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When describing your expertise on your law firm’s blog or Web site, there are two ways to go. I am going to tell you to take the one less traveled by lawyers on their sites.

One way is to list the typical areas of practice as we know them as lawyers. This is what you usually see on a lawyer’s site. The other is to cover your experience by the industries you serve, if you do work for businesses, or life situations and subjects if you represent non-business people. For firms representing both groups it will mean covering both industries and life situations.

Your typical practice areas list would read:

  • Banking law
  • Bankruptcy law
  • Corporate and tax
  • Contracts
  • Criminal defense
  • Estate planning
  • Elder law
  • Employment Law
  • Environmental Law
  • Family law
  • Immigration law
  • Intellectual property law
  • Medical malpractice
  • Patent law
  • Personal injury
  • Probate
  • Real estate
  • Workers’ compensation

Go to 95% of law firm sites and you’ll find that the lawyers picked a number of practice areas from that list & threw them up on the site. To me it looks awfully close to a list of law school courses you took. That’s not how I would choose to distinguish myself from other lawyers.

For firms representing non-business people you could breakdown your areas of expertise within life situations and subjects:

  • Aging
  • Car
  • Consumer rights
  • Crimes
  • Family & marriage
  • Healthcare
  • Home and community
  • Immigration
  • Job
  • Money

This list sounds like you can relate to average people and that you are pretty approachable. Again people are afraid of lawyers and distrust you. Anything you can do to increase their comfort level and to demonstrate you are more like them than other lawyers is a good thing. You could fit just about any practice area for non-business people within one of these life experiences or subjects.

For firms representing businesses, here’s how you could share your areas of expertise by industry:

  • Agricultural industry
  • Construction industry
  • Entertainment industry
  • Financial services Industry
  • Food industry
  • Insurance industry
  • Manufacturing industry
  • Maritime industry
  • Medical & health care industry
  • Oil & gas industry
  • Publishing industry
  • Real estate industry
  • Technologies industry

Again this a list business people can relate to – it’s how they talk. Your practice areas can fit neatly within these industries based on the work you do for each industry.

Though I will get into more detail when I address site navigation issues here’s a good way to cover all the bases. Have one of your main navigation elements labeled “Industries represented.” Then when people reach the section about a particular industry, among other things, describe the legal work you do. For example if you are representing the agricultural industry you may be doing environmental work, negotiating contracts, and performing real estate work. You can describe examples of each in detail.

If you are representing non-business people, you may have a main navigation section entitled “Ways we help” or “Our expertise.” There you will be able to list the areas of life situations & subjects with details under each covering the areas of law you practice.

These are just thoughts, there is no right or wrong to do things. It should be done in a way that makes you feel comfortable and in a way lay people you have shown your site to can understand & relate to. It’s okay to feel like you are nearing the end of your comfort zone. It may mean you are beginning to see things as a non-lawyer would.

Finally some law firms like to break things down by department. I suppose that’s okay if you have a very structured environment and leadership. But people looking for a lawyer are not looking for how you run your law firm. They are looking at how you can help them. I would stay away from the law firm department breakdown.

Detail your experience

Provide specifics on your experience for each area you list whether be industry, life situation/subject or practice area. This is not the time to just whip out that list you submitted to the bar association or Martindale-Hubbell. 71% of users finding and working with lawyers on the Internet believe experience on specific matters is one of most important factors when selecting a lawyer.

For each industry, life situation/subject or practice area provide here’s what you need to cover:

  • List specific cases and matters the firm handles and has handled. Provide more than just list such as product liability, automobile accidents, and medical malpractice. Describe cases you have handled explaining what was involved, what was done and for who without disclosing confidences.
  • Tell your site users what work are doing right now for others like them.
  • Explain the issues and challenges you face in each area.
  • Explain how your lawyers address the issues.
  • Explain the value a lawyer adds in this area of law. This is most important in personal consumer areas such as personal injury, divorce or wills where people may think they can save money by handling things on their own.
  • Tell people why you like helping businesses or people in this area.
  • List or link to successes in this area. Perhaps tell about the case you are most proud of.
  • List the lawyers doing work in that area with links to their bios.
  • Link to relevant educational content on your site (and perhaps on other sites) that would be of help to viewers.
  • Name clients or types of clients you represent in this area.
    • Check bar rules to confirm names are allowed.
    • Get authority of client and link to their Web site.
    • Describe what the client does in glowing terms so you are not just listing what can be meaningless names.

Here are some examples of law firm sites that do a nice job laying out industries and practices. Though they are larger firms the concept is the same.

Prospective clients want you to answer three questions. What you have done? For whom you have done it? What you can do for them? Make sure you answered all three when covering your law firm’s expertise.

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