March 20, 2020, by Leah Sharpe
Why law firm websites are a useful research tool
By Craig Sharpe (Darlingtons law firm), Shribavani Shrikaran (chemistry student), Marissa Oluwadare (law student) and Sophie Barber (law student)
As potential lawyers, it’s important for law students to have a firm grasp of the differences between law firms and the current state of the legal market. You need to thoroughly research the firms you want to apply to if you are to make convincing applications. Your starting point should be the firms’ websites.
The website will give you an insight into what they want from a future employee, their strategy, target audience and attitude to the rapidly changing legal marketplace and client demands. This kind of information can be used to better understand if a law firm is right for you and vice versa.
Today, the legal market is such that the biggest law firms may no longer be the most agile, adaptable and open to change as some dynamic smaller firms who have a clear strategy and embrace change. Research indicates that clients value results, speed, adaptability and transparency from legal services. As future lawyers that will one day be delivering these services, you should too.
Our students, Marissa, Shribavani and Sophie, have chosen a range of law firms to look for interesting clues as to what can be learned. Here’s what they found:
Sleek and bold are the first words that come to mind when visiting Gannons’ website. Their colour scheme is simple but effective. The sculpture of a raging bull as the backdrop to a number of impressive facts and figures is perhaps indicative of their assertive approach to work. In terms of what they are about, they immediately differentiate themselves from their larger corporate counterparts by claiming they are both cost effective and credible. They integrate their Trustpilot rating demonstrating they are open and transparent to reviews and recognise that clients now value peer reviews as part of their assessment process. Though they have expertise in commercial law, they advertise themselves as specialists in other niche areas such as tax law and employee shares. This is valuable as it demonstrates specialist experience in areas many other smaller law firms do not have.
Darlingtons has a very interesting online presence. In Marissa’s view and what stands out about the firm’s website is its simplicity and readability of content in key areas of practice such as commercial law and property. The firm also focuses on niche areas such as lease extensions. Where many larger firms have their websites cluttered with publications and firm news, Darlingtons has trimmed theirs down to the bare bones. Their front page contains only the legal services they offer, client testimonials and a promotional video – basically, the things the firm knows its potential clients are interested in. Straight to the point seems to be their ethos.
Marissa found that looking at Clifford Chance, a magic circle international law firm, was informative. Marissa commented that “it takes effort to find anything that indicates the nature of its work as a law firm from the outset. You will find links to complicated technology reports and think-pieces concerning the ever changing geopolitical landscape. Yet, there is very little that initially tells you who they are and what they do. Their website design is undeniably eye catching but lacks the usability and differentiation of other firms”. So, we learn that they are confident as an established brand and are not using the website as a direct sales tool. However there is a focus on offering content which is commercially as well as legally oriented.
In Sophie’s view, “Mishcon de Reya’s innovation is almost unmatched. Although other firms have insight sections Mischcon de Reya goes a step further. It has videos, podcasts and interviews which demonstrate the dedication to commercial awareness. They are a forward thinking firm keen on succeeding in their own way which more traditional firms struggle to compete with”.
Shribavani said that Streathers seem to be “the kind of law firm that sticks with you throughout your career, not just a case, or when you need advice on a legal document”. They appeal to a client who want someone who works tirelessly and that they can maintain a close relationship with and can therefore rely on. The alternate locations and size of the team are positives which would be attractive to prospective clients since they are likely to find a solicitor which specialises in the particular area they require and at a location which is convenient for them.
At the other end of the spectrum, we can find examples of very small firms that have a clear strategy. An interesting example of a firm that clearly has a defined client base and understands that client base is Taj Solicitors. The look and feel of the website is traditional with images of lawyers surrounded by legal text books or posing at their desks. This looks to be very much a firm that knows well that its own client base favours this kind of approach rather than looking for a more modern type firm focused on commercial clients.
Looking at law firms websites generally, almost from the view point of a client, can tell students a lot about that firm. It’s a fascinating area and if you’re up for further reading, this Law Society Gazette article is well worth a read.
You can also find out more about careers in law via the Careers website.