My message in short words is: no, you do not need a new website. Your old website is good enough. The rules that apply to general websites do not apply to IP law firm webpages.
But before we talk about the features of a good law firm website, let me brush up your history knowledge.
When was it that you have set up your first own website?
My First Website in my Lifetime
I still remember my own first website, I set it up in 1996, immediately after setting up my firm. I kept this first webpage unchanged for many years.
You can still find an old copy of my first website, using the Wayback machine, here
My old firm’s first website was very simple but I still remember one of our first trademark clients. He came all the way from Australia to meet me in Munich, and he said that he has found us by doing an Internet search. And he highlighted that he likes the design of my webpage very much.
That impressed me because it took me only one (1) single hour to set up my first website. At the time, my ISP Compuserve had a very neat website tool.
My firm’s first website was good because it brought in measurable business.
Do you measure how much business your own website is bringing in? I do.
Must see: Check Out the Google Website over Time!
I want to show you something that will surprise you.
This is how the Google website looked back in 1999.
Now check out the Google website of today, here https://www.google.com/
Compare the old and new Google websites carefully.
This is when I love citing my high school physics teacher: “Ladies and gentlemen, as you can see here, nothing you can see.”
There has been, in fact, no change in the Google website since 1999.
This should make you think.
Why can Google keep its Website design for 20+ years, while law firms allegedly need a new website design every other year?
Come to the Point
In general marketing, people would look up a website and in a very short time decide whether to click away or not. This principle does NOT apply to law firm websites.
Lawyers usually are found by recommendations. Someone has referred them to me, and now the referral target – my future client – is looking for more information.
The target knows that lawyers are technician personalities. He does not expect a fancy guy, he is looking for someone who can solve the problem that dropped into his lap. He is looking for me, and not for my website.
If someone looks up information about a specific lawyer, and he decides that that lawyer’s website has Google ads on it, this may reflect badly on that lawyer. But maybe also not, if all that was wanted is the lawyer’s phone number.
Believe me. I am doing law firm marketing for more than 24 years. Actually, I am into marketing for more than 40 years.
A law firm website is irrelevant for the success of the firm, as long as there is any website.
Don´t Listen To Website Designers
Here comes a statement that IP lawyers will hear often when they speak with a website designer: “You won’t sell much over a website, but you can prevent many sales from happening if your firm’s website is not good.“
For lawyers and attorneys, that statement is utter nonsense. This is not how lawyers and attorneys are found and chosen.
In short words, IP lawyers and patent attorneys provide services that are much more similar to Google. You cannot compare the services of an IP lawyer with a fancy gadget that is no longer needed next year.
And there is a second aspect. The basic rule for website design is this: “Never ask a website designer whether your webpage is good”. Just as in “Never ask a barber whether you need a haircut.”
For a barber, you always need a haircut. And for a website designer, you always need a new website.
Your Website is “Not Good”. What then?
I heard that often over a period of 24 years: “Your website is not good.”
Each time that I hear this I am ignoring it.
Website experts say that one third of the viewers of any webpage like it. One third does not care. And one third does not like it. That applies to any content on the Internet.
Those viewers that like my website – or those who do not care – always remain silent.
Those who speak up are always only those who do NOT like your website.
So for one person that says that they do not like my website, there are two more silent persons that like my website, or they do not care at all.
By the way, that gives me an opportunity to take a closer look at the person who is criticizing my website. According to my own experience, most of the time this critique comes from persons who have never ever read one single book about marketing. They also don’t have their own website with a reasonably high number of recurring readers, not to speak of a regular newsletter to which you can subscribe.
Website critics also usually are bad salespeople who have seldom to never made a successful sales pitch for what they are offering. These website critics also have never developed a new product in their lifetime and successfully sold it.
Website critics are often negative personalities.
I can safely ignore these people if they criticize my website.
There is one single exemption from that: I try to get critics of my website from successful salespeople. They will most of the time focus on issues like user-friendliness and content. And that is entirely ok.
Now what is a “Good” Website
Here comes a short marketing insight.
We all know that there is a common preference for style over substance in this world and that this creates a lot of problems. Check out this link for examples http://bit.ly/styleoversubstance
Website critics almost always prefer style over substance.
But this is not what serious businessmen do.
Businessmen know that ultimately, substance carries their day. It is always tempting to get on board a stylistic ship. But if the ship is headed for an iceberg, it is better to get on board a freighter.
With the rise of digital communications, the tendency to substitute style for substance has been almost irresistible. There are some major exceptions, such as the IPKitten.blogspot.com, and others. There is nothing stylistically impressive about it, except for cat photos. IPKitten.blogspot.com is entirely substance. This site is successful, check its rating on alexa.com. The key to the success of this site is its substantial information about IP.
IPKitten.blogspot.com is good because you can get through it rapidly. You can get to content if you’re interested. This site is overwhelmingly substance-based.
Who Would Check Out Your Website
Now think about this.
I have in 24 years of practice received maybe 10 new clients over our website. As opposed to literally hundreds of new clients that came in over other marketing channels.
My experience is that potential clients know our firm from elsewhere.
And I have never seen anybody who compares law firms over their respective websites. Potential clients have heard of me and now they want to find out how to contact me.
Job applicants may look at the website and go for a fancy website. Now think twice: do you want job applicants who go for a fancy website?
Special case: your Own Employee is Criticizing Your Web Page
If one if your own employees is criticizing your website, listen carefully. Don´t scold them. Find out, is their complaint about then fanciness of your website or is it about the content? This tells you a lot about that employee. If he complains about specific contents, follow him. Appreciate it. This characterizes a valuable team member.
Styles come and go. What is very “in” this year may be gone next year.
Google’s search website has a little style only because of the masthead that is tied to some figure or event. The rest of it is sparse. This was by design. Google is going to be here next year and the year after. And in 20 years.
If you are an IP lawyer then do it like your clients, who are all businessmen: stick with substance, not style.
And I am driving my firm´s website back to where it started, in 1996.
Martin “Substance” Schweiger