The One Must-Have for All Lawyer Websites

storytelling-around-the-campfire

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I’ve been working as a copywriter and marketer for lawyers since 2008. I’ve helped build hundreds of lawyer websites and wrote countless blog posts. I’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to direct marketing on the Internet.

And the one must-have for all lawyer websites, in my opinion, isn’t great design or clever copy or superb SEO. It’s not having all the bells and whistles like click-to-chat and video clips.

So what is it?

It’s telling a damn good story.

Potential Clients Crave the Story Behind the Lawyer

There’s a reason why the bio is the most popular page on a lawyer website.

And why it’s usually better to use your real name online.

Where (and when) did she go to law school? Where does he concentrate his practice? What are some of the big cases she’s handled? Does he handle only personal injury, or does he dabble elsewhere too?

These are big questions for most potential clients, who generally want to make the best decision possible in their choice of a lawyer.

So if the one must-have for all lawyer websites is telling a damn good story, what does that look like? Let’s take a cue from George Saunders, who is one damn good storyteller.

‘Embody the Personal’

George Saunders was recently interviewed for his new collection of stories, Tenth of December, and has generally received positive reviews from readers and critics for his fiction.

Asked about the political nature of many of his stories, Saunders replied:    

[I]f you want to explore a political idea in the highest possible way, you embody it in the personal, because that’s something that no one can deny. Whatever your supposed politics are—left, right—if you put it in a human connection, most people will rise to the occasion and feel the human pain in a way that they might not if it was presented in a more conceptual way.

One Example: Case Results

Many personal injury lawyers write a series of one-liners about their case results: “Won $250,000 judgment in car accident case.”

Kudos for putting case results on your lawyer website at all (and not to say that a series of one-liners with six-figure settlements and judgments won’t work), but the human story behind that case result is more likely to stick with an injured client, one who is deciding whether or not to call you.

Example:

The client came to me because he’d been broad-sided at the intersection by another driver going 70 mph. He’d been out of work for a month, in and out of the hospital, was afraid of losing his job at a small manufacturing company that’s been downsizing. Defendant adamantly denied liability because there was “ice on the road,” but I successfully persuaded the jury that there was no reason defendant should have been traveling at 70 mph when he went into the intersection on a red light, ice or not. Won $250,000 judgment for my client.

This shows some of your personality. Your human side. For my money, getting personal, as Saunders says, will help you tell a damn good story, and this is much better for your lawyer website than puff alone.

(image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/stephen_downes/3448367477/sizes/o/in/photostream/)

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  • http://phillylawblog.wordpress.com/ Jordan Rushie

    I think I’d go with “easy to copy / paste your address into Google maps.”

    • Chris Bradley

      Well, it can’t hurt to make it as easy as you can for folks.

    • Jenny

      While it is important to make it easy to contact the firm (click to call, popup contact forms and links to get directions), it is more important to answer the prospective client’s question of “what’s in it for me?” What is in it for someone who hires your firm? Answering that question is exactly what a good story can do.

  • http://www.thekoreanlawblog.com Sean Hayes

    That is really interesting. As a lawyer myself, I better re-check my bio page right now!

  • http://jacksonandwilson.com Mitch

    Agree 100%. Several years ago we moved away from the traditional lawyer bio and instead added our own unique stories. Here they are in story format. I’d value your thoughts and input http://jacksonandwilson.com/lawyer-bios/

  • static

    The reason lawyer bios get more hits than the rest of the website is because opposing counsel is checking them out. As for a story, client want to hear two things, that you’re inexpensive and guarantee a win. Other than that, they couldn’t care less about the lawyer.

    And as long as you promote the glorious wins, what about the horrible defeats? Ethics count too, though maybe not to a marketer. Telling only one side of the story is deceptive. Are you telling lawyers to be deceptive?

    • http://lawyerist.com/author/chrisbradley/ Chris Bradley

      (1) There must be a helluva lot of OC out there. Last I checked, there’s generally one OC for every case. And the same OCs if you’ve got a niche practice.

      (2) I told a bankruptcy client I wasn’t the cheapest, I wasn’t the most expensive. That was a selling point for her. And as far as guaranteeing a win, now wouldn’t that be an ethics problem?

      (3) Don’t we all tell one side of the story? Especially those sites that are mere puffery? And, here, I’m advocating going beyond puffery. In fact, the better storytellers probably are better lawyers, too, meaning that while they undoubtedly experience defeats, those defeats generally wouldn’t be from a lack of ethics or ability.

  • http://www.zamolution.com Jim Zamichieli

    Chris – I couldn’t agree with you more. I’m constantly preaching to my clients that their respective website needs to have the KLT factor (know, like, trust). Having a verdicts & settlements page that goes beyond the $xxx,xxx.xx for car accident case might help a little with the “trust” factor, but it ends there. Your advice delivers on all three factors. Too many attorneys fear showing personality will appear as unprofessional. When we need a plumber, a car mechanic, a doctor, what do we often do? We ask our friends and family if they know someone, because we trust their opinions. If we can’t get a recommendation, we turn to the web and try to get a fraction of that trust from what we see and read.

    @Mitch – I read your bio pages and I would bet perspective clients are picking up the phone and calling your firm because how well the bios read.