rather than making decisions based on uniformed assumptions. Partner and staff profiles will inevitably draw opinions, but these might not be in the best interest of your website build and your site visitors.

  3. Focus on photography
  4. The photography you use on partner and staff profiles is essential. It strongly conveys your overall brand and sends a message about how professional and approachable a particular person is. Most law firms we know spend a considerable amount of effort and resource on getting profile photos right.

    Generally, marketing teams use a professional photographer to take portraits and try to achieve some kind consistency across all the pictures. There is often a well-thought-through style which depends on the brand – for example, some law firms try to capture a less formal picture to reflect a more relaxed but still professional culture.

    Another element to achieve is to try and ensure every profile has a photo, as it looks unprofessional when there is a placeholder image. This is not always easy with new staff joining and there can be a delay in organising a photo and getting it on the website. Where possible, try and minimise the instances of this happening.

  5. Validate expertise and experience
  6. One of the key roles of a law firm website is to validate the expertise and knowledge of a law firm, and of its partners and staff. In particular, profiles need to be able to convey and provide reassurance that an individual has expertise and experience in a particular specialism.

    It can help to consider partner and staff profiles as “shop windows” to validate that expertise. This can be done in certain ways:

    • Listing experience both in a bio but also specific cases or projects.
    • Listing any third-party commentary and citations from the different legal directories.
    • Listing any award, accolades and memberships.
    • Linking to any articles and blogs that have been written or contributed to by the person, or news involving that person.
    • Listing areas of specialisms and expertise with specific tags.

  7. Keep bios brief and engaging
  8. If a partner or staff member has a strong track record and lots of great experience, it’s tempting to try and pack in as much detail as possible into the biography section of a profile. However, this can result in reams of text which most visitors simply don’t have the time to read. In general, we think it’s better to keep the bios brief, focused and engaging. Specific details such as lists of experience, memberships and other accolades can sometimes appear in their own section of the profile and appear as a list or bulleted, making them easier to scan rather than getting lost in a series of dense paragraphs.

    Also consider hiring a professional copywriter to craft partner and staff bios. Lawyers love to write, but this can mean their bio can get unwieldy.

  9. Focus on the paths to the profile
  10. One of the jobs of a website is to provide effective user journeys so that site visitors to achieve their goals successfully and quickly. Partner and staff profiles are high-value content that can result in lead generation. Your website pages and navigation should offer plenty of paths to partner and staff profiles, for example through:

    • A top-level navigation item for people or staff and partners.
    • Embedded people or relevant service search boxes within landing pages.
    • A dedicated partner and staff search.
    • An A to Z browse option of profiles.
    • The general search with people results returned.
    • Links to profiles from contacts or team members listed on practice area or specialist pages.
    • Links from articles and blogs written by partners and staff.

    These are just some of the popular ways that partner and staff profiles can be accessed, but there will also be additional and creative ways to explore.

  11. Create profile cards with salient details
  12. The ability to search through people profiles and filter by different criteria is important. Often when searching through a partner and staff directory, returned hits can be represented by profile cards that can then be clicked through to the wider profile. These cards may also appear within pages for example as a contact on a list, although that card may be a slightly different format from one that appears in a search.

    Profile cards are useful as they can just include salient details meaning a user doesn’t need to click through to the entire profile. Typically, a profile card will include name, photo, job title, location, phone number, email or link to a contact firm, and potentially areas of expertise or specialisms.

  13. Manage your taxonomy and tagging
  14. The way you describe expertise, specialisms and practice areas on different partner and staff profiles is not always straightforward, as there can be many differing opinions, especially in a law firm. People can end up feeling very strongly not only about the list of terms you use, but also which profiles they are applied to. The taxonomy and tagging you use to describe these areas are also likely to be the filters that site visitors can use in any people directory search.

    Because it can be difficult to get right and can even be emotive, ensure you actively manage your taxonomy and tagging. Have a defined owner and set people to consult involving changes; ultimately, you’ll also need an arbiter with sufficient clout to make a final decision about any tagging items. If you are changing your taxonomy then allow for plenty of time and also ensure you involve the right people, as it can get surprisingly political.

Getting your directory right

The partner and staff directory is an essential part of any law firm or professional services firm website. It’s worth spending the time, effort and resources to get it right, as it really can support business development. If you’d like to discuss improving the partner and staff directory on your website, then get in touch!

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