What law firm doesn’t have a website today? It’s a necessity. If you want to build your practice, you need a website.
But it’s one thing to have a law firm website and another for it to actually produce results. You can have all the latest trendy features, but if you aren’t getting conversions, there’s little point to it.
To tap into the power of the law firm website as a productive, long-term marketing tool, you have to design the website in a way that will render high-quality leads and conversions. Applying a bit of empathy in the design––believe it or not––has been shown to do just that.
Here, we provide you with an overview of what lawyers should know about the use of empathy in design and how to reap the benefits from it.
You are a lawyer. Your job is to know the law and apply it. Once upon a time, that was enough to build your law practice. Lawyers were viewed as these super-human beings with arcane knowledge of the world that other people didn’t possess.
But then came the internet.
Now, the law isn’t for a few; it’s for the masses. The internet is saturated with information on the law. The latter underscores a fundamental problem: lawyers are competing in a field oversaturated with other lawyers and non-lawyers, and as such, solo practices and small law firms find it hard to scale their practices.
The website, however, is a marketing tool that can work wonders by more effectively and efficiently helping lawyers grow their practice. The website as a marketing tool only works, though, when the website caters to the prospective client.
Therein lies a subsequent problem: so many law firms have websites that aren’t designed intentionally for the prospective client and their specific experiences.
To solve these problems, lawyers must apply empathy. This is true for their law practice, legal services, web content, and, of course, the design of their website.
Arturo Serrato, Senior Graphic Designer at ONE400, gives a textbook definition, “Empathy is our ability to see the world through other people’s eyes––see what they see, feel what they feel, and experience things as they do.” And that’s all it is really: to be able to experience what another person––in this case, your prospective client––experiences.
Empathy isn’t inherent but a skill that can be learned and developed. As an attorney, it is a skill that can set you apart from your competition. The Bar Standards Board’s Professional Statement for Barristers also recognizes it as a skill attorneys should master (3.4). It allows you to understand and see the world from the perspective of prospective clients.
Empathy matters because it allows you to connect with the prospective client. From the first moment they look at your website, you can begin to build a relationship that leads to conversions.
Here’s a small exercise to help you understand this a bit better:
You can see why it’s important to design a website with empathy: you relate to prospective clients and prove you have their best interests in mind, and in return, they trust you and become value clients.
Empathy has many designs. You need to understand how the end user (prospective client) feels when using your website. Empathic design is a human-centric approach rather than a technology-centric approach. The latter is the first mistake law firms make: choosing trendy features over user experience. The features you choose should complement an empathic design, not dominate the web design.
Many law firms make another mistake: they choose digital marketing agencies that don’t offer customization. Without the ability to customize, you lose the ability to cater to your specific prospective client. Empathic design isn’t a one-size-fits-all type of design.
With the above in mind, an empathic design materializes when your law firm website strategically and thoughtfully:
Many times, it’ll be the small details that manifest empathy.
Arturo Serrato cannot underscore enough that “[t]he best and most meaningful designs begin with… empathy.” Here are a few tips to keep in mind when you have your law firm website designed or redesigned.
You may provide a full spectrum of legal services or you may only offer legal services for one law practice area. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that you identify who your prospective clients are. Creating personas are a great way to identify your clients and their pain points. You can list a few personas to capture your most common types of clients.
Plus, through the creation of these personas, you gain insight into what your clients may be experiencing.
For example, if you are a DUI defense lawyer. One persona may be a middle-aged professional who has a family of four (client, spouse, two children). This person has a reputation at stake: his reputation as perceived by colleagues, his family, and his community. One night he takes his family to an office party and after they leave to return home, he’s pulled over for a DUI. From here, you can start to imagine what he is experiencing––his concerns, fears, and worries.
Your law firm or your website developer can use tools to understand your prospective clients. Google Analytics, for example, is a popular tool. Whichever tool is used, however, you want to be able to identify the behaviors of your target audience and how they interact with your website (e.g., How do they get from one webpage to another? Do they use drop down menus? Buttons? Etc.?).
User research is often conducted prior to web design, but it’s often not used to inform the design. You should make sure it is applied to the design, structure, and content of the website.
Take the example of the professional DUI offender in the above example. What does your persona say about him? He needs to know what the charges are that he may face. He needs to know if a failed breath test can be fought. He wants information on how the DUI arrest may impact his career and family. He needs a lot of different questions answered, and he wants them now because he is anxious and scared.
Do you answer these questions on your website? Are their buttons, contextual links, dropdown menus, forms, etc., that will easily and readily allow this prospective client to navigate your website? Will the prospective client feel like you understand him? Will he be able to immediately learn more about the law firm and your qualifications so that he can make an informed decision and contact you?
Even if empathy was successfully built into the design and structure of your law firm website using things like useful features, proper color schemes, and strategic placement of pages, it’s value can be negated easily if the copy and content is also not empathic.
For example, if you are a DUI defense lawyer who represents professionals charged with DUIs and your prospective client was easily able to find appropriate pages––the benefit of finding those pages quickly is lost if the words on those pages don’t speak to and for the client. Empathic copy and content means you:
Your website reflects your brand and vice versa. If the website should be empathic, your brand should, too. This means even in the office, empathy is the goal. Ask your clients questions. Get to know them and their legal situation inside and out. Reach out to them before they reach out to you. From time to time, follow up on client questions personally and not through an assistant. You need to connect with the client so they feel heard and valued, and then they’ll value you.
Lawyers are in a unique position to empathize with their clients. You hear their stories day after day. You know their pain points. You understand their problems and how to address them. The more empathic you are as a lawyer, the more you can develop better strategies for your clients. The same is true about your law firm website. The more empathic the web design is, the more useful it is as a marketing tool.
To obtain the power of empathy via your law firm website, you must remember that the website is for your prospective client––not for you, your staff, or your colleagues.
Think: Design. Act with empathy. Get results, and turn prospective clients into value clients.
If you have any questions or would like a no obligation assessment of your law firm’s website, contact us now for a consultation with one of our UI/UX designers.