The global legal digital landscape continues its remarkable transformation. The way in which your law firm operates, collaborates, and delivers services to your clients will evolve in new and exciting ways, while remaining true to fundamental client-centric principles.
With ground-breaking advancements in AI dominating the column inches, the winning law firms will do what the best have always done – place their clients front and centre of the experience they deliver.
Legal firms on the front-foot will embrace this new era of innovation and digital disruption. They will harness the immense potential of available technology and enhance how they digitally engage with clients.
They will also gain speed in the development of integrated digital services and position themselves as far more than traditional legal advisors.
You too can deliver value and cater to your clients’ ever-changing needs through relevant, engaging and integrated digital experiences that will generate more business and improve efficiency.
This playbook will help answer a number of questions, including:
Read on to learn the steps you can take to achieve digital leadership in the exciting and evolving legal sector.
of websites use personalisation or marketing automation
of websites deliver intuitive user experiences
is the average accessibility score across the sector
of firms have an engaging landing page, 8% up from 2022
Living Group, 2023
Following a volatile and unpredictable few years, and with the spectre of a British and European recession looming, uncertainty continues with pressures on many fronts. In saying that, navigating the future successfully will still come down to the fundamentals of gaining trust through consistency, authenticity, and client centricity.
Get in the mind of the client
What will be the trigger that leads the client to need you?
It is important to understand where your clients begin their journey when searching for legal services. A chance event (an accident), a change in circumstances (marriage, divorce, a new level of income), a business decision (like buying or selling a company), or maybe it’s time to get a company’s legal affairs in order?
This behavioural understanding is what you can leverage to turn intent into consideration and action. You must consider the individual client profiles you wish to target. You must implement a digital content governance framework to set clear guidance on how to get the right result for them.
Navigation towards the website could start from a Google search, be triggered by a marketing email or social media post, the latest related news page, or an important update. Website traffic is a measure of success at this stage, and you can use this trigger to identify your audience’s 'legal enquiry digital footprint.'
Consider the relevant potential first steps for profiling your main visitors and curate a client journey that is directly aligned with their needs, their intent to learn, and relevant content.
Decide who your key client profiles are; every website should cater to a visitor or client type. These are personas, fictional characters that represent specific target clients or other visitor types. The number of personas you need depends on the legal services you offer and/or the services you wish to target.
To begin, start with one persona and consider their search intentions, goals in their role, the needs to be served, potential frustrations, and examine any influencing forces. A one-size-fits-all client approach is not effective, and creating multiple personas is a good practice to identify client segments (within reason).
Building these personas can help curate persona parameters in which you are able to track and engage target audiences and establish a better understanding of your value proposition.
Successful law firms have shown to prioritise website content and tailored interfaces for their defined clients, showcasing a deeper acknowledgement aligned with their clients' legal issues, and demonstrating their ability to help clients succeed.
Engage with actual clients to test and validate your persona assumptions. User research, even with limited scope, can provide real-time insights into visitor behaviour and articulate critical feedback that you can utilise.
Applied in user interviews, research activities may include user journey mapping and behavioural analysis techniques, such as eye-tracking of user interface interactions, interview responses, and facial expressions. Each interview outline and engagement technique should reflect the persona type. It is essential to look beyond both existing and known target personas to potential clients for firms in growth stages as well.
This curated approach to user research can reward law firms with a prioritised and relevant series of problem statements. The objective is to observe and test user experiences of key user journeys on the website to identify opportunities for enhancements in design, messaging and functionality, turning pain points into opportunities supported by validated business cases. This practice is better known as user-centred design.
Measure how this engagement can be translated into actionable insights and information-rich data sources. The usual web metrics of visits and bounce rate are key but used in the context of the specific visitor and their initial journey. Filtering the results per persona or defining new personas can further aid understanding of the client experience.
Metrics from user testing, such as System Usability Scores (SUS) and Single Ease Questions (SEQ), can provide a proxy measure of the overall usability of the website. They allow you to compare which modules of the interface accrue the most pain points or difficulties and provide a clear indication of client attitudes towards the experience.
You can generate data-based problem definition hypotheses to start creating business-justified requirements for the next phase. This is an iterative, client-centric process, which through continuous monitoring can be enhanced over time as personas evolve and react to changes in circumstances.
Winner’s circle: Baker Mackenzie, a trailblazer in client-centric digital leadership
Baker McKenzie is a pioneer of a client-centric and insight-driven approach to digital strategy and intelligence. Through its clear and integrated social media strategy, the firm has achieved remarkable growth in its follower count, particularly on LinkedIn. Their social media efforts have significantly amplified the volume of trigger points leading to increased website navigation.
Operating within an extensive field of law, they have demonstrated relevance and market reactivity in case study content. Within hours of a headline, they are swift to develop and push engaging and relevant content. This approach has earned them praise for connecting their content and social media pipeline, underpinned by their extensive understanding of the client journey, allowing them to tailor messaging and content across channels.
The firm’s regular activity on social media conveys its leadership and expertise within the given field, instilling a sense of trust and influence amongst its audience who follow and engage with content.
Additionally, Baker McKenzie showcases their accomplishments and updates the firm’s related legal talent at every opportunity, effectively communicating the exceptional quality of their lawyers and their culture. Through engagement, users can build relationships and connect to the legal team. Their approach has not only enhanced their digital presence but also solidified their reputation as a trusted and influential force within the legal industry.
You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.
Congratulations! Your hard work has earned your website a new visitor. Start building trust with a first experience that is consistent with their initial intent and create memories that will draw them back for more. Remember that the first visit often ends with no action, but it is critical to ensure a second visit does.
Navigating a law firm’s website may be overwhelming for those without prior experience and knowledge, so you want to streamline the content to align (where possible) with what they were searching for in the first place. The website should focus on the clients’ needs, not the firm’s internal structure. You must reflect your value proposition, what makes you unique, and represent this ‘personality’ consistently, but always and whenever possible, in the context of the visitor. You must do this to ensure differentiation from the catalogue of traditional global law firms.
Landing pages should promote a clear purpose and present relevant subject matter that shows a deep understanding of the visitors’ needs. They should also give the visitor more options than simply collecting contact information – you are still in confidence and trust-building mode.
In addition, clear content governance and curated approaches to presenting or prioritising areas of specialism can enhance SEO. There are numerous SEO tools on the market that help you to grow your organic traffic through site auditing, positioning tracking, and SEO validation checker.
Local SEO is geared toward improving your visibility in local map listings when visitors are looking for legal services in their area, resulting in a higher ranking and a greater chance of being found. If you operate on a global scale, multi-language content management strategies add value when publishing content in different languages, increasing reach. Don’t forget about your XML sitemap either; ensure this reflects the client's journey as outdated XML sitemaps harm SEO.
84% is the average SEO score across the sector (Living Group, 2023)
40% of websites use personalisation or marketing automation
31% of firms serve content based on their users’ geolocation
Focus on what that first direct interaction with your website will be, and make sure it rewards the visitor's decision to consider you. Showcase who you are and how you are providing value by solving real-world problems for clients.
A visitor could often arrive on the website from a landing page, considering the firm more broadly before committing to a call-to-action; align this second step using triggered personalisation reflecting topically aligned content.
Optimal and logical information architectures should underline navigation. Use storytelling to create compelling messaging that showcases the lawyers’ capabilities, cases and causes. Information-rich and engaging content on specific topics with relevant keywords will help your firm rank higher in organic search.
Finally, Design Systems promote consistency and mobile-friendly optimisation which maximises SEO impact.
82% of websites use related content (Living Group, 2023)
36% of firms provide case studies on their websites
Consider the anonymous visitor, who will be the majority, and facilitate frictionless access to remove any barriers to them getting the information they need through carefully considered navigation.
Don’t rush to obtain contact details and provide options for further relevant engagement. Given the breadth of the services offered by most legal firms, the site search experience is a critical factor towards increasing engagement. Prompt the visitor to engage with search and provide guidance as to the sort of terms to be entered.
Use analytics to identify the success of those who search in getting to the information they need as it will have a significant impact on conversions. Converting anonymous visitors with high intent into known visitors represents both a huge opportunity and evidence of the value of the experience you deliver.
Get to know visitors by efficiently communicating legal information. Increasing engagement will provide the foundation for delivering personalised content that shows increasing relevance, which further builds trust and increases the chances of the visitor sharing personal details. Account-based Marketing tools can enable you to identify the company of the visitor, enabling personalisation based on sector and potentially surfacing intent, turning anonymous traffic into valuable leads.
85% is the average website accessibility score across the sector (Living Group, 2023)
43% of legal clients search for potential providers for legal support online, up from just 31% 12 months earlier (Legal Services Consumer Panel, 2022; Solicitors Regulation Authority, 2023)
Winner’s circle: Hogan Lovells’ engaging digital experience
Hogan Lovells' website stands out with a distinctive and comprehensive utilisation of case studies, featured on the primary navigation menu. The case studies page showcases a diverse range of examples, spotlighting the firm's successes and capabilities in resolving complex legal issues and clients' cases. Moreover, they excel in search functionality within the sector.
Their platform offers a curated and well-organised list of visual content results, accompanied by user-friendly filters, enabling seamless navigation. The firm has also introduced insightful overview pages that outline their expertise in assisting clients to 'Grow,' 'Protect,' or 'Innovate' their businesses. Supported by adjacent compelling case studies, these pages effectively convey the firm's core values, mission, and unique internal brand approach to serving clients.
Furthermore, Hogan Lovells stands out as one of the pioneering firms that have harnessed the potential of data analytics tools to enhance client relationships. Notably, they have already shown progressive advancements towards integrating machine learning capabilities, aiming to establish a comprehensive knowledge system, shown through their adjacent business Legal technology brand ELTEMATE.
Provide engaging ways to evidence your value
Now you must lead your visitor to continue their engagement as part of that session and to an experience that will last in the memory and lead them to return. The visitor now enters investigation mode. Visitors are quickly distracted if the information they need is not obvious and succinct. Simply put, they 'bounce.' Bounce rates are relatively easy to monitor and a critical measure of success.
As personalisation fuels competition amongst legal service experiences, specific tools can be deployed that drive understanding of visitor engagement patterns and likely next-best actions enabling the targeting of different client personas. Content can be surfaced, in line with the understood needs of the visitor, creating an engaging and elevated user experience.
Site search can also leverage personalisation, by using the understood patterns to ‘boost’ certain results based on the identified persona of the visitor.
If your firm is strong on providing insight, email subscription services where clients can sign up for updates about specific areas of law will ensure the timely communication of topical content and remind those that have signed up to return. They also gather user data in a ‘quid pro quo’ manner, provide reinforcement of identified personas and prompt the client to return to your site.
Continue to build on the trust you have earned and use this greater insight into client behaviour from bounce rates to create increasingly personalised experiences that inform and reward engagement with relevance and evidence.
Consider the questions a visitor may have and the order in which they are typically asked. Design content that provides answers.
Are visitors looking for talented, specialised lawyers with client testaments aligned?
Are visitors looking for information on the services you provide and need a search engine tool?
Are visitors looking for previous case content?
Centre and signpost content to ensure ‘client-centric messaging’ that answers the most relevant questions, the priority of which depends on the insight-driven research developed from Chapters 1 & 2. Ensure that the information clients need to move to conversion is clear and concise.
Engaging talent landing pages, biographies, and high-quality, evidence-based case study content has proven to promote the most positive experiences for clients.
Captivating content could also include animation, video, audio, and graphics to diversify information delivery, and will increase visitor touchpoints and conversion rates. Articles as a podcast player, introducing audio and video content into the lawyer profile page, could further encourage engagement. Furthermore, these can be embedded in social channels, such as LinkedIn, to improve website traffic.
It is important to funnel information to avoid the website experience becoming overwhelming, given legal content is very comprehensive, especially for clients who have no knowledge or time to conduct proper due diligence.
Perhaps a smart bar navigation can better bookmark important content, enhanced by a language and IP locator for global firms. These can surface information; however, it is important to understand how this may hinder visitor website exploration and depth of engagement by streamlining the client journey. Client portals can be utilised to promote relevant content tailored to the client's needs, also acting as a personalised subscription portal.
23% of websites have high-quality search functionality and results (Living Group, 2023)
12% of firms have engaging people landing pages, and 4% in 2022 (Living Group, 2023)
Specify digital tools that provide answers or information directly relevant to the visitor’s inputs. Investment in digital experience platforms (DXP) will enable consistency across a multi-touchpoint journey and further drive a personalised experience.
The DXP is a slightly misleading term for what is in effect a platform of various integrated technologies, which would include content management, marketing automation, client data platform and API layer.
Other digital tools however are stealing the headlines, namely Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML). Interestingly, the products themselves seem to be part of the modern legal struggles and remain a challenging subject matter for lawyers regarding Intellectual Property and data protection.
However, Virtual Legal Assistants have been shown to be part of the solution towards greater collaboration across fields of law. These products alleviate legal firms' low-level inquiries, which develops trust, reduces response time, and improves relationships with clients from the first touchpoints. This can help reduce the volume of inbound inquiries and streamline the user's experience.
Adjacent AI-powered products are also transforming the sector's value proposition towards a greater scope of users. Web accessibility solutions improve the client experience for users with disabilities, and ML translation systems’ Natural Language Processing tools are integrated to improve the digital experience across geolocations, enhancing the potential value of legal services and content to be distributed globally. Despite digital products becoming increasingly complex today, the way they are being designed and embedded into the workflow can be relatively simple under the right delivery team, focusing on the client experience.
37% of UK firms are adopting legal technology such as automated documents, interactive websites and AI (Lexis Nexis, 2023)
Keep your requests for contact information optional until offering content with proven value. Clients may be hesitant to provide personal or business information without privacy assurances and trust in the system. For this reason, aggressive information prompts may increase bounce rates and reduce conversion rates.
It is important to nurture interest first through engaging experiences that will lead to the visitor willingly sharing their information later. Compliance evidence and documentation of data handling will be essential given the service expectations of the user, which is more difficult to translate efficiently in the first interaction.
Furthermore, clients seek human intelligence and interaction, placing trust in the lawyer as an important decision criteria. Therefore, if a client considers you as a partner, they will require further contact. Make relevant and streamlined contact information available at the first point of interaction but avoid pushing direct marketing content and data at touchpoints if no meaningful moments are given afterwards. This showcases your ability and priority to be solution-first and client-facing.
Winner’s circle: Allen & Overy's commitment to digital product and innovation within the Legal sector
Allen & Overy positions itself as the digital disruptor within the legal sector. The firm’s innovation tech hub ‘Fuse’ has created a launchpad for future legal technology, to accelerate the industry’s digital transformation and resilient future.
With a keen focus on understanding the pain points experienced by their clients and internal teams, Allen & Overy is committed to developing new digital products and asset solutions. Recently, they unveiled their AI chatbot, Harvey, a beta project which is revolutionising legal work functions by automating tasks such as contract, document drafting and client memos. Harvey's implementation, utilising the renowned ChatGPT technology created by OpenAI, makes Allen & Overy the first known user of this technology within the magic circle.
The introduction of Harvey marks a significant opportunity for Allen & Overy to solidify its position as a market leader in the legal sector. By harnessing the power of AI to generate insights and offer contract analysis and recommendations from vast datasets, the firm is poised to provide faster, smarter, and more cost-effective solutions to its clients. Harvey is a versatile tool capable of working across diverse practice areas and languages, showing promise in delivering intelligence and efficiency gains that benefit global firms and internal teams alike.
Streamline the purchase process and create a foundation for more!
Now that a decision about legal services has been made, the scale of the opportunity has grown in multiples. While relevance remains important, you have an opportunity to draw more information regarding clients’ needs to support future case management and reinforce the decision.
Challenges arise if case and onboarding processes rely on legacy applications that are difficult to use and integrate with – replacement is clearly difficult, but can you separate them from the client-facing process? Keep the client informed about where they are in the onboarding process and why. Always retain the information given and enable a smooth re-entry to the process should it need to be paused.
Lay a foundation for future business and positive client testimonials by focusing on a streamlined onboarding process that will reduce the time it takes from intent to action and the costs you might incur.
Engineer the onboarding process and integrate opportunities for collaboration, both physical and digital, in real-time and context. Law Practice Management Software (PMS) can improve internal business operations and administrative tasks of the entire practice, including bookkeeping, reporting and invoicing.
Integrated Case Management Systems (also CMS) offer similar features to PMS yet give legal firms an extra layer of resiliency and security in specific case management and associated documentation, allowing them to get on with the job they do best and provide the best possible client experience.
PMS can be integrated alongside CMS to reduce the duplicate data entry of client details and case information, a powerful solution to integrate cases into a streamlined workstream intelligently.
This technology integration is a great opportunity to enhance Client Relationship Management (CRM) and reduce communication gaps with clients, increasing transparency, security, and a direct line of assistance to reduce the risk of error.
Client Data Platforms (CDP), commonly used in marketing, can be plugged into the CRM provider platform depending on the available APIs or integrations, to collect behavioural data on how your clients interact with the services and integrated tools. In doing so, CDPs can create a comprehensive view of each client to improve client insights and enhance communications and experiences through personalisation.
Each type of software serves different work departments and purposes, so, they can be extended within the wider firm technological architecture, to rapidly improve efficiency and accelerate business growth.
Separate clients from painful legacy systems and processes that provide a negative first impression of becoming a client. Use tools such as client portals that help you interact and collaborate with clients in real-time.
Client portals are a dedicated interface considered part of both PMS and CMS systems, where clients can review relevant and personalised information and content, to reduce the time to purchase through efficient matter and task management in the digitalisation of trade documents, signing contracts, documentation, and streamlining transactions. They provide a centralised point of interaction for clients and lawyers, especially relevant to emergency services and case inquiries.
Clients are provided with digital tools to manage their needs, as an act of collaboration and co-innovation. For example, the ability for targeted visitors, based on firmographics and user profiling, to book a meeting into a partner's dedicated calendar slots can provide more valuable digital experiences.
Prompt new clients to provide reviews and make it easy for them to do so to provide evidence for future clients. You can integrate reviews with annual performance reviews by utilising digital tools that provide real-time feedback workflows. This monitoring of the client's journey and case management ensures further opportunities for feedback at each touchpoint, eliminating the tedious review entry at the end of the case. In extreme cases, scheduling consultations to review negative feedback could be managed through CMS and client portals.
Winners Circle: Bird & Bird curate two birds and one stone bespoke ‘Access’ workflow solution
Bird & Bird stands at the forefront of legal innovation, providing fully tailored products that cater to the unique needs of their clients, and delivering services with unmatched efficiency. At the heart of their client-centric approach is 'ACCESS', a 24/7 client portal and practice management software comprising three integral components: Relationship Site, Deal Room, and Bespoke Solutions.
The Relationship Site fosters seamless communication between legal advisors and clients. By offering increased transparency, oversight, and streamlined sharing of documentation, project planning, contracts, and resources, Bird & Bird elevates the client experience to new heights. The platform empowers clients with real-time insights, enhancing collaboration and ensuring a personalised approach to every interaction.
The Deal Room emerges as a virtual data management powerhouse, for clients to manage complex transactions with ease. Equipped with sophisticated Q&A tools and a user-friendly interface, the Deal Room facilitates advanced-level understanding and efficient data handling. Clients gain invaluable control over their information, leading to informed decision-making and streamlined processes.
Finally, Bird & Bird's Bespoke Solutions encompasses a suite of digital products designed to optimise workflow management and elevate client 'self-service.' By seamlessly integrating with client organisations and internal processes, these digital tools enhance collaboration and efficiency, transcending the boundaries of traditional legal advice and solutions.
Individualise the experience and turn clients into advocates!
Large client confidentiality agreements have halted the exercise of large review landing pages on global legal firms, compared to other industries and sectors. Thus, most legal firms overlook the power that existing and past clients have in influencing future client decision-making processes and very few firms use consumer-generated content to attract new clients.
The first goal is to make existing clients happy, the second is how digital experience can add value to the services brought, and the third is how others can replicate this happiness. Therefore, it is important to make them aware and give them the platform to share and celebrate previous success. What do other clients buy next and why? Promptly and accurately deliver this information via multiple channels.
Helping clients feel proud and vindicated for the decision they made will deliver more revenue, and longer tenure, and give others the evidence to make similar decisions.
Ask clients what they liked and disliked about their relationship with you and improve the experience accordingly.
What do clients think and feel about your firm and service?
What are their fears, frustrations, and anxieties?
What are their wants, hopes, and dreams?
This methodology is aligned and can provide insights for the development of Client Empathy Maps to better understand their reflection on the service offering as a whole and to find opportunities to maximise and drive results. Critical feedback is positive for moving towards greater efficiencies and experiences; however, internal teams must be agile and diplomatic in their approach to tackling negative feedback.
Provide a platform for clients to share their views with others – if you are afraid, at least you know you have work to do. Around 44% of firms actively direct clients to submit a review, such as Google Reviews, or paid-for subscriptions such as ReviewSolicitors, Avvo and Trustpilot.
Once client intake is complete, you can use alternative feedback systems such as client portals and case management software to collate data, reviews and testimonials. This provides a direct and personalised line of communication and is used to highlight issues surrounding documentation, contracts, information, and data on visual task-based dashboards.
Alternatively, client satisfaction surveys can provide valuable feedback which you can share with their permission. It is industry standard that price comparison sites are not a viable tool or platform to promote legal services, given price is not always a comprehensive portrayal of the quality of services offered and it isn't the main decision-making criteria for clients in comparison to other industries.
That said, it is important to consider the high levels of diplomacy challenges behind clients' privacy and law firm client confidentiality, which restricts the response rate of feedback and critique, leading to slower and less frequent feedback loops. Clients and high-level cases will be less willing to promote legal disputes and challenges publicly on your firm's website, so anonymity in case studies or client quotes should be highlighted. Case studies and success stories landing pages to communicate reviews without direct reliance on the previous consumer are good mitigation options for this.
Only 22% of clients said they regularly refer to review websites when searching for legal services, a dramatic fall in comparison to 88% for general online behaviour when searching for a new product or service (Solicitors Regulation Authority, 2013).
Analyse the data you can obtain and use it to deliver with relevance – if you need a data platform, make this a priority.
Data can drive decisions; greater decisions can drive growth. If you can track data in different research areas, locations, channels, or talent specialists to bring you, clients, you can update your corporate strategy to better align with your firm's digital presence. It can identify areas for improvement, and employee training, or highlight areas of good practice. This data can attract new clients and reassure existing ones if articulated correctly and utilising compelling messaging techniques.
Winner’s circle: DLA Piper’s brand-driven design, interactive feedback and innovative features
DLA Piper’s website takes centre stage as a stimulating example of client-centric digital experience, with thoughtfully designed calls-to-action regarding leaving feedback. Powered by GetFeedback, they have created a feedback widget, an interactive channel prominently displayed on the landing page, to encourage visitors to share their experience on specific parts of the landing page, or the overall digital experience. This digital tool fosters a culture of co-innovation and collaboration, building a relationship with the visitor to encourage conversion rates and ultimately drawing insights on client pain points, to quickly resolve issues and find areas of improvement along the client's digital journey.
In addition, DLA Piper has introduced a convenient digital bookmark feature, enhancing the client journey and increasing integration between channels. Clients can seamlessly access previous journeys and insights without any intensive exploration, ensuring content is readily accessible, further encouraging engagement, conversions and return. Furthermore, extensive geolocation functionalities and translation tools eliminate misdirection.
Overall, DLA Piper sets itself apart from the global competition with its brand-driven home page design, assembling unified Design Systems and use of infographics to represent the firm's internal culture. This emphasis on design enhances the visual appeal and reduces content clutter, delivering information succinctly to encourage an intuitive and simplified user experience.
Our team at Codehouse take pride in our expertise in empowering Legal firms to become digital leaders. Through our specialised delivery, we enhance the client experience, leveraging analytics, user research, web design and personalisation to optimise interactions. Our focus is on delivering client-focused digital solutions that drive tangible and transformational results.
Our key offerings include: