If you’re on a mission to make your website the top law firm site for your practice area, we’ve created the ultimate guide to help get you started on building a traffic-driving, firm-growing law firm website. We based our guide on a combination of our years of experience building law firm websites and studies on what makes websites successful.
After reading our guide to building the best law firm website, you’ll have a clear idea of what your law firm website needs to do to accomplish your law firm growth goals and law firm website best practices.
Best Practices for Law Firm Websites
Table of Contents
What Makes The Best Attorney Websites?
You need to get to the root of what makes an effective law firm website first before worrying about a laundry list of features you’ll often see in other articles about the best law firm websites. Your firm can have a beautiful website that checks all the boxes when it comes to lists of website features but your site still doesn’t drive law firm growth.
Website characteristics like mobile-responsiveness and easy to use designs are important but aren’t ultimately the things that drive law firm growth.
Why? Because websites don’t always do what it takes to meet law firm new client acquisition needs, even if they have all the bells and whistles of a modern website.
Before you spend hours looking for law firm website design inspiration or browse lists of hundreds of websites you need to have a plan for how your website will motivate visitors to contact your firm, prove your firm is the best choice, and support building your law firm’s reputation.
If your website successfully does all of those things, you’ll be well on your way to having an effective law firm website that helps you achieve your business goals. We’ve guided other law firms through the process of law firm website development process and below you’ll find some tips on how to use this process for your own site.
Why Your Firm’s Website Must Build Trust to Succeed
It goes without saying that having the top lawyer website for your practice areas and region is a very lucrative position to be in. Not only are you the first law firm prospective clients call, you’re also seen as a leader in the legal community and benefit from referrals and countless opportunities for growth through other channels.
Despite the fact that 57% of legal consumers contact more than one attorney, 42% of people said they would choose the first lawyer they spoke with if they liked them, according to Clio. Becoming the top law firm means you can become the first and only firm leads call.
When it comes to online presence, however, being the top law firm requires that your website is a trusted source. Great legal websites show your prospective clients that you can be trusted to take care of their legal matter.
Beyond the clear incentives to have a top lawyer website design when it comes to building your firm’s reputation, there’s the extra incentive that a trustworthy site can help your law firm rank higher in search results and improve your search engine optimization.
Focusing on building a law firm website design that conveys trust can be the best of both worlds with increased organic traffic and a better firm reputation. The key, however, isn’t just a captivating design but a strategic combination of aesthetics and content that builds positive perceptions of your law firm.
According to psychological research on social influence, negative perceptions are directly tied to failing to be helpful. It should come as no surprise that if your website is helpful, people will often think your law firm is more likeable—and you’re more likely to be hired.
Building a trustworthy law site breaks down into two parts: showcasing expertise and building a convincing brand.
How The Best Legal Websites Showcase Knowledge and Expertise
Great legal websites use content as the main focus to convey expertise and knowledge supported by a handful of key design elements.
Law firms with great websites tend to publish articles and information that make them into the clear authority in their practice area. Search engines also love to rank sites with significant breadth and depth of content.
The best way to build trust is by focusing on what your potential clients want to know the most and publish it in the format they’re most receptive to.
According to the Clio report, supra, prospective clients are looking for six main pieces of information when making decisions about which law firm to hire:
- 81% want a response to each question they ask
- 80% say it’s important to have a clear understanding of how to proceed
- 77% want to know a lawyer’s experience and credentials
- 76% also want to get a clear sense of how much their legal issue could cost
- 74% want to know what the full process will look like for their case
- 72% want to know what types of cases the lawyer handles
If your website does a great job of answering each of these concerns and helping potential clients find this information easily, you’re well on your way to building their trust in you. You can take six steps to start to answer these concerns with your content:
1. Make it clear what cases you handle
Leads looking for the right law firm to handle their case typically are low-information consumers when it comes to legal knowledge and likely won’t understand the nuances between different types of cases you might handle within practice areas. Clearly qualify what makes a good case for you in a way leads can understand. If, for instance, you focus on traumatic brain injuries caused by trucking, make that clear on your website instead of a catch-all page about auto accidents.
2. Highlight firm experience and credentials
62% of people who hire an attorney are willing to spend more for someone they believe is very good, according to Clio’s report, so showing off your experience and credentials on your website is essential. This can be as simple as stating how many years you’ve been in practice, the cumulative years of the firm, how many matters you’ve handled, or even notable judgements if your jurisdiction’s ethical requirements allow.
3.Have well-written, engaging attorney bios
Attorneys are often concerned about their bios and rightly so. Leads are very concerned with the individual experience of the attorney handling their legal matter. But laundry lists of publications, graduation dates, and Bar admittance years isn’t very compelling to most legal consumers. Instead, focusing on why someone should hire you is the key to a well-written attorney bio that converts.
4.Create a clear process for conversion and call to action
Most leads don’t know if they need an attorney and how much it’s going to cost and, as a result, are often very hesitant to contact an attorney. Simplifying choices is a main tenet of website design that comes from Hick’s Law. Hicks’ research found that the time it takes to make a decision increases with the number and complexity of choices. Make sure you have a clear process for leads to contact you on each page of your website to reduce hesitation and increase conversions and a strong call to action throughout your site.
5.Explain the overarching legal process
Again, according to Clio’s research, 74% of leads want to know what the process looks like for their case, so laying it out to them can help you become their choice for legal services. Most law firms are afraid of sharing this information, either because of concerns of DIYers looking for advice or accidently creating attorney-client relationships. However, content can be strategically written to help legal consumers feel confident in the process, and your firm, without giving away too much.
6. Write articles on the most common questions related to your practice areas
The number one reason clients hire attorneys is that they received a response to the questions they asked but, surprisingly, 51% of law firms don’t answer most questions asked, supra. Your website can act as a passive source of answers to the most common questions your leads ask, creating not only trust with prospective clients, but also reducing time to sign clients from initial contact. Writing articles can be a lengthy, time-consuming process so focusing first on the most common questions and only then branching out is often the best way to start content marketing.
How The Best Legal Website Designs Create a Recognizable Visual Brand
Aesthetic taste is another hurdle law firms need to overcome to build a website that converts potential clients. The best law firm website designs help maintain credibility and trust instantly through design elements, including colors, layouts, fonts, images, and other visual cues.
Website visitors make judgements about websites in 50 milliseconds, according to a study that quickly showed website pages to study participants. Researchers found that in just 50 milliseconds, or about the time of a single TV frame, participants had already formed judgements about the site and rated websites the same as when the sites were shown for longer periods of time.
Additional research shows that while content can build trust, a poor website design is the leading cause for viewers to lose trust in a site. While the study only tested 15 participants and focused on health websites, lawyers can learn some important lessons from the study. What’s important for lawyers to note is that design was the determining factor in 94% of decisions that a site wasn’t trustworthy.
In other words, the best law websites have a well-designed site that steers clear of latent triggers that create distrust with ideal clients.
Prospective clients make a judgement about the credibility of your law firm based on the aesthetics of your website quicker than they can read information that may impact their decision to hire your firm. When it comes to website design, what they say is true: a picture is worth a thousand words. Another study on design and credibility found that the same content was rated more credible when presented in a more visually appealing manner.
Yet despite changing website design trends, there has been a surprising consistency in the factors that influence how website visitors interpret credibility through design over the last 20 years. Jakob Nielsen, a UX researcher from the Nielsen Norman Group, identified four ways websites can create credibility that have stood the test of time, even when studied again 20 years later.
Nielsen found that website visitors place the highest importance on “design quality, up-front disclosure, comprehensive and current content, and connection to the rest of the web”. While these four aspects haven’t changed, what’s most important is how we use them in website design today and how we apply these four aspects to building top law firm websites.
1. Authentic photos and videos of your law firm
Visual assets like images and video help to humanize your brand but, even more importantly, can increase trust in your law firm. Research has found that having humans present in images positively impacts the perception of trust by website users, whether faces or just a human presence. However, the best law firm website photos show your staff and office because they’re deemed more trustworthy than generic stock images, according to another study.
2. Cohesive brand
Getting your brand right depends quite a great deal on the aesthetic tastes of your potential clients so taking the unique preferences of your target clientele into account is key. But one thing all of the great lawyer websites have is a cohesive brand. Cohesive branding ensures consistency regardless of platform, whether on your site, your social media, or even your letterhead. Great law firm branding makes your brand instantly recognizable. The best lawyer website designs keep design elements similar throughout with consistent use of visuals.
3. Easily navigated and well-organized
One design element that Nielsen’s study found 20 years ago that maintains the same trust-building status today is user experience, including website navigation and organization. Potential clients who visit your law firm website expect to find relevant information quickly and easily without being misdirected. Unexpected navigation behaviors, such as page redirects and lack of navigation, create mistrust in your prospective clients. Lawyers should pay special attention to lack of navigation on landing pages for paid traffic, which is a common design practice for other industries that we’ve seen decrease conversions in our own work with clients.
4. Attention to detail and errors
Poor writing, grammatical errors, broken links, and broken design elements can very quickly break trust with your potential clients. Nielsen’s research found obvious mistakes are one of the fastest, most straightforward ways your website can destroy your credibility online. Attention to detail is often one of the traits universities advise students to watch for when analyzing websites for trustworthiness. Modern law firm websites also need to work well on mobile devices, as most legal service consumers are browsing on their smartphones instead of desktops.
5. Include testimonials and reviews
78% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, according to a study that looked at the effect of local business’ online reviews. The study also shows that consumers tend to read 10 reviews before they trust the business. Your law firm needs to focus on the number, quality, and recency of reviews when including testimonials in your law firm website design. Using law firm reputation management techniques can help you start to build reviews.
6. Include logos of awards, partners, press mentions and other third-party verifications
Trust badges, awards, partners, press mentions and other third-party verifications can build trust in your law firm. 92% of consumers say they trust earned media, including awards and press mentions. When it comes to good law websites, putting your awards and news features about your firm front and center can help build trust by association. However, be careful of using paid media placements to build trust because only 18% of consumers trust paid media, such as advertorials, by comparison in the same study.
7. Transparency Practices
Transparency is an important factor that has been a consistent indicator of trustworthiness for websites since Nielsen’s original website study 20 years ago. From a website design perspective, transparency often includes things like disclosures, terms and conditions, privacy policies, and other indicators about how user information will be used. We recommend these specifically for marketing reasons, as transparency can affect Google Ads. Beyond privacy concerns, prospective clients want to understand pricing as one of their main deciding factors for hiring an attorney. While you might not want to or be able to disclose costs on your website, language that builds a sense of transparency of pricing may help you convert more website visitors into legal clients.
8. Use visual security cues, an SSL certificate, and trust seals
Potential clients for law firms want to make sure their information is safe, especially when they’re contacting your law firm about legally sensitive matters. One study on payment window design shows that visual cues that indicate security to users, SSL certificates, and third-party trust seals can increase conversions significantly. Not only do more browsers show users when websites are insecure, Google also takes security into account as part of search engine optimization.
However, keep in mind that not all website SSL certificates are created equal. As well, the same study that tested different security visual cues successfully faked third-party verification badges to dupe website visitors. Most website visitors aren’t technically sophisticated enough to understand the security of a website, though it’s important for top attorney websites to take security indicators into account.
9. Choose a domain that warrants respect
A quick way to break credibility is to host your site with a spammy-looking website address. It’s easy to pick a trustworthy domain, such as your firm’s name, practice area, region, or even your law firm’s core values. Domains with .com, .org, and .net addresses, called a Top-Level Domain or TDL, are the most trustworthy according to ICANN study. It’s also important to note that a recent 2019 study showed that students thought .org sites were more trustworthy, despite the fact that the registration of .org domains is open to anyone.
10. Keep your site up to date, both to prevent hacking and to keep content relevant/not outdated
Prospective clients are less likely to contact a law firm with an outdated website. 68% of respondents said outdated content or design on a website discouraged them from contacting a small business in a study. The time frame they gave for outdated information? No longer than six months. In other words, if it’s been longer than six months since you’ve made an update to your law firm’s website content, you might be missing potential clients. Using an user-friendly content management system (CMS) can help make maintaining your website and updating information much easier.
In addition to keeping content and design relevant, making sure your website is up to date to prevent hacking is essential to maintaining credibility with your potential clients and is the sign of a good lawyer website. If your website uses a content management system, like Wordpress, keeping code up to date is a necessary step to prevent website hacking that can quickly degrade your website.
Need Help Making Your Law Firm Website?
A good law firm website should act as a hub for all of your marketing strategies, no matter what your practice area. There’s a lot at stake if you get your website wrong, from wasting money on marketing because of a bad website, to not achieving your firm growth goals.
It can be an overwhelming process to create a website for your law firm and having help from an experienced website developer. Our team has helped build websites for law firms and guide lawyers through the process of developing the best law firm website. Get in touch today to learn how we can help you get a great law firm website.