What a silly question, you may be thinking; everyone has to have a website these days. Well yes, everyone has to have to have the basic details of the organisation online, with contact details and something which looks nice. But beyond that?
For many years, I have had a section about the Bar on my own website, at www.venables.co.uk/bar.htm where I provide basic details of several hundred chambers who have told me about their website and given me some information about their organisation. I looked through these recently, to remove the ones no longer in existence, and asked the others to provide updates to their descriptions which many (not all) have done. At the same time, I looked at the websites and tried to work out what they are trying to do with their site.
The first thing to say is that the vast majority of the chambers covered have attractive websites, using good colours and providing lots of legal pictures and symbols (a bit repetitive actually). Basic details are well laid out and the sites are generally mobile responsive. However, I was interested to see that, in most cases, the websites are static in the sense that they do not involve rotating graphics and other material in an attempt to look really interesting (as most solicitors’ sites these days do), but tend to present the information in a logical fashion and wait for the user to direct further choices.
I put this down to the fact that most people looking at barristers’ sites (even in these days of direct access) will still be solicitors, probably working from a reasonable sized screen and seated at a comfortable desk, rather than an individual accessing the site from a mobile, on a train, bus, pub or café, where whizziness is a key factor.
We don’t really want to hear from you
I did notice an oddity. As I mentioned above, I wanted to contact all these chambers to ask them to check their details on my listings; thus, I needed an up to date email address from their website. Simple, you might think! Far from it. A few chambers do put their email address in a convenient place on the address page, or even on the home page – easy to pick up with a mouse, and drop into an email – but the majority make it extremely difficult to contact them.
Sometimes they require the user to fill in a mailing form, with full details required. Personally, I hate mailing forms and am very unlikely to fill one in for any purpose; I cannot be the only person who feels like this.
Sometimes they put the email address in as a graphic, which then, after several failed swipes, has to be laboriously typed in to the email by the user. Some even have the email address as “restricted” so you cannot contact them at all! Presumably, these chambers are mortally afraid of spammers but this does also seem like a discouragement to a potential client! In quite a few cases I had to resort to clerks@… to send an email and I am by no means confident that they all arrived.
Chambers’ websites as a legal resource
In the early days of chambers’ websites, one of the key ways that barristers or chambers could indicate expertise, and thus encourage visitors to their site, was to provide legal resources. I set up a web page at that time for legal resources provided by chambers at www.venables.co.uk/bary.htm and one relating to resources provided by individual barristers at www.venables.co.uk/barx.htm.
During my updating of these pages I found that quite a few of the sites which had previously provided extensive legal resources on the particular legal area in question had stopped doing this. I would hazard a guess that the task has become too onerous for the benefits received.
However, a few really good ones remain, of which I would mention the Human Rights material provided by One Crown Office Row, a blog on information law called Panopticon from 11KBW, an extensive resource on the UK Supreme Court from Matrix and CMS and a resource for material on media and communications from 5RB.
As to resources provided by individual barristers, I would mention Free Movement, run by barrister Colin Yeo and colleagues, which provides good quality and clear information relating to immigration control for all those affected by it: migrants themselves, their families, their lawyers and their judges. There is a great deal of free information on the site and there is also a membership scheme for additional information.
For marketing purposes, I have asked two experts on marketing for chambers to give me their (brief) views: Chris Davidson from Moore Legal Technology and Catherine Bailey from Bar Marketing limited. Their sections follow.
By Chris Davidson
When we speak with law firms about how we can help them use the internet more effectively to grow their business, we are at pains to emphasise that the design and build of their website, whilst the hub of their online marketing, is only the beginning of the process and should to be viewed as a work in progress that requires ongoing care and attention.
To be fair, we are seeing chambers’ websites becoming increasingly professional, contemporary, user friendly and mobile responsive – in other words, more aligned with what the average internet user expects from a website in 2017. However, in our experience, the focus has been very much more on how the website looks rather than how it will perform in terms of enhancing online prominence and generating business.
Our recommended approach when considering a website for a chambers is that the site should achieve pre-defined business objectives set out at the start of the project. These goals should generate income for chambers, as well as raising their profile.
If they are targeting large law firms and other professional services firms and most of the new business is introduced via referral, then the online strategy should focus on supporting the weight of chambers’ reputation and providing potential instructing agents with the certainty that this is indeed the right place to be. On the other hand, if the aim is to compete with law firms by targeting organic enquires via direct access, then a different approach will be required. In any case, an online marketing strategy should be in place before the site is developed.
Until chambers stop viewing their website as merely an online brochure, they will remain behind the curve when it comes to utilising the Internet to help their business grow. In particular, the content of the site should dovetail with a defined marketing and business development strategy to improve market profile and generate business.
Developing a website, rich with relevant, authoritative, on-brand, targeted content will help chambers and individual barristers present themselves better to search engines by demonstrating knowledge, expertise and thought leadership in the relevant practice area(s).
Developing a content schedule for content production and distribution can also be helpful, including key dates relevant to the legal areas and topics concerned, whilst also providing some flexibility for news, developments and trends that will emerge.
By Catherine Bailey
A chambers’ website should be very much in tune with their marketing strategy and should provide users with easy to find information on their specific needs in a fast and efficient manner. It should encourage the user to interact with chambers whilst capturing the habits of visitors and feeding that information back to the marketing teams so that the campaigns can be evaluated effectively.
A quick look around the websites of many barristers chambers provides a variety of styles of website. How these sites fit within the marketing strategy for their chambers also differs immensely from set to set, depending on how in tune the set is with marketing and strategic outcomes, not to mention the technological capabilities of the set.
Some sites are simple brochureware sites, touting the basic services, a member list and possibly the odd news article, whilst others are much more proactive, providing the visitor with sector specific information and the ability to collate barrister details to form their own brochure packs. Allowing users to download barristers’ CVs which use content dynamically pulled from the website profile page (Outer Temple is a good example) is a feature that delivers good levels of conversions.
Not too many sites, however, have progressed to proper marketing campaign pages or have embraced “calls to action” (CTA) facilities within their sites. For example, 2 Hare Court have clear CTAs on their practice area pages that encourage visitors on the page to take action and request a call back. These should be strategically placed on pages so that when it comes to configuring the user journey, they can be implemented alongside other content without becoming too intrusive.
The marketing data capture facilities of websites are an essential asset, and that data then needs to be able to feed into the chambers’ customer relationship management (CRM) systems. This is where there can be a huge problem, leaving many sets to effectively run double systems for diary management and for CRM, and ultimately impacting on the success of their marketing strategy.
Putting clients and prospects at the centre of marketing is the fastest way to succeed as it builds an understanding and repartee, leading to strong bonds and repeat business. Having a huge disconnect between the website and the chambers’ management system prevents the automation of routine marketing tasks and increases the chances of losing leads, leading to lost instructions and lost revenues.Tweet