We get a lot of questions from our colleagues – and some prospective clients – about why it is we get so much design work from the legal community. I thought it would be interesting to address here what it is like designing websites for lawyers, and why we enjoy it so much.
Lawyers are good people with a bad PR problem.
If you’ve ever been misunderstood and had people think they know you from just a tiny piece of information about you, you get this one. Over the course of my career, I’ve worked in 3 law firms – as an assistant and paralegal – from the gigantic to the boutique – and there’s no better way to understand that lawyers are people, too (a shocker for some), than working shoulder-to-shoulder with them.
They spend a lot of money on schooling and have the student loan burden to prove it, they have families and children who get sick, and most have a stronger sense of ethics than the population as a whole. And a work ethic. The work ethic most lawyers have would make the rest of us just want to lie down.
Rather than treating me poorly as a support staff member, most of the associates I aided would encourage me to go ahead home, while they wearily opened the file that a partner had just slapped on their desk at 6pm with an 8am deadline.
We help our client overcome perception issues with designs that don’t look like everyone else’s, and coach him through copywriting and photography choices – particularly through his “About Me” page, in order to convey his actual personality and help prospects feel comfortable hiring him.
Solos and small firms are underserved by the technical community.
Contrary to popular belief, most lawyers don’t earn six-figure salaries, and the current economic situation is making that even worse – big corporations hurting means they aren’t paying the big law firms who drive those salary perceptions.
There is a vast network of companies that has formed over the years to make money serving the legal community, in terms of technology services, marketing, case law research and more. Unfortunately, most of those companies have set their rates at a level that is out of reach for the lawyer who is practicing on her own, or who has only 2 or 3 associates.
As a consequence, many of these solopreneurs are finding themselves lost in the weeds when trying to find competent, cost-effective vendors to provide marketing services to them. We love helping them convert techno-speak to English, figuring out what they REALLY need, and providing them with the necessary hub for their marketing wheel without hefty monthly fees and restrictive contracts.
Lawyers embrace outsourcing and value specialized knowledge.
As a profession, lawyers know the value of specialization – they choose an area of the law to practice, they refer work to associates who know more about an area of the law than they do, and they employ paralegals, assistants and clerks to help them get the job done.
Therefore, you’ll rarely hear from a lawyer, “I’d code it myself, but I just don’t have time.” They’re clear on the difference between saving money (doing it yourself) and making money (doing what you’re best at). As part of that, they’re comfortable with delegating, which makes for a good partnership in a web design project. Because they charge their own clients based on their specialized knowledge, they value ours as well.
Lawyers are clear on the goal of a website – “Get Me Some Clients!”
We find that the most difficult type of clients are the “ego clients” – the ones who want a website that is all about them – and want us to find some magical way to convey “the essence of moi,” much like an interior decorator.
Lawyers are businesspeople, and as such are clear that a website is not about seeing their name in lights – it’s about getting clients in their offices. This means we get to discuss cool concepts like conversion rates and email marketing and information flow, instead of whether this shade of mauve matches their couch.
Lawyers don’t get freaked out about revisions.
Some clients think that if the first draft isn’t the perfect draft, maybe you’re not the right designer. Lawyers live in a world of revisions – revised pleadings, briefs, markups from colleagues, etc. They’re super-comfortable collaborating in an iterative fashion.
Lawyers pay their bills promptly.
There may be some exceptions to this rule, but we have not encountered them. We find that when lawyers make a purchasing decision, it’s usually not until they know they already have the funds. Bankruptcy lawyers, in particular, tend to walk their talk and run debt-free practices.
Lawyers understand the value of referrals.
Do a good job for a lawyer, and she’ll not only be a repeat client, she’ll tell everyone she knows who is looking for a similar service. They get all sorts of unsolicited marketing aimed at them as a profession, and as such, tend to lean on the referral system more heavily than others – just to screen out the white noise. Win her trust, and you win a solid referral stream of clients just like her.
Sponsored by the letters E, S, and Q.
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