The days are long gone when simply having a strong online presence – a website, a blog, and maybe a LinkedIn profile – was enough to separate your law firm from the competition.

That’s all a given, these days. Every firm has that.

Now it’s more a question of how you can differentiate yourself, rise above the ‘noise’, and stand out from the crowd. However you want to put it, it doesn’t come naturally to many law firms. It takes a little know-how, time, and effort to achieve, but it can be done relatively easily.

Simply by paying attention to the following 10 examples, you’ll be doing many of the things that 95 percent of law firms don’t do – and that will help you stand out.

(Note: I have used Calgary-based law firm websites, but the principles all hold true wherever your firm is based.)

1. Optimize your website for the area in which you have the greatest expertise

While there are plenty of law firms promoting themselves as ‘full service’ law firms, it’s not always advantageous to do so.

In practice, most firms focus on one or two practice areas, in which their lawyers are especially experienced, known for, and successful. If you mainly want to attract leads for these areas then it makes sense to optimize your website around these services, rather than other less important or profitable ones.

Don’t fall into the trap of being too general and trying to be everything to everyone. One golden rule in marketing is that if you attempt to appeal to everyone, you’ll appeal to no one. The more specific you are, the better it is for keyword optimization, driving traffic, and for converting website visitors into profitable sales leads from your site.

Look how Calgary-based employment law firm Taylor Janis focuses on workplace Law, for instance:

taylor-janis-workplace-law

We know immediately that this firm focuses on workplace issues, that it serves Edmonton & Calgary, and that it serves both employers and employees.

There is a page dedicated to each legal service (such as workplace litigation, employee immigration and labour), so that each can be optimized for its particular keywords. This is great for SEO.

Whether your primary practice area is family, business, personal injury, criminal, employment, property or another branch of law, make it clear from the start, and optimize your site around what you do best. Think deep not wide!

2. Actively gather feedback, reviews, and testimonials

Reviews and testimonials are essential for any business; for a law firm, being able to demonstrate superb service, integrity, and success is key to standing out from the crowd.

Many firms simply sit back and wait for great feedback to come rolling in; the most successful ones are proactive, actively chasing feedback and reviews that they can then publish on their website or feature on their Google My Business listing.

In the latter case, Google reviews not only improve your reputation and provide social proof; they also help with your search engine rankings.

Develop a system for asking for reviews; when you first take a case on, mention that reviews are part of your system of business. Then, when the time comes, it’s already expected by clients. If they are leaving Google reviews, make sure they know how to complete it.

See how prominent reviews are on this home page. Not only are testimonials featured on the home page, they are distributed throughout the website’s footer and consolidated on a reviews page.

oykhman-criminal-defence

Remember that negative online feedback is important too, and should not be ignored: it can flag problems that you may not know exist – and you can subsequently make positive changes to your business to correct these problems. Treat negative feedback as an opportunity to convince a client that you deserve their business.

For a more detailed look at soliciting reviews, check out my presentation from the 2016 SocialWestThe Insane Power of Online Reviews.

3. Demonstrate your success

Demonstrating success is much more powerful than simply talking about it. The best law firms are able to show their readers how credible they are, how they’ve helped others, and the success stories that they’ve been involved in.

A few great ways to do this are to include awards and accolades, highlight where you have been mentioned in the local or national news media, and by including case studies.

See how this Edmonton/Calgary law firm has an “Awards & Accolades” section – and includes logos of their awards on their firm’s home page.

field-law

This large, well-established Canadian business law firm has a long page of “Awards and Recognition”:

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And has your firm been mentioned in the media? This firm has – and it is using this to help it stand out from its competitors:

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If you have not been mentioned in the media yet, look at doing some press release marketing to change that. Getting informative press releases written about legal cases is an excellent way to gain visibility and credibility; and even a small mention in a local publication can generate interest, as well as provide a valuable link back to your website.

4. Get close to your local community

More law firms are finally getting wise to the power of community involvement. If you haven’t yet taken advantage of sponsoring a local event, helping a charity, or even providing a scholarship, now may be the time to start. As well as helping those in need, and generating valuable PR for your firm, it creates the essential bonds with the communities that will provide new clients.

Look how seriously this Calgary law firm takes its community work; it has a dedicated page linking to case study reports on each community initiative it is involved in:

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In fact, most top-ranked law firm websites for Calgary feature a section on Community. Here are a couple more good examples:

McLEOD Law

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Osler

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5. Provide an outstanding customer experience

This one is not to be missed. Nothing beats an outstanding customer experience for differentiating your business – and nothing ever will

If you are found wanting in this area then it doesn’t matter what else you do; so it’s essential to work on providing the best customer experience possible from the moment of first contact until they complete their review of your services.

A good idea here is to map out your customer’s journey, with their expectations detailed at every step. Then consider how you will exceed those expectations.

Remember that your customers may come from many different channels, each with unique benefits and changes. Some will find you through online search, others will hear about you from a friend; and others will see an ad. It’s important to tailor your responses and interactions accordingly.

Be sure to answer questions and solve problems as fast as you can for clients. Poor communication is rarely tolerated, especially amongst millennials, who expect almost instant responses by email, phone, or through social media channels. Ensure you have voicemail activated if you are not contactable, or use the services of an assistant to help manage call volumes.

An outstanding customer experience online means providing the following:

  • Answers to the key issues that your clients face
  • An easily navigable website with clear menus and calls to action
  • Multiple ways to contact you
  • A good follow up process for incoming queries
  • Resources and tools to educate and inform your visitors

Take a look at this screenshot of the bottom section of the home page for this Calgary law firm and look for the features mentioned above:

mcgurk-fraese-family-lawyers

6. Be found!

This applies both online and offline. You need to be highly visible.

Networking is your primary tool for being found offline…make sure you exhaust all the channels through friends and family, former college or law school classmates, accountants, bankers and doctors. They can be great referral sources; just make sure that they know what type of clients you are after. Don’t forget about conferences either. They are excellent opportunities to rub shoulders with fellows lawyers (…and judges).

Online, you may have the best website in the world, but unless you can be found through organic search it will mean very little. The most obvious way to stand out online is to be have high rankings in the popular search engines. This will nearly always result in you receiving more traffic and visibility.

So you need to get smart with your search engine optimization. Start by reading our definitive SEO guide for law firms and then hire the right people to help improve your rankings.

Take a look at the following edited screenshot of Google page one for the search term “criminal defence lawyers in Calgary”. I have edited out the paid results at the top and bottom of the page. You will see several of the websites I have used as examples in this article, alongside more general sites aggregating law firms in Calgary and the rest of Canada.

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Each of the law firms you see here on the first page is on top of its SEO and is certainly standing out from the crowd:

Another way to enhance the chances of your firm being found (and it improves SEO too) is to have an active social media presence – with LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter presences. But I’ll save that for another article…

7. Inform, educate, and assist – with content and tools

No law firm website will get far these days without adding value for its visitors. This was touched on earlier, when we considered how to provide an outstanding customer experience.

What does this mean, exactly? It’s about providing content and resources. It’s not enough to simply list your services. To stand out you must educate, inform, and engage your visitors – and provide them with tools to further their understanding and to help them solve problems.

In doing this, you are not only providing something of value for free, but you are demonstrating your expertise and ‘thought leadership’ in your specialist area of law.

This can be done in many ways. Let’s take a look at a few examples…

Simply providing good, clear information to the most pressing questions going through your customers’ minds on your service pages is a great start – like here:

taylor-janis-wrongful-dismissal

Informative, engaging blog posts can also help provide information and opinion on the matters that are uppermost in your readers’ minds – like this, from the same site:

taylor-janis-blog

Adding guides and tools for your readers to use can help them solve their problems too. In this example, a child support calculator and parenting law guide is available for visitors:

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Another great idea in this area is to provide legal form templates for readers to download and use. Depending on the nature of your practice, you could offer forms for:

  • Power of Attorney templates
  • Rent and lease templates
  • Divorce templates
  • Affidavit templates
  • Release templates
  • Warranty deed templates
  • Will and trust templates
  • Work statement templates
  • Name change templates
  • Probate templates

If you have a lot of useful resources for readers you may want to create a dedicated page and group your resources together – articles, white papers, videos, blog posts, booklets, newsletters, and so on. Check this example:

stikeman-elliot2

The type of content you should provide depends on how your audience likes to consume information, as well as your ability to create it. Consider writing short articles (publish on your site or send to local newspapers and business journals); you could also write academic papers or white papers; create slide presentations; or provide videos and webinars (more about this later). Or why not record a podcast?

There is so much you can be doing in this field – try to build up a library of resources on your site over time.

8. Avoid legalese and jargon: make it accessible

Legal language can be a huge ‘turn off’ for potential clients searching online. Most people simply want a service they can understand, which will get them the result they are looking for, with lawyers who appear professional, but approachable.

Avoid using legal jargon or ‘legalese’, as its sometime termed; lawyers are often perceived as being ‘distant’ and unapproachable, and it may be a little daunting for some people to contact you. Try to break down these ‘barriers to entry’ and make your services more accessible.

Again this site gets it spot on and this is reflected in its success:

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9. Maintain contact and follow up

Another way to stand out from the crowd is to follow up with clients in a way that few of your competitors do. This means attending to the personal touches that keep your firm front of mind with clients, and which encourage them to spread the word about how great you are.

One law firm marketing idea is to send Thank You cards after the case is finished. Most other legal firms wait for Thank You letters or reviews to come in from clients after they win a case, but how about YOU thanking THEM for their business?

Keeping communication channels open with past clients is a relatively easy way to grow your business, as it’s much easier to work with people who already know you, and can refer you, than to consistently find new clients.

Why not send written surveys on completion of the case to gather feedback and reviews (see point 2).

As much as 70 percent of your business can end up coming from referrals from satisfied clients, if you set up a system of regular contact and actively ask them for referrals.

Besides past clients, there could be doctors, accountants, bankers, real estate agents, financial advisers, or lawyers from different practice areas who could also supply referrals to you.

lawyer-referral

When you receive a referral, make sure you follow up with a Thank You and let them know what becomes of the lead. This important point of etiquette is sometimes missed, because lawyers are usually busy and don’t have system to track and follow up on referrals.

But it’s quite simple: if you want to stand out you have to do things that the others don’t. And if you do this correctly, it can be important PR for you. Try sending a Thank You letter or card to each client or professional contact that referred a case to you.

If there are past clients you haven’t contacted in a year, try reconnecting with them to regenerate the relationship. You never know what might come of it; they may not be aware of your full range of services.

10. Add video and run webinars

Why use an endless page of text when a two-minute video can relate the information more effectively?

People consume information in different ways, so if you can include video and webinars as resources for your audience, then you can potentially engage with prospects and clients in a different way.

Following is a great example of a law firm site using video intelligently to set itself apart from the rest: ‘The Kahane Law Legal Minute’ is a series of almost 50 short, two-minute videos in plain English:

kahane

Start by answering some of your target audience’s FAQs on camera. You can publish these on YouTube and on your site; and if you optimize your videos for your keywords, your YouTube channel entries will rank well on the search pages.

Hosting free webinars is another great way to differentiate your firm; the opportunity to showcase a particular lawyer or team of lawyers online is great PR; you can help your audience with pressing legal matters and demonstrate that you are the go-to firm in your niche. This is a great example:

osler-webinar

So there you have it – 10 relatively simple ways to help your law firm differentiate itself. Be honest – how many of these are you currently putting serious time into?

If, like most lawyers, you are constantly busy and always caught up in the daily running of the firm, perhaps it is time to take a step back and get a little more strategic. Adopting smart practices that the majority of firms are not following may be the only way that your firm will grow into the future.

After all, doing the same things as the majority will get you the same results as everybody else. Is that what you really want?