We commissioned the AmLaw 100 Websites: Ten Foundational Best Practices research again this year, and have just completed the analysis. Now it's time to dig in and unbury the findings, and compare it to the 2007 study, which was the last time this research was conducted.
"Communicating your Message" is the first of the Ten FBPs. Read my earlier post about the attributes of this FBP here - http://lawfirm4-0.typepad.com/law_firm_40_blog/2010/02/law-firm-web-sites-foundational-best-practice-1-communicating-your-message.html.
Firms are scored on a 100-point scale, with 86-100 being excellent, 70-85 being good, 51-70 being fair, 26-50 is poor and 25 and below is unacceptable. The average of the AmLaw 100 firms in the 2010 study for "Communicating your Message" was 80.1. Solidly good.
All firms in this group (and many in the AmLaw 200 list) boast international practices. Many of the firms are truly global, with numerous foreign offices and revenue from foreign clients/global work that rivals revenue from U.S. clients. It is interesting, then, that so few of the AmLaw 100 firms have foreign language translations on their websites in 2010. Only 44 of the 100 have any translations at all on their websites. But this is a huge uptick since 2007, when ony 16 firms offered foreign languages.
The firm that has the highest number of foreign translations on its site is Squire, Sanders with 13 languages, all easily accessible from the home page. http://www.ssd.com/ Jones Day has 10 languages, accessible from the global navigation (www.jonesday.com). Cleary Gottlieb has 11, which appear on a splash page when you open the site (www.cgsh.com)
Baker McKenzie has a great drop-down feature to select region and language -- but today the language box is grayed-out and it's not available (it was available when I analyzed the site in August - www.bakernet.com.
There are strategic ways of getting the most from your translation-dollar - mainly, not translating every page of the site. Translate only the those pages relevant to the lawyers and practices in the foreign region. Make it easy for your foreign visitors by including sitemaps for every language you offer on the site - your content management system should dynamically generate these. Usability goes way down for these poor visitors without this easy roadmap.
Translations are expensive initially and challenging to update, but currency is as important to your foreign visitors as it is to your native English speakers.
Remember, this Foundational Best Practice is Communicating your Message. When firms describe themselves as "global" but don't offer the site in at least the languages where their offices are, what message are they communicating?
My next post will be on the first attribute in this FBP - the one dealing with "strategy copy."