Shockingly, more than a quarter of law firms do not have a website.
As reported by The Times, according to new research undertaken in partnership with the Solicitors Regulation Authority and based on an analysis of more than 6,000 UK law firms, over 26% of firms had no website or complementary digital presence.
The digital divide
For many buyers of legal services, ‘personal recommendation’ is still the preferred means of finding a lawyer, with directories and recommendation from another lawyer also often cited. At the same time, individual lawyers and firms frequently report that ‘word of mouth’ and referrals are still the most powerful means of winning new work.
To some extent, this is why websites, and digital more broadly, are often neglected.
Simply put, many firms still struggle to see the tangible correlation between having a website and winning work - preferring to focus on personal relationship development to promote and secure opportunities. Where websites are used, they are often – or are at risk of becoming - homogeneous dumping grounds for loosely structured information which is too internally focussed, rather than curated experiences for clients and prospects.
The state of play is similar in social media: usage of digital platforms and curation of engaging digital content still seems hard for some to reconcile against the effort required to feed the machine and to learn lessons and derive insight from it.
However, with brand awareness a problem for most of those outside of the large global players, law firms who aren’t integrating and exploiting digital are missing a trick.
It’s all about “you”: putting audiences first
Websites should project more of what is important to audiences – foremost clients and prospects - rather than function as digital soapboxes for firms or individual lawyers.
This is reflected in another point raised by the SRA research – that over 7% of firms say they offer fixed fees, but do not advertise the fact on their websites. This issue has been flagged many times recently in customer satisfaction studies, including the Thomson Reuters/Georgetown Law report which suggests that the industry as a whole is burying its head in the sand. Some law firm websites are now starting to communicate their approach to alternative fee arrangements - although they are often still buried a little too deeply to be useful. The SRA continues to debate and engage on the publishing of law firm prices, with regulatory reform likely, so firms should ready themselves for action.
At the same time, social media has the potential to be the new ‘word of mouth’ – with social listening techniques, and authentic, personalised engagement around the issues that matter a fruitful means to develop sustained, and profitable, conversations with clients and prospects.
In this landscape, legal marketers must make their voices heard – and equip themselves with the tools to prove the worth and effectiveness of their channels. Better use of metrics and trend insights to ensure content stays relevant, and drives engagement, is important here. Critically, though, this means having buy in from, access to and regular contributions from, key thought leaders inside the firm.
Digital integration is already here. Rather than being afraid of technologies, law firms, in particular leaders, must embrace their digital futures so as not to be left behind as audiences continue to search for legal counsel.