We have finished the 6th analysis of the world’s top law firm websites based on Ten Foundational Best Practices. The first study in 2005 set precedent by identifying the top ten foundational things law firms must do to ensure their websites were satisfying what visitors wanted. It was the first full-scale report on how the legal industry was faring with its online marketing efforts, based on an objective analysis of AmLaw 100 Web sites.
Taking a disciplined and rigorous look at more than 60 attributes of EACH of 100 law firms was a herculean effort, but we were committed to do it in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2010, 2013 and now in 2016. Over the years, we have made the results broadly available, because we want the industry to improve, for law firms to get more bang for their website buck – and we want law firm website visitors to be happier and your lawyers, ultimately, to be more successful.
In 2016, however, we analyzed the AmLaw Global 50 law firms because we wanted to see just how “global” the Global 50 are. Stay tuned for the full results of this very interesting Study.
The websites analyzed were those live as of July 1, 2016. Any new launches after this date were not reviewed.
OBJECTIVES OF THIS RESEARCH
We have several objectives in commissioning this research:
- Give marketing/business development teams and lawyers objective data to help them justify planning time, expense and “against the grain” recommendations
- Give the website teams an unemotional, foundational basis for analyzing their current sites
- Provide specifics to mktg/BD so they can hold their design/development teams accountable
- Give mktg/BD a framework for measurable improvement in design, interactivity and engagement, searchability, content writing, creating an intuitive visitor experience and satisfying what sophisticated buyers of legal services want in law firm sites.
WHY SHOULD LAW FIRM LEADERS CARE?
Many websites are broken from a visitor experience standpoint – in fact, most of them are. This research can benefit law firms of all sizes, not just the world's largest. Beyond the enhancement of specific features and functionality that are expected today, global – and other – law firms now have:
- Access to data on how to create a better and more satisfying experience for their visitors
- A snapshot of how leading law firms are doing and an understanding how your firm can better compete
- A practical roadmap to view your website more strategically and to plan your website investments more thoughtfully.
Following the guidelines within the Ten Foundational Best Practices, visitors to your website will:
- Quickly find the information they want and need
- Easily see the differences in strategy, scope, reach and strengths from your firm to the next
- Return to your site to find out more
WHY THE GLOBAL 50?
“Global” is a word that defines the world’s largest law firms. In fact, all of the AmLaw 100 firms boast that they are “global,” as do the Magic Circle firms. In the past we focused on the leading American-headquartered law firms, but the boundaries between local and international law are fading – and clients of these firms are doing business in hundreds of countries throughout the world.
These law firms have reputations that are built on decades of important client representation and advocacy. The firms at the top of the list are the closest the legal industry has to “brand name” firms. Virtually all of these firms set the standard in the legal industry against which others are judged and evaluated. In every Study since the beginning, we wanted to determine if the website presence of these firms was reflective of the excellence they achieve in other areas.
THE 2016 TEN FOUNDATIONAL BEST PRACTICES (FBPs)
The FBPs are refreshed each Study to take into account foundational changes that have been made in the broad web industry, changes in visitor expectations and the behaviors of buyers of legal services. Certain FBPs have been a part of the Study since the beginning (Communicating your Message, Design, Navigation, Site Search, SEO and Site Hygiene/Usability). Others have been updated (Biographies used to be called “Lawyer Bios” – but there are so many other professionals who are involved in the delivery of legal work and the running of the law firm, we expanded it) and others have been added (e.g., all references to Responsive Design).
There are a total of 69 attributes within the Ten FBPs, but briefly, they can be described as follows:
- Communicating your Message – clear and differentiating firm strategy, strengths and focus are apparent, geographic reach
- Design – bold, distinctive branding, responsive design, intuitive information hierarchy and strong imagery
- Navigation – global/local navigation are consistent and intuitive across multiple devices
- Professional Biographies – detailed experience, an overview that tells a compelling story of the person, current and larger-format photos, social media and other links
- Content (excluding biographies) -- quality, clarity and organization of narrative content
- Interactivity, Engagement and Social Outreach – how interactive and engaging is your site? Access to additional content including multimedia, blogs, social media, alumni portals, extranets and share functionality
- Site Search – it’s about “finding” – easy access to and quality of the multiple site search options and search results
- Site Optimization & Online Awareness (SEO) – is your site optimized for search engines?
- Mobility / Responsive – brand integrity is high on mobile devices, intuitive and good user experience
- Site Hygiene and Usability – site functions perfectly on the latest browsers, no error pages or broken links, site meets the W3C Level 1 accessibility standards.
Each attribute is scored on a 100-point scale and each attribute is reviewed and scored separately. For example, “Professional Biographies” has 10 attributes – each was scored separately. We average all the scores for each attribute to determine the law firm’s score for each FBP. Once each FBP has its average score, those will be added, divided by 10 and that is the law firm’s total score.
There were ten experienced website researchers who were responsible for one or more of the FBPs. They covered their particular areas of expertise, such as design, content, mobility and SEO. A special thanks to the research team: Doug Stern, Jeremy Ash, Paige Hornback, Keith Wewe, Emily King, Siobhan Davis, Stephanie Stone, Blake Davis, Anna Livia Mazzoni and Deborah McMurray.
One firm ranked excellent with a score of 85.4 – Morgan Lewis. 23 firms ranked good and 26 firms ranked fair. This is the first year that no firm has ranked poor or unacceptable. But more than half of the Global 50 firms ranked fair – there is enormous room for improvement. The top 10 scoring firms are:
- Morgan Lewis
- Winston & Strawn
- Weil Gotshal
- Sidley Austin
- DLA Piper
- Perkins Coie
- Squire Patton Boggs
- White & Case
- Reed Smith
- Goodwin Procter
FOR MORE INFORMATION
If you’d like more information or would like to purchase the Summary Insights and Findings Reports for each of the Ten Foundational Best Practices, contact Deborah McMurray at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-972-897-4921.
STAY TUNED for a lot more trends, findings and interesting tidbits from this 2016 Study.