Law firms face unique marketing challenges. The ultimate goal of a law firm’s website is to reach out to potential clients and get them to call the firm for help if they have a legal problem—there is nothing unique about that. But, law firm copy must be more informative and less promotional than content for some other companies. There are also special advertising and ethics rules that apply to law firms that don’t apply in other industries. Here are five “laws” of legal marketing to keep in mind before publishing content on a law firm’s website.
1. Focus on Prospective Clients
Always remember the intended audience: prospective law firm clients. Typical content should stress the fact that legal matters are often complex (they are), that hiring a competent attorney is the best way to protect legal rights (it is), and conclude with a call-to-action directing readers to call the law firm for a consultation.
Marketers with legal training may be tempted to use legalese—this is a bad idea. It should be assumed that readers have no formal knowledge. Make sure any legal terms used are defined. The art of law firm content is to explain legal concepts as simply as possible.
For the most part, the target audience of law firm content includes people who are going through major life hardships. Be cognizant of that. These are people that have been injured or lost a loved one in an accident, are facing criminal charges, have severe financial or tax problems, are in the throes of divorce or fighting for custody or their kids, etc.
These people want an attorney who cares about them. Use “you” and avoid clunky SEO copy that sounds impersonal. Connect with emotion hat shows the firm is compassionate and cares about its clients. In the scope of criminal or personal injury law, remember that family members often search for a lawyer on behalf of a loved one. Address them directly. For instance, replace you with you or a loved one in appropriate places.
2. Anticipate Readers’ Questions—And Answer Them
Assume readers have no idea how to get started solving their legal problem. Guide them through the first steps. In a general way, your website should answer the obvious questions your target audience has—i.e. How do I get a divorce? What do I do after a car accident? How do I create a will?—then explain the need to have an attorney handle the specifics. People expect good law firms to be bastions of knowledge. Include statistics and cite law whenever possible (but remember, use lay-person language!)
3. Address Cost
Cost is a big concern people have when seeking an attorney. Stress the affordability or competitive rates of the firm when possible. If your firm offers services on a contingency basis or offers free consultations, mention these facts.
4. Consider Advertising and Ethics Rules
Generally, a law firm website exists as a marketing tool and must comply with advertising rules. Beware of writing any statements that could constitute false advertising. The biggest mistake is to say that a law firm will win a person’s case. Instead, convey that the firm will try its best but that nothing is guaranteed (i.e. “Law Firm XYZ will fight to get you the compensation you deserve”).
Some law firm website content is not meant to be an advertisement at all, but instead serve an educational purpose. Not only will marketing messages detract from the educational goal of these pages, but they could also trigger advertising rules you weren’t planning for. Avoid overt promotion on these pages.
Attorneys must also follow their state bar association’s ethics rules. Law firms may not make misleading communications regarding their services or engage in deceit or misrepresentation. Substantive legal writing, such as blogs, showcase the attorney’s writing style, expertise, and perspective, but not necessarily the law firm’s. Some firms that take advantage of outside help to create more substantive content choose to disclose that the firm is not necessarily the author of any given post, for instance with a byline that reads written on behalf of Law Firm XYZ. At a minimum, law firms should closely supervise this type of work to ensure that the writer is adhering to the instructions and accurately expressing the firm’s perspective.
5. Proofread Well
Writing is a core part of an attorney’s job, and people expect law firms to write with precision. Clients trust attorneys to communicate on their behalf by submitting pleadings and briefs in court, or by drafting other legal documents (letters, contracts, wills, etc.) for them.
A website is a reflection of the law firm’s ability to communicate. [Tweet it] Typos and grammar mistakes can damage a potential client’s confidence in a law firm. Proofreading work is especially important before it is published on a law firm website.
Follow these five laws of legal content marketing for a website that will attract, engage and connect with prospects and clients, and help you stand apart from the competition.
5-Star writer Matthew F is an attorney practicing in New Orleans, Louisiana. He graduated magna cum laude from Loyola University College of Law in 2015. Matthew was a member of the law review, and his Comment was published in the Loyola Law Review. He has experience with both civil and criminal law and can write and type of legal content concisely and accurately.
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