Website Design for Lawyers .
We live in a digital world in which the Internet increasingly determines a large part of our professional and private lives. Many clients nowadays also find their legal counsel online, which is why a modern and convincing legal website plays a decisive role in successful client acquisition.
This guide draws attention to the variety of topics to be considered and serves as a general guide to the points you need to consider when creating a law firm website so that it magically attracts new clients.
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Thanks to the Internet, those looking for legal advice can quickly get an overview of lawyers in their place of residence, the surrounding area or worldwide. For lawyers, this situation is both an opportunity and a challenge. On the one hand, it has never been easier to acquire new clients beyond local borders. Also, there have never been so many licensed lawyers in US competing for the favor of wealthy clients as there are today. In addition, lawyers are confronted with the problem that potential clients (quite typical of the Internet) decide within seconds in the digital space whether a law firm is suitable for them. If a law firm’s website does not meet the expectations of a prospective customer or if it gives a false or outdated impression, it will be less likely to catch potential clients.
A modern law firm website is therefore not only the digital figurehead of a law firm today, but also forms the foundation of an economically sustainable and successful law firm.
First, think about how you want to present yourself as a lawyer
The visual impression of the law firm’s website not only conveys an image, but also always represents a brand to clients. This brand starts with the name of the law firm, which should also be visible in the domain and email address. A high recognition value consists in the use of a law firm logo, which should of course also be represented on the law firm’s homepage. As an alternative to the logo, catchy colors and other graphic elements can also be sufficient to represent an image and a brand. However, your corporate design should not follow short-term trends, because the legal profession is viewed as conservative and associated with continuity.
For example, a law firm logo should be memorable, but not too complicated (keyword: “easily recognizable”). With the logo, a law firm also expresses its own style and gives potential clients a first, important impression. Ideally, this graphic feature evokes associations and conveys a positive and trusting mood.
The coloring of your corporate law design should also be carefully considered because colors are not just colors, they convey certain messages and unfold their effect in the respective context. In this context, do not be unsettled by general color recommendations on the Internet (e.g., “red stands for love and power” or “black stands for elegance and conservatism”). Often these recommendations are pure kitchen psychology that have little or nothing to do with sound psychological expertise. For example, the color black can not only stand for elegance, but can also be associated with negative aspects such as “death” or “darkness”. The context in which the colors are used and embedded is always important.
When it comes to the font color, you should ensure that there is a good contrast between the font color and the background. Black font color on a light background is particularly suitable here, as this color is best readable on the computer or via mobile devices.
The visual language should not be forgotten either. Photographs and graphic design elements must harmonize with each other, otherwise it will quickly appear inharmonious and dubious. To do this, determine how strong the colors of the photographs and design elements should be and how the lighting should be designed. Do you want people and/or still lives to dominate the foreground or blend into the background? Please note the projects of the so-called “Gestaltpsychologie” (e.g. the law of similarity, the law of proximity or the law of good continuation).
In addition to corporate design, corporate language is also required. With the corporate language you determine which language rules your law firm follows. Since lawyers are associated with seriousness, specialist knowledge and a conservative image, high-level language should be chosen, which, however, does not get lost in legal jargon that legal laypeople do not understand. The rules of spelling must also be determined, because in many cases several spellings are possible. Please note that the characteristic tone of the corporate language you use automatically creates a personal impression of your law firm in the reader.
An important topic in this context is gender. Consider using the neuter masculine form (“generic masculine”), which includes both masculine and feminine plurals. Perhaps you would also like to keep up with the times and address men and women equally.
What should a modern law firm website look like?
The website is comparable to the reception area in the law firm. The more modern and appealing the reception area, the more relaxed the atmosphere will be. Friendly and competent staff creates the necessary trust so that clients feel comfortable. This possibility does not exist in this form on the Internet, so lawyers must work with visual stylistic devices. The website should by no means be graphically overloaded and end in a frenzy of color. The profession of lawyer is associated with a conservative environment, so the website should be visually simple, but still modern and fresh.
Likewise, a law firm’s website should not “overflow” with information and technical functions, but at the same time it should be more than just a business card. Interested parties must be able to find their way around the start page and immediately understand that it is a law firm and which areas of law are covered. A clear website is structured in such a way that users can quickly find information on specific topics. Anyone who visits your website for the first time must be able to find their way around immediately and find the desired information with just a few clicks between the start and sub-pages. Potential clients do not find their way around long explanations with well-formulated sentences, but via a self-explanatory navigation menu that leads to the relevant information and sub-pages.
A navigation menu, headlines, teasers, and logos underline the information on your website and enable immediate orientation. A clear page structure helps to quickly grasp the content provided. However, these visual orientation aids should be used in moderation because the more links, buttons, headings, teasers, and graphics there are, the more confusing the page appears. Optical orientation aids with the right colors give the viewer clues and lead to the important information. Keep in mind that human perception is mainly visual, hardly anyone wants to read endlessly long texts without loosening up. A visually appealing design loosens up the written information and picks up the reader on an emotional level.
Also think about what important information (from the point of view of your target group) should be on the start page. Most law firms use the start page, among other things, to introduce the law firm, with photos of the lawyers working in the law firm giving the law firm a friendly face. Don’t forget to also clearly indicate when someone will be there and what the opening times are. It is also very important that you keep information easy to understand for legal laypeople. Very few non-lawyers understand too many technical terms and complex factual contexts. In this case, there is a risk that people will quickly “click away”. Detailed information on individual areas of law, new case law and other relevant topics belong on the subpages.
Technical design of the law firm's website
It is not enough to just create a homepage; it must also be of a type that suits the law firm. As a lawyer, the most convenient way is to entrust this task to a professional web agency. This way is always the best when the law firm does not have sufficient technical expertise to implement this task or simply does not have the time to create a professional website. If you outsource the creation of your website to professionals, be careful not to hand off the responsibility entirely. Describe exactly what requirements you have, what needs your target group has and what else is important to you. Professional web designers will implement your ideas accordingly and, if necessary, make suggestions for improvement where these are appropriate. Also make sure that the website is technically designed in such a way that you can update your content yourself or make small changes, even if you have no knowledge of HTML. Otherwise, you will have to rely on the services of a web agency for every little contribution or change on your law firm website.
If a web agency is too expensive for you, modular website systems can be an alternative for which website operators do not need any technical or HTML knowledge. A clear advantage over a web agency is the cost savings because websites in the modular system only cost a few euros a month and can be easily put together by laypeople and filled with their own content and photos. However, these simply designed homepages often offer little individual design freedom in terms of additional functions and visual design. When it comes to search engine optimization and loading time optimization, many providers quickly reach their limits. In addition, many of these modular systems are designed according to the “Apple ecosystem” principle, in which the transfer of the homepage to another ecosystem (e.g. another service provider) later is impossible. Each lawyer must decide for himself whether the advantage of cost savings outweighs the potential disadvantages.
Content management systems offer more flexibility in terms of visual design and technical possibilities. The offer ranges from open source (e.g. WordPress) to paid modules and systems, for which some technical knowledge is required (at least for installation and commissioning). However, once these modules have been integrated into the law firm’s website, further content maintenance can be carried out independently of technical expertise. Such content management systems are therefore particularly suitable for law firm websites that are regularly filled and updated with editorial content. But even if your law firm’s website is primarily intended to act as a digital business card, content management systems are a good choice. Compared to modular website systems, these offer significantly more complex design options. With a CMS like WordPress, you are also not dependent on a website service provider and always have the option of changing or expanding your website as you wish. However, the operation of the individual components and navigation menus requires some practice at the beginning.
One reader gets information on his smartphone, another uses a laptop, and another reader prefers to use a computer with a large screen and print out the information. The web design must therefore be user-friendly, enable quick orientation and adapt flexibly to the various preferences of website visitors. The optimization for mobile devices is called mobile design. Another point concerns responsive design. This type of web design adapts flexibly to the size of the browser window and means barrier-free access to the website.
A sleek design of a website is a plus. Although transferring large amounts of data is (usually) no longer a problem these days, websites with smaller storage requirements have a clear advantage as they require shorter loading times. Even if the loading animations are very nice to look at, they can increase the loading time. In this case, the risk of clicking away, especially on mobile devices, is high. Every bit of storage space should be carefully considered and allocated. Scripts that also slow down the website should only be used and loaded if they are important to the user.
Use psychological know-how to convince potential clients
Sympathy is also a tool that should not be underestimated for lawyers to win people over. Sympathy is also an important building block for trust, which is essential for lawyers.
Psychological research shows that sympathy (and thereby trust) can be elicited through compliments, flattery, and body mirroring, and people also like people who are similar to them. For example, this can relate to appearance, clothing, looks, education, lifestyle and hobbies. People with whom you are on the same wavelength appear more sympathetic than people who are completely different from your own perception.
Of course, as a lawyer you are an authority per se since your clients will come to you to solve an important legal problem for them. But from the point of view of your clients, this professional aspect applies to every lawyer. So which lawyer should a potential client choose?
You can be perceived by potential clients as an authority in a field by showing your expertise on your lawyer’s homepage by means of seals of approval, certifications, distinctions, awards, or other prizes won. These demonstrably increase trust in your law firm, as they show that your quality has already been confirmed by other authorities. In addition, positive reporting, recommendations from satisfied clients and good ratings are also suitable to underline your authority and expertise. In the area of lawyers, a reference to a long law firm tradition is always good, because this inspires trust among users.
You can also gain authority by demonstrating your expertise on a topic, e.g. by means of blog posts, success stories or case studies. It is essential to pay attention to how, where and by which target group, you would like to be perceived as an authority. For example, an excellent paper with a lot of technical jargon in a legal journal can be a very good way to be viewed by your profession as an authority in a field. For non-professional laymen (and thus potential clients), such a way of positioning authority is much less suitable.
If you use experts, specialists, or prominent personalities as testimonials on your law firm’s website, make sure that they match your image and your target group.
Provide content with real added value for your target group
Always remember that your law firm website is not designed for lawyers (assuming your target audience isn’t lawyers) but for “ordinary” people who are looking for legal advice in a specific situation and who don’t understand the legal mindset and jargon. However, not a few lawyers find it difficult to put themselves in the mindset of legal laypeople. However, readers and thus potential clients only stay on the site if they feel addressed by the content, and they don’t have the feeling of being stupid.
Judgments and case law should therefore always be commented and explained in a few paragraphs (300 to 600 words). However, the information on your website should always be tailored to the information needs of your clients. If you cover several areas of law, you should, if necessary, divide your website not just by area of law, but by client group. For example, current judgments from competition law will interest many companies and their employees more than private consumers. Some areas of law, on the other hand, are closely related, such as inheritance law and family law. With this close connection, these topics should not stand apart from each other, but side by side. An alternative is to place a link in the text. This internal link takes you to the relevant information on the supplementary area of law with just one click. Legal laypeople can also work with these links. If you then work with keywords relevant to these topics, you provide Google with the necessary information for a good ranking. You not only show competence, but also understanding for the problems of your clients.
What is real added value?
There is no general answer to this question, because it always depends on the individual situation of the website visitor and especially your target group. In general, it is a real added value in the case of a lawyer’s website if there are texts that are easy to understand for laypeople. It is not important that information on areas of law that affect almost everyone in everyday life (e.g. tenancy, labor and inheritance law) exists on the website. It is more important that you put yourself in the position of your target group and solve problems that they have competently and in the interests of the person seeking advice. If you have several target groups, it can make sense to divide the content by topic and target group. It is important that you tailor the content to your target group and make it understandable for non-lawyers.
Create (regularly) useful content for your target group
A law firm’s website should be continuously maintained and updated. The extent to which useful information is posted on the law firm’s website depends on the time available to you. Due to their extensive daily program, very few lawyers have the time to regularly post new information, for example on current judgments, consumer protection or general legal topics, because after all these texts also want to be written. On the other hand, a dynamic, regularly changing website is an advantage because the site remains interesting, and binds interested users. A dynamic homepage, which is more than just a business card, is also very useful around client acquisition.
So, it is good to consider whether there is enough time for such additional functions as a blog and/or subpages with additional information. If this is not the case, this part should better be left out, because a law firm’s website with outdated or irregular information does not leave a good impression on potential clients. One option is to hire professional copywriters to create this information. These copywriters do not necessarily have to be lawyers but should have experience in the legal field.
Copywriters bring another advantage: In contrast to many lawyers, they can explain complex relationships in a way that laypeople can understand. Although lawyers are very well able to abstract certain facts and to transfer (subsume) them into legal regulations, much of the population cannot do this. It must also be considered that laypeople have a different understanding of legal regulations than lawyers, judges and prosecutors.
People trust people. At the same time, numerous studies show that websites with photos are accessed more frequently than information offerings without photos. It is therefore advisable to show the people who work in the law firm on the website. Photos of the lawyers and employees working in the law firm are used on the many lawyers’ websites, just as they are traditionally used for job applications. Such neutral portrait photos always work. However, high-quality photos that show you in typical situations of your everyday work, for example in your office, are better – compared to classic application photos, such photos appear much more authentic, personal, and convincing.
Many lawyers are reluctant to talk about the costs of their engagement on their lawyer’s homepage. This topic is at least as important for potential clients as their need for information. Most people are not only legal laypeople, but they also do not know how lawyers’ fees are calculated. Because of this, there is a widespread belief that lawyers are incredibly expensive. As a result, many people shy away from seeking legal advice because they feel they cannot afford it.
Clarify how your fees come about, even if you cannot offer fixed prices like companies do. Take away potential clients’ fears of getting caught up in an uncontrollable spiral of costs and point out the cost framework for consultations. Emphasize the possibility of the costs being covered by legal expenses insurance or by the state (legal aid). Despite the statutory fees for lawyers under the fee schedule, there is still some discretion.
If you are still unsure whether open communication about the question of fees does more harm than good or not, business psychological research has an interesting finding. For example, potential clients are more willing to hire a law firm that provides transparent information about the (even very high) costs than to use a law firm that says nothing or only vaguely a word about this and thus gives the client the mental image of uncontrollable costs arising.
A website requires storage space for its presence on the web. As a rule, your law firm’s website will be located on a permanently accessible server operated by a web hosting provider. When choosing your web hosting provider, be sure to pay attention to modern standards such as HTTP/2 or a high guaranteed availability of over 99.9% as well as the performance of your chosen tariff or package (e.g. servers in USA with SSD hard drives). There are some web hosting providers who have specialized in certain CMS such as WordPress and can thus significantly increase the performance of your website. In addition, an SSL certificate is nowadays the basic requirement for secure and encrypted data exchange between the homepage and the site visitors. If an SSL certificate is missing, a website will no longer be listed by search engines. The SSL certificate is visible by a lock icon next to the URL displayed in the browser.
Search engine optimization (SEO) for lawyers
The abbreviation SEO stands for the English term “search engine optimization” and means measures to improve or optimize the search engine ranking. It is therefore a matter of placing your own offer in the first places in the search engine results to be found more easily and to receive more client inquiries. Because the best offer is useless if potential clients cannot find it.
This article shows that there are many points to consider when designing the perfect lawyer’s website. The website must be designed in a legally compliant manner, make a modern and friendly impression, be interesting for users and offer real added value. In addition, the content must be SEO-optimized to achieve a good Google ranking. It is important to tailor the content to the target group and to avoid technical language that is incomprehensible to non-lawyers, but still to convey competence.