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/)