As a small law firm or solo practice, your competition includes other attorneys in your field and in your jurisdiction as well as do-it-yourself (DIY) law.
In fact, according to the 2018 Report on the State of the Legal Market by Georgetown Law Center for the Study of the Legal Profession, the number of lawyers grew by 1.3 percent in U.S. firms while the demand for the same has dropped significantly in all practice areas but three: tax, corporate, and patent litigation. The report concludes that the legal industry by the year is losing market share.
But herein lies a silver lining for small or solo practices: the market share loss affects mid to larger firms more than the small law firms. But that doesn’t mean smaller firms and solo practices are out of the dark. One of your biggest challenges is acquiring and maintaining clients. So, though the demand for smaller firms is comparatively high, competition among smaller firms and DIY legal websites is particularly high.
But in another study, it was reported that the majority of small firms were not addressing this significant challenge of acquiring new client business. In fact, less than one-third were addressing it. To survive this market, you need to take advantage of your competition’s failure to address the above-said challenge and do so by creating your competitive advantage.
How to Create Your Competitive Edge: a Law Practice Website
Where do people go first and foremost when they have a legal issue? The internet. Where are DIY law — one of the biggest competitors for small or solo practices — located? The internet. Where do you need to be? The internet. There are many ways a law firm can establish a competitive advantage, and these typically include things like:
- Pricing, e.g., highlighting free consultations
- Product, i.e., differentiating your service from others in the same practice area; and
- Positioning, i.e., getting your name out into the public.
A website pulls all of these elements together. How you put your website together, including the information you provide and the ease of navigation from one page to another, can be your competitive edge. The LawLytics system is structured to automatically organize information in a strategic, user-friendly method that ensures you only need to worry about creating content your clients and potential clients will find helpful and compelling.
How do you make a website part of your competitive advantage?
As you know, the internet is already saturated with law firm websites just like the legal industry is saturated with attorneys, from solo practices to national and international practices. But many of these websites are superficial and offer no real value to a potential client. Offering value to your client is how you make your website an integral part of your competitive advantage.
How do you offer value via your website to potential clients?
Value is found in the content you provide. The information you provide on a website can instantly portray you as credible, knowledgeable, trustworthy, or it can establish you as mediocre. This is the key to making your website both the vehicle of your competitive advantage as well as an invaluable part of your competitive advantage. First thing’s first: you need to know your client. Potential clients are hungry for information. Legal matters are often complex, or even intimidating. Your potential clientele seeks information to educate or reassure them. They want information that will provide real value, not just superficial overviews. You need to step inside their shoes and understand what they want because their want for immediate information must be satisfied immediately. If you can do that, then you are providing the kind of value potential clients expect and that will convert leads to clients.
How to Get Results Using Your Law Firm Website’s Content
Getting results is not as easy as putting together a great website. You need to develop your expertise, authority, and trust online (otherwise known as E-A-T), but you also need to determine your brand. Here’s how to get results using these four concepts.
Determine Your Law Firm’s Brand
You need to know who you are and what your legal business stands for. It does not matter if you have a general practice or a practice focused solely on DUI, family law, estate planning, or any other specific practice area. Your practice is not your brand. Your brand is how you deliver that practice. For example, consider Pepsi v. Coca Cola. One can argue that soda is soda, but the brands are entirely different. The same is true for the DUI attorneys. One DUI attorney may brand himself as a skilled plea negotiator while another DUI attorney may shun plea deals and pride herself in going all the way to trial. In other words, one is a settler and the other is a fighter. They are both DUI attorneys, but their brands are completely different. So, ask yourself:
- Who are you?
- Who do you want to be?
- What do you represent?
- How do you represent your clients?
- How do you want to represent your clients?
- What type of clients retain you?
- What type of clients do you want to retain you?
- What do you want to look like in three years, five years, or more?
The answer to these questions is your branding starting point. Now you want to determine what differentiates you from attorneys in your same practice within your same jurisdiction. When you consider your differentiation, you also want to consider things that are important to your potential client, such as:
How are you different in each of these aspects or if not different, where do you stand? Consider a lawyer who does it all — from criminal law to estate planning — and a lawyer who focuses on DUI / DWI.
- For the first, you may want to differentiate yourself not on the practice areas but on your law office, i.e., offer free consultations, payment plans unlike other law firms, packages, discounts if a client uses the law office for more than one thing (e.g., to defend against a DUI and to draft a trust).
- For the second, the attorney may want to brand him or herself as a specific kind of DUI lawyer, one who has once been a prosecutor, knows the in’s and out’s, etc., which is unlike many of the other DUI lawyers in his or her jurisdiction.
Once you have differentiated yourself from the rest of the crowd by identifying who you are and what you represent, you then want to determine how to display that message via website content. To do so, you should consider things like tone, voice, and style of writing. Once you identify your brand and how you to convey it to potential clients, you must then incorporate the principles of E-A-T. E-A-T is Google’s rating system that will aid you in ranking so that your visibility on the website is strong and potential clients are more likely to find you.
Incorporate Google’s E-A-T Rating into your law firm website content
Google’s Danny Sullivan on Twitter expressed recently that better content results in higher rankings. Google identifies better content using its E-A-T rating system:
- E – Expertise.
- A – Authority.
- T – Trustworthiness.
If you offer high-quality content that imbues expertise, authority, and trustworthiness, Google wants to rank you highly.
As part of E-A-T, websites must establish expertise. Expertise refers to:
- Expertise and reputation of the product or service; and
- Expertise and reputation of the provider of that product or service.
To immediately establish expertise, you should make sure you have a well-rounded, informative, biography on your website. If there is more than one attorney at your practice, a biography for each and every attorney should be provided. The bio page will outline the attorney’s background, education, experience, awards, among other things, signaling both to the visitor and to Google that the attorney is an expert in law.
Google treats pages known as “Your Money or Your Life” (YMYL) a bit differently than other pages. YMYL pages are those pages that impact a person’s future happiness, health, financial stability, or safety. Further, YMYL pages require an author with expertise on the subject matter. Law firm pages addressing, explaining, informing, or advising on the law are considered YMYL pages. Google requires high-quality pages for law information because it believes that low-quality pages can detrimentally impact the user’s happiness, health, financial stability, and/or safety. High quality requires authority. Authority is closely related to expertise. Having expertise in a law or a particular practice area supports the notion you are an authority in that field. To establish authority, you must establish expertise (see above) and make sure you do the following things:
- Edit content pages that provide minimal or superficial information. If you have authority, your content should convey the same. Information cannot be superficial. There must be details. Authority is derived from the details. Details indicate that you are indeed an authority. Also note: low authority on a page may not directly impact the other pages on the website, but it can impact the site’s overall reputation.
- Add content pages. If you have only minimal pages, then your reach is narrowed. The more pages, the more details, the more authority.
Trustworthiness is about reputation, accuracy, and security. Trustworthiness is developed through identification of expertise and authority. Trustworthiness is also a result of a secure website. To establish trustworthiness, you must
- establish expertise (see above);
- build authority (see above);
- publish an About Us page that validates your brand;
- insert internal and external (credible) links on each content page for easy navigation and further development of authority; and
- provide a secure website by possessing an SSL certificate (This is not a concern for your LawLytics website, as an SSL certificate is part of your membership)
- You need a website to compete with other similar law firms.
- Your website can be your competitive advantage if strategically set up to do so.
- To be a competitive advantage, you must develop your brand and incorporate Google’s E-A-T rating system.
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About the author: Tina Sorenson-Banavathu, LLM, is the Senior Content Editor at LawLytics. Tina graduated from McGill University Faculty of Law, and then worked at an international law firm in Washington, DC in the Environmental and Energy Department. Now at LawLytics, Tina helps lead the editorial and content creation efforts for our content clients.