Confusing Content

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Editors Note: This was written in 2004, but still hold true today.

We are taught during law school to focus on the minutia. Every detail, every fact, every witness counts. Language and word choice are critical. That is why we use arcane and confusing Latin words, such as res judicata, to describe a simple concept that another court has already made a decision. Some of us even like the fact that we can speak another language, a language that our clients cannot understand.

However, this attention to detail and use of nifty terms often hurts us in other areas – especially in marketing. When trying to brand your law firm on the web, you should not write confusing legal treatises. Clients are coming to you for solutions – not minutia. The content of your web site should offer them an easy to understand message of how you can help them solve a problem. Listed below are some common errors that lawyers routinely make when developing content for their web site:

Confusing the Client
What exactly is civil litigation? To a lay person you might as well be saying, “I practice in blah blah blah.” Sure, civil litigation involves matters that are not criminal, but that leaves a lot of topics to be covered. Do you practice in personal injury? Construction disputes? Sexual harassment cases? Given the complexity of the law and the training we have today, there are not that many true general practitioners anymore. Even if you are a true general practitioner and civil litigator, do not use that term – at least not exclusively. Stating that you are a civil litigator could mean anything to the client. Instead, list the types of cases that you handle or cases that you can take to trial. If you are going to be general, at least use common words, like trial lawyer. Don’t confuse the issue.

Focusing on the Trivial
Worrying about practice areas and correct order of their listing is trivial. All potential clients care about is whether you can solve their problem. So do not fret about putting “trusts” before “wills” or medical malpractice before nursing home negligence. Just make sure you list everything you can do and make sure it is understandable.

Listing Irrelevant Biographical Content
Don’t waste your time obsessing about your biography and what is included. Beyond checking that you didn’t earn your degree from some fake online university, clients do not care what you did during law school, what awards you won, and what secret cults you belong to. There is no need to list everything you have done in your life, where you were born, where you grew up and your accomplishments. Instead try to talk about your solutions that you have provided to clients and cases that you won. When a client is trying to find a lawyer – victories are more important than your birth dates.

Listing your Birth Date
Listing your birth date is the easiest way let someone steal your identity. Most likely, your web site has an address, a photo of you, personal information, and now your birth date. Nice! All that someone needs is your social security number, which is surprising easily to find, and they are in business. If you want to show that you are old and experienced, then just put a photo on the web site. Your wrinkles and/or gray hair will tell your true battle stories.

Not Telling What You Do and Where You Do It
If you practice in a field, then list it on your web site. You wouldn’t leave off a request for attorneys’ fees or costs in a civil complaint, would you? Why would you leave something off your web site that is that important? In today’s world of specialists, clients are looking for someone that is an expert in their field or who has handled a similar problem. At every opportunity you need to express what you do.

Not Publishing What is Already Published
Articles are the best way to show that you are knowledgeable. Put every article, note and journal extra that you have written since law school on your web site. Note only do search engines rank articles very high, but people will actually read them and call you for additional advice.

Staying Inside of the Pack
You must differentiate your firm on the web. There are over 1 million lawyers in the United States. Do not be so naive to think that you are the only person that can solve a clients’ problem. Every client is looking for a different type of lawyer. Some clients want the best at any price. Some clients want a rock bottom price. Some clients want to see that you are an expert or board certified. No matter which path you choose, find your target market and your marketing message and stick to it.

Not Listing Your Contact Information
Put your contact information on each page. By some miracle a potential client has found your web site. Make it easy for them to take the next step and contact you.

Writing Everything Yourself
Lawyers write in very….very….long sentences. We use arcane words, legal rhetoric, and terms that should never have been born. Web content, on the other hand, should be short, concise, and often in bullet point format. People scan web sites for information. Unless they are reading your article on “Fee Simple Estates: An Introduction into the World of Property,” they really are not going to take the time to read ten paragraphs about your firm. Hire an editor or writer to streamline your content.

Just Including Text
Put photos on your web site. Take photos of yourself, take photos of your office, and visit PhotoDisc – – to find solid stock photography to round out your web site. Remember a picture is worth a thousand words and can be the difference between a dull web site and one that is snazzy.

Not Having a Call to Action
Every marketing message must prompt the user to do something. Place a call to action on the bottom of each page, either prompting the client to fill out a contact form or call your office for more information.

Not Offering Advice, Case Studies, or Testimonials
Your web site needs substance. The best way to do this is by providing advice to your potential clients. Another nice trick is to list testimonials or case studies. These give great examples of your victories and can be the difference between a client calling you or your competitor.

How We Can Help
PaperStreet Web Design has extensive experience developing, redesigning, optimizing, and writing content for web sites for the legal profession. Our expertise can save you time and money while increasing your firm’s client base. Contact us for a free initial consultation: Peter T. Boyd, Esq. at PaperStreet Web Design, or 954.523.2181.

Upcoming Seminar
PaperStreet will have a booth at an upcoming lawyer marketing seminar on November 13, 2003 from 10 am – 12:00 pm in Fort Lauderdale. The seminar is free to all and Florida lawyers can earn 2 CLE credits for attending. We will be available to discuss web design and internet marketing for your law firm. Feel free to contact us for more details or call 888.510.1520 to register.

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