Most people are equally happy walking into a lawyer’s office or a dentist’s for a root canal. Nobody wants to hire a lawyer. We are expensive, and hiring a lawyer usually means something has gone badly wrong — or that it might. At best, lawyers rise to the level of necessary evil in most potential clients’ minds.

Imagine a doctor putting up a billboard with a picture of himself shoving two fingers up a patient’s tailpipe, and counting on that to produce a flood of excited patients. (Most clients associate a similar image with the bill they expect from their lawyer, by the way.) A website filled with gavels, law books, and long resumes comes across like a similar promise of things to come, not an enticement to call.

That is lawyer advertising in a nutshell.

Those gavels and law books are the hallmarks of the legal profession. The scales of justice instantly brand you as a member of the bar. Which is not necessarily a good thing, because pretty much nobody likes lawyers — in the abstract, at least. However, as we often object, most people do like their lawyer. In other words, people may like an individual even if they dislike the profession. But those clichéd symbols of the law emphasize the profession over you, the individual lawyer.

if you want to attract clients, show visitors to your website who you are, instead of greeting them with the trappings of a profession of which they are — at a minimum — suspicious. Here are some ideas to get you started:

Step 1Get rid of the legal memorabilia. Gavels, law books, scales, courthouses, columns, blind Justice, etc. Oh, and get rid of that picture of you scowling at the camera in a pinstriped suit, too.

Step 2For most of you, Step 1 probably leaves you with a website that is just text. Good start. Work on that text. Get rid of all the stuff about where you went to law school and your Martindale rating. Nobody cares. If you must, put it on your CV and link to it from your attorney profile page, or make it available for download as a PDF for the two people who actually want it.

Step 3Show a little personality. Put a new picture of yourself — smiling — on the front page.

Step 4 In the first sentence on every page of your website, help visitors understand whether or not they came to the right place. Don’t make it about you; make it about your clients. (Put your mission statement and all that other stuff about how great you are somewhere else. Actually, put most of it in the trash. Your mission statement can go at the bottom of the page, if you insist on keeping it.)

Will this make you a better lawyer? Nope. Will it get you more visitors to your website? Probably not. But it might convince someone to call you instead of another lawyer. Pulling down off-putting visual metaphors can help make you more approachable, and the more approachable lawyer is more likely to get the call.

Updates

  • 2011-08-02. Originally published.
  • 2014-12-30. Revised and republished.

Featured image: “Golden scales of justice, gavel and books on brown background” from Shutterstock.