Law firm websites are about to undergo seismic change and, among other things, this change will require law firms to bring their blogs and independent publications inside the firm’s website.

This from Dion Algeri of Great Jakes, a leading law firm website developer, in the name of lead-nurturing websites.

Why the need for the change? We don’t like it (or maybe don’t understand it).

Many law firms have their best content located on blogs and satellite websites that exist apart from the firm’s main site. We call this the “hub and spoke” model. Since people don’t like clicking back and forth among websites, the hub-and-spoke model hurts engagement and tracking.

And what to do about this problem (which may not be a problem)?

…[L]ead-nurturing websites will be built in a way that incorporates their blogs and other satellite websites into the firm’s larger website. We call this the “nest” model, and it offers an array of benefits (beyond lead nurturing). We expect that this will soon become the standard for all law firm websites.

93% of the blogs of the 200 largest law firms in the country are located independendent of websites.

Why? Beacuse the firms and their lawyers understand the value of authoritative and reputable publishing as a means of building word of mouth and relationships. The firms have moved on from ten and fifteen years ago where all content was on a website.

Talking to lawyers about digital publishing I tell them to dream big. Why not be the CNN or the Wall Street Journal on a niche subject? Get government agency heads to read you. The courts to cite you. In-house counsel to write for you.

Imagine the value of being a “go to” lawyer in IP litigation in your early thirties because your publication focusing on a district court, by name, is being read by the judiciary, general counsel, referring lawyers and the media. You recieve an award from the local media association in Chicago because of your coverage of the law and then go on to start a second publication covering patent litigation for the retail industry.

Imagine having the most widely read publications, online or offline, on China Law or Food Saftey. Or Emminent Domain or Probate Litigation in California.

How about landing one of the largest airlines in the country because their general counsel told a consultant they read your FMLA publication? Or generating all your business dissolution work in New York through relationships you have developed through blogging.

None of these lawyers or firms would think for a second about moving their publications inside a law firm website because a failure to do so hurts website “engagement or tracking.” Heck they are getting way more engagement than they would generate in a website.

These men and women would leave their law firms, taking work and lawyers with them, if the firm told them they cannot have a standalone publication anymore.

The ‘hub and spoke’ argument could not be more flawed. People do not go back and forth between websites and publications today. People read content as it is delivered to them. People know their lawyer authors and what they do as they read their content.

How do people read the best blogs and digital publications? Search, RSS readers, email notifications, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and content distrubtion services.

People read this content one piece at a time, and in the case of social networks the content is read in a browser built into the social network app. Readers are not looking for law firm websites to deliver or frame the content in these settings.

I get the tracking data with software thing, but you are letting the tail wag the dog going to extremes where everything we say and do must be on a law firm website. Leverage data in smart ways as publishers do, it’s different.

We’ve moved on from the website being the center of business development for rainmakers in law firms. We’re not going back by arguing we need to make websites the core of all digital marketing like they used to be.

Publishing on branded publications and the use of social networks empower lawyers to get work the way they always have – through relationships and word of mouth. Digital publishing, just as article writing as been for decades, is a tried and proven method of business development for lawyers.

Law firm websites have their role in marketing, but it’s not publishing for those lawyers looking the acheive the heights in reputation and business through publishing.

Great Jakes is a proven and very reputable law firm website development agency whose principals I know and respect. On publishing for business development though, I see their approach as deeply flawed.

  • Experimenting is a good thing for the most part. But before you start conducting an experiment it is generally a good idea to do some advance thinking and planning, and to prepare for the measurements that are going to tell you if you what you did accomplished your goal. I wonder what sort of measurements are going to be made and then reviewed to see if this turned out to be a good idea or not. I wonder if anyone will blog about the particulars so we can all learn from what is being done here.