September 5, 2020
By Liza Vasquez ICF CMC and Jeffrey F. Silber CPA MBA CMC
Certified Master Business and Life Coaches
A Little History
Despite Al Gore’s claim that he invented the internet, it was actually a British scientist named Tim Berners-Lee who invented the World Wide Web (www) in 1989. Dr. Berners-Lee originally conceived of it as a way to automate information-sharing among scientists in universities and research institutes around the world. At that time, this was a community of more than 17,000 scientists from over 100 countries.
It was Dr. Berners-Lee himself who posted the first publicly available website on August 6, 1991. And the first website was only about how the www was going to work.
By the end of 1992, there were ten websites in the entire world. The early websites were simplistic affairs as compared to what we know today. In fact, they were only black text, no images, and only hyper-links appeared in blue. It is like comparing the first video game, Pong, with the sophisticated video games we have now.
By the end of 1994 there were still only 2,738 websites in the world; the first big jump was in 1996 when there were 256,602; in the next two years, there was a ten-fold increase so that in 1998 there were 2,420,060; by 2000 there were 17,087,182 websites and the growth continued to accelerate from 2000 to 2020 to the point where there are over two billion websites in the world today. That is one website for every 3.5 people on the planet. To be fair, only about 400 million websites could be considered as active, but that is still one active website for every 17.5 people on the planet.
It reminds us of the 1960’s when all the fast food chains were experiencing their first round of dynamic expansion. They all had wildly optimistic expectations of the speed of their continued growth. Harvard business professor, Jay Moses, got the idea of doing a reality check. He put together all the projections of McDonalds, Burger King, KFC, Wendy’s, Jack-in-the Box, Pizza Hut, Minnie Pearl’s Chicken, Arthur Treacher’s Fish’n’Chips, Dairy Queen, Chi Chi’s Mexican Restaurants, TGI Fridays, and a great many more. Never mind their projections of growth, some of those chains did not even survive into the 21st Century. What Prof. Moses study showed was that if all the fast food chains had met their 1960’s growth projections that by the year 2000, there would be one fast food restaurant in America for every family. So, even if every family ate out on any given evening, there would still be only one family in each restaurant. How is that for a reality check?
By the way, how did we ever survive before Google, which was only established in 1998, LinkedIn which launched in 2002 and Facebook which began in 2004. Twitter began in 2006 and can you believe that WhatsApp was founded in 2009?
Now Let’s Talk About You
Your law firm undoubtedly has a website. No one will take you seriously as a law firm without one and your own corresponding domain name for your emails, such as email@example.com. In the early days, just having any kind of web presence in the www was good enough. In fact, in 1997, when there were only 1/100th the amount of websites than we have today, Jeffrey met a lawyer who was so proud to show him his firm’s website which had been made by his 14-year-old son. It was clear that a fourteen-year old with not the slightest knowledge of what a law firm’s website should contain, had designed, and created the website. At least his father was proud that his son was able to do this.
At first, the IT person in each law firm was able to manage what were the very-limited demands of the partners for what they thought their website should look like and contain. Since then, the world of digital marketing has changed from night to day! An entire website industry has grown up with specialized website design consultants and the techies to create them. The content of a website no longer depends on what the partners alone think, because the expectations of the marketplace have become very challenging.
The more sophisticated, but still early, view of what a law firm’s website should be was that of an electronic version of your printed brochure. At best, even a good early website showed: the firm’s Mission Statement, Practice Areas; names and bios and photos of the partners (and sometimes of the associate lawyers); a few articles written by the firm’s lawyers; some awards; a list of current and past clients; and perhaps an article about the firm’s pro bono work. Some lawyers were so in love with their websites that they put it on USB’s to keep a handful in their pocket to give out instead of their business card.
That constituted a fine law firm website back in the day. And we bet that your firm’s website most likely still looks that way. You might defensively ask us, What’s the problem with a website that looks like that? Let us explain it like this. Can you imagine a potential client that keeps a copy of your firm’s brochure in their desk drawer and once a week they take it out to read it again? Of course not, that is preposterous. No potential client would do that. In fact, they are likely to discard your brochure after they have read it once.
Your website is still most likely a glorified version of your firm’s printed brochure. Do not be defensive because the times they are changing, and quickly. You are a lawyer and you cannot also be expected to be so familiar with these changes. That is why we are here to guide you. That style website died on March 15, 2020. The trend to change was already in motion, but the headlong rush into all things digital was put into high gear because of the pandemic. The virus did not create the digital trend, it was already there, but the lockdown made the change necessary at the speed of light.
Let Us Get Specific
Exposure – This is what all lawyers and law firms strive for. That is why you want to give the visitors to your website reasons to return again and again. Remember, no one is going to read your brochure more than once, so why would anyone visit your website more than once? Firms were accustomed to adding the bio of a new partner or associate and perhaps adding the occasional new article. That is the old concept of Set it and forget it. Those days are over.
Your website is the gateway to your law firm. You need to pay close attention to it. High-growth law firms, those that have grown 20% per year or more for at least the last three years, rely heavily on digital marketing strategies which match the growing demands of their current and potential clients. These hi-growth firms realize that CEO’s, business owners and entrepreneurs are getting younger all the time; and these decision-makers were raised in a world of online video games and in the digital world, places where they are most comfortable. Do not fight the digital trend, embrace it. Go with it or you will become a dinosaur.
Your new website must not be all about you anymore. It must educate and convey quality, important current information with practical suggestions for the visitor to implement. It must be continuously kept current and interesting. It must be easy to use. Do not become mesmerized by a web designer’s proposed fancy website for your firm that is so artistic as to not be user-friendly, because it will drive traffic away from your website.
Statistics – Potential clients see the law firm’s website as a glimpse into what it will be like to work with that firm. As a result, recent research shows that 23.5% of potential clients eliminate law firms from consideration because of websites, which did not match their expectations.
What to Include in Your New Website?
You will need a Learning Center where the visitor can find all your current Client Alerts as well as other articles and information of current importance. Take down information that is no longer relevant. An article about tax changes from two years ago, for example, makes the visitor think you are not a law firm of the moment that they can be considered as a visible expert, someone they can turn to for meaningful current advice. A strong Learning Center is what will bring the visitor back to your site repeatedly.
Current and potential clients love original research. In your Learning Center, you should have this kind of unique information they cannot get anywhere else. It is not easy to do this, but it pays big dividends in loyal visitors to your website – who will eventually become clients.
A contemporary website needs to have Links to other hard-to-find sources of information as an aide to the visitor, and these links need to be kept fresh.
The website should contain videos of your team in action, of them giving speeches (which can be segments of online webinars).
There should be a Chat Box where a visitor can have a real-time chat with a lawyer on your team.
There should be a special portal on your website for current clients to check on the status of their matters and where they can have access to premium information, such as the original research mentioned above.
You should be doing a great deal of marketing on the internet and so your website needs to have the recorded Podcasts of your team members, your Webinars, your online Townhall Meetings and so on. All of these should be cross-referenced on your website by subject, speaker, and date. Again, take down those videos that are not reflective of important current issues.
Your CV is Now Your Business Card - Inasmuch as your contacts with new people will be increasingly online and much less in person, you are going to have fewer opportunities to give your business card to someone. Your CV on your website is now your electronic business card. You have the luxury of more space in your CV online. Take advantage of it. Again, do not set it and forget it. Keep it current. Also, please do not post your high school graduation picture. A current picture of you speaking in front of an audience or participating in one of your own Podcasts, would be the best picture to post. But the picture should be a current one.
Drive Traffic To Your Website - You will need to use Search Engine Optimization (SEO) tools to be sure that Google and other searches are driving people to your website.
Full Time Social Media Position – Keeping your website up to the moment and keeping track of what articles your firm is posting on various social media platforms, scheduling, and organizing Pod Casts, and so on, is now a full-time position. This is not to be attempted by your marketing person. Start thinking about hiring this person.
Once upon a time, your firm did not have a website. You went with the times and accordingly, you mounted one. Bravo! That was excellent. Now, the world is changing around you very quickly around you and you need to go with the times, again. Do not lose potential clients to younger lawyers who are digitally savvy. You can handle tough legal issues, so we know you can handle these changes. As so many of your legal contracts say Time is of the essence, so start getting with the times and begin making these changes now.
By the way ……
On Camera Coaching – Liza Vasquez, president of Silber, Vasquez & Associates has been an acting coach in Hollywood and New York. She has also directed Off-Broadway theater. Please contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange for a coaching program to improve your on-camera presentation, or for your team. Remember, you can also reach out to Liza for coaching on anything related to any feelings or concerns you may have during these trying times of COVID-19.
Coaching During the Lockdown – Inasmuch as most lawyers are working from home, a large percentage have more unproductive downtime nowthan ever before. This is an excellent opportunity to arrange for a private coaching program for yourself, or group coaching for your team via Zoom, to discuss the new ways to market your services in a world where face-to-face meetings are no longer possible. Please contact Jeffrey Silber at email@example.com to discuss a coaching program for you and your team in Marketing Your Legal Services in a Post-Covid-19 world.
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