Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis, LLP is a 200-lawyer firm headquartered in Nashville, with offices in Birmingham, AL and Austin, TX. The work that “Waller” does in the healthcare industry belies its relatively small size. It is known throughout that industry as the leader, the number-one firm, the “player” in that space. Every other healthcare practice in America wants to be them.
When the new Chief Marketing and Business Development Officer, Mark Greene, was hired in January 2011, he understood that while the firm’s reputation was superior, it wasn’t well known by many outside Nashville and beyond the healthcare industry. The firm has other important practices and industry teams – it was important to “own” the healthcare strength, but make other areas more prominent as well.
A sophisticated user of technology and a veteran market researcher, Greene hired legal industry leaders to conduct market research, interview clients, design and launch a new positioning strategy and brand, and design and build a new website as the centerpiece of the brand launch. The former website had little visual appeal, was overly generic and didn’t establish the firm as a market leader in any sector or industry.
All the research culminated in a unique positioning strategy that supported all practice and industry teams in the firm, and built on the essence of what makes Waller extraordinary:
You’ve no doubt heard it said, or even said yourself, that nobody looks for a law firm—they look for a lawyer. Well, we like to think we’ve turned that around.
Just look at how many clients come to us for one reason, stay with us for something completely different, then do the same thing time and time again. True, these clients probably came to us with a specific lawyer or practice in mind, but that doesn’t really account for the longevity or depth of our relationships.
It’s not just the quality of the work we do. It’s how we go about it. We have all the experience and intellectual firepower you’d expect from a firm of our stature, but the feel is different. Clients say we’re more responsive, we understand their stresses. We make their issues our issues, their fights our fights. This could be why we rarely lose a client, and why so many engage an extraordinary number of our practice groups.
At Waller the atmosphere is comfortable, the people good-natured, easy-going. There’s a contagious quiet confidence—a feeling that no matter how complex the deal or fierce the litigation, these are people who can be formidable, who can deliver the results, yet still keep a sense of humor. It comes as no surprise that clients like the way they’re treated, and feel their treatment transcends any one attorney.
In other words, they come here for a lawyer, but they stay here for the firm.
Given this positioning and brand strategy, the challenges for the website were:
- How do you demonstrate industry depth and experience and, at the same time, humanize the lawyers so they seem accessible?
- How could Waller distinguish itself among other healthcare-strong law firms?
- How does Waller ensure that the non-healthcare practices and industries have equal opportunity on the website?
- How can the lawyers’ bios reflect their individuality, yet reinforce that they are an integral part of a firm and a team?
- How does Waller prove its depth, reach and drive?
- What can Waller offer healthcare clients and prospects that will be unique?
- How can Waller leverage the social media and blog content – ensuring a 360-degree online strategy?
- Finally, how do we build a site that is flexible, robust and that can grow with the firm as it grows and expands?
We designed and launched a website that answered these questions in the following ways:
- Balancing industry/practice depth/distinction and personality is critical in a two-dimensional medium. Buyers of legal services want to know three things when they come to a law firm website: what you have done, for whom you have done it, and what you can do for me. Firms must answer these questions to keep a visitor on the site – they’re table stakes for making the short list of credible providers of the services they need.
But research shows that when they are selecting the one law firm with which to work, they are making an emotional decision, and that requires that the site effectively communicate the answer to “why us, of all the credible providers?” That’s where brand positioning is crucial. We must communicate who we are as people, not just what we are as a firm. The site must communicate the brand as a compelling reason to choose this firm from the list of credible providers.
The Waller industry, service and bio pages are infused with specific experience that answers those three expertise questions. An experience database will soon be populating the site, ensuring that the experience feeds are fresh and relevant (and easing the burden of the small team of marketers).
The lawyer bios have a flexible tab structure, where lawyers can choose the tabs they want to appear – tabs that will spotlight their specific interests and strengths. In addition, many lawyers have an “Up Close” tab, which highlights pro bono work, personal commitments to
charities and civic pursuits, or hobbies and other diversions.
- The healthcare industry section of the website is broken out into 15 sub-practices, proving the depth and diversity of their strengths. These range from dialysis and urgent care, dental and orthodontics, healthcare REITS and life sciences, and much more. Any industry executive would see this list and immediately recognize substance.
Healthcare services (the practice areas) has 13 sub-groups under it, including commercial finance, compliance and operations, M&A, real estate, securities and tax, litigation and patient privacy, plus other areas that are vital to the successful running of healthcare organizations.
- Because the site is broken down into industries and services, other industry teams are featured in ways that are important to Waller. Eight non-healthcare industries are presented, plus eight service areas that each have several sub-groups.
- The bio photography is fresh and “environmental,” suggesting that these lawyers are nice, accessible people. In addition, all lawyers have included their assistants’ names and contact information on their bios. As mentioned before, lawyers personalize their own bios with what makes them unique – their experience, involvement and passions outside the office.
- Drive is hard to prove in this medium, but we believe that showing depth and diversity of experience is the best way to show it. In addition, the home page features and rotates case studies and photography that prove that Waller isn’t your average law firm with a few lawyers who do a little of this and that.
- One of the most unique visitor benefits of the home page is “Market Intelligence.” This is a live feed of industry intelligence from ShiftCentral (www.shiftcentral.com). Visitors type words or phrases in this predictive or type-ahead search box and results immediately appear. Waller offers this sophisticated tool free to its visitors – and it’s never before appeared on a law firm website.
- A 360-degree content strategy is a centerpiece of Waller’s business development strategy. This ensures that up-to-the-minute blog content is fed into the News/Events section of the website (with a link available from the home page). Waller also feeds offline content – lawyer speeches, event appearances, webinar participation and print – to its online content and vice versa.
- Waller chose Content Pilot as its technology provider for its “evergreen” approach to technology maintenance, among other reasons. Through its planned maintenance and service program, Content Pilot ensures that its platform is as current post-launch as it was at launch. New web features and functionality will be considered by the firm as long as it fits into the Waller strategy. Waller will never hear, “You need to buy the new version of our product if you want to do that.”
The Waller marketing and business development team regularly monitors traffic patterns and visitor analytics. For the one-month period August 18 – September 17, 2011, the former website had total site visits of 6,096. One-year later, the new site during the same period had 9,949 visits – a 62% increase. Nearly 44% of the visits were from returning visitors – a remarkably high percentage when compared to other law firm websites. Three-plus pages were viewed by each visitor on average during this period.
The high visitor engagement demonstrated by these numbers is a direct testament that Waller’s positioning strategy “Come for the lawyer, stay for the firm” is spot-on.
Waller Website Team - Internal
- Mark Greene, Ph.D., CMBDO
- Kathy Phelps, Director, Marketing Operations
- Aimee Moore, Design Specialist
- Mike Moss, Webmaster
- Rebecca Howald, Director, Practice Group Business Development
- Vikki Carter, Director, Healthcare Business Development
- Scott Manners, Manager, Healthcare Business Development
- Ruth Freeland, Manager, Practice Group Business Development
- Lesley Kibler, Market Intelligence Manager