What role does strategy play in a successful law firm website?
Briefly, it is your rock, your anchor, your launch point for every website decision you make.
Since the earliest days of Content Pilot's Ten Foundational Best Practices website research in 2005, the very first attribute of the entire Study has been, “Clear and differentiating positioning strategy.” All these years later, our research has proved that still too many of the taglines, themes or home page statements sound generic and similar.
Review The Stated Strategies of All Your Peer Firms
All firms who are considering a redesign would benefit from what we’ve just done – review the stated strategies of all your peer firms. For example, in our latest AmLaw Global 50 research, several firms used word pairs in their taglines or themes that include both GLOBAL and LOCAL. These are so common, they are not distinguishing at all. Avoid language that is so popular it could apply to any of the law firms in your competitor group.
How Did The AmLaw Global 50 Firms Do?
Sixteen Global 50 law firms scored “zero” on this attribute, meaning no strategy was evident at all. In the 2016 Study, twenty firms scored “zero.” Too many of the law firms that did have a solid strategy in place and ranked high didn’t take advantage of the home page to communicate their differentiating message up front. Their strategy statements – often buried inside a video – were further buried in the ABOUT section of the website. Check your website analytics to see what percentage of visitors are viewing these particular interior pages compared to how many land on your home page. Sell your strategy up front!
The AmLaw Global 50 average score for “Clear and Differentiating Positioning Strategy” was 62.1, or “fair.” In 2016 the average was score was 45.6 – “poor.” Given the size and sophistication of these law firms, all should score 100. And, it's easy for your firm to score 100, too!
We should add that strategy isn’t just for the biggest law firms. And “strategy” isn’t what partners create sitting around a conference table - or today on a Zoom call. A memorable positioning strategy should be elevating, revealing and serve as a promise to your clients and prospects of what they can expect from you. This is a tall order given that a strategy statement consists of a very few words.
Which AmLaw Global 50 firms stood out on strategy?
We could name a dozen smaller law firms with winning strategies that boost memorability and connection, but for this post, we are focusing on the AmLaw Global 50 “standout firms” for positioning strategy:
Jones Day: While several firms have borrowed the sentiment and claim some version of it, Jones Day’s tagline “One Firm Worldwide” has been distinguishing since the firm launched its last site in 2007. A video under "VALUES" in the global navigation tells clients what it means and also tells lawyers who are evaluating employment options. It is a powerful message that is enduring and that Jones Day pays off.
Baker McKenzie: Good positioning under ABOUT US – “The New Lawyers for the New World” accompanied by a compelling video that reviews all their firsts. But – this needs to be on the home page – don’t make visitors hunt for it.
Allen + Overy – Good positioning statement right up front that suggests how they do business – “Innovation as usual.” This strategy copy follows: “The world’s top companies rely on Allen & Overy to solve their most complex legal and business challenges.”
Morgan Lewis – Our #1-scoring firm in the 2016 Study, Morgan Lewis includes solid strategy copy prominently on the home page. This sets a visitor's expectations of what the firm offers and how they do business. "At Morgan Lewis, we see our clients as partners. Whether you’ve been with us for days or decades, whether you’re today’s industry leader or tomorrow’s game-changer, we’re always responsive and always on." While calling clients “partners” is not distinguishing and is over-used, the rest of it is fresh and interesting.
CMS – We applaud “Your World First” because it is client affirming, pithy, and strong. It is a missed opportunity not to have it more prominently on the home page (it lives off to the right above a "how can we help you" box). Also – there is a video in the ABOUT CMS mega-menu that is very good and that tells a great story.
Quinn Emanuel – They put their stake in the ground on the home page via their rankings, which isn’t unique, but the firm has been committed to this approach at least since the 2016 Study. However, this is actually less compelling than the large, bold text on THE FIRM & NEWS landing page: "LITIGATION IS A ZERO SUM GAME. THERE IS A WINNER AND A LOSER. WE KNOW HOW TO WIN." (Note to the firm: Zero-sum should be hyphenated in this use.)
- Milbank – While we believe this unique statement should be on the home page, at least it appears at the top of the WHO WE ARE page: "The merger of excellence and grit.” Countless firms talk about “excellence,” but we’ve never seen it combined with something quite as earthy as “grit.” Good one, Milbank.