Stem client Harrison Pensa, a full-service law firm based in London, Ontario and serving clients throughout southwestern Ontario and across Canada, has just launched a new website. That might not, in itself, be something worth drawing to your attention. But I do think Harrison Pensa’s approach to its new site is smart, savvy, and sophisticated, and I thought I’d briefly explain why.
For one thing, the new site combines a traditional black-and-white palette with red highlights and a wide-open, screen-filling design that’s both elegant and modern (the site was produced by local web company rTraction). It’s a unique look, and one of the first rules a law firm website must follow is to stand out from its competitors wherever possible. Law firms, when faced with the opportunity to be creative and innovative, tend to experience a failure of nerve and default to whatever other firms are doing. It’s good to see a firm ready to branch out on a new trail. The new site also features a business law blog, an articling student blog and a community blog, as well as news and events pages and a special section highlighting Harrison Pensa’s expertise in class actions.
But what I especially like is the new site’s focus on the personalities and personal sides of its lawyers. The lawyer biographies are still fairly concise, but they make a point of emphasizing the lawyers’ community and charitable accomplishments. This isn’t a struggle for Harrison Pensa: even among law firms, which often do more than their fair share of volunteer activities, HP is remarkably committed to public service and community work (take the Thanksgiving Turkey Bowl and the Claude and Elaine Pensa Lecture in Human Rights as just two examples). The firm’s lawyer bios are rife with these sorts of activities.
But the site really steps it up with its use of visuals accompanying the lawyer bios. Harrison Pensa has established a reputation for lawyers who are approachable, accessible and easy to deal with — real human beings. The website plays to this strength by featuring many of its lawyers photographed not in the traditional arms-folded business-suit boardroom pose, but engaged in their favourite activities or captured in motion on the way to court, with images that fill the entire page. Here are some prime examples:
- David Williams, managing partner and basketball aficionado
- Cate Crainger, estates partner and musician
- Nawaz Tahir, litigation associate and football coach
- Carol Godby, aboriginal law partner and pro bono leader
- Sean MacKintosh, personal injury associate and hockey coach
- Terry Hainsworth, family law partner en route to court
- Michele Mannering, corporate partner and distance runner
- Jonathon Dunlop, family law associate, lacing up the skates
- Daniel Reason, litigation partner and triathlete
More of these up-close-and-personal glimpses will be added as time goes on, showing clients another side — a side they can more easily relate to — of the firm’s lawyers. Down the road, the firm also plans to add very short videos of lawyers talking about their passions in the law, why they came to specialize in the areas they practise and why it matters so much to them to help their clients. In all these ways, Harrison Pensa means to break from the pack and make one of its strengths — the personal touch of committed lawyers — into a standout brand.
Not every firm would be comfortable with this particular approach, or find that it plays to its strengths, and that’s fine. What’s important is that firms have the courage to be different — not just in their branding, but in reality. The law is perhaps the only industry in which hearing that “nobody else is doing this” is taken as a warning to slow down, not as motivation to speed up. Figure out what sets your firm apart, what truly makes it different, and make that the brand and the promise you bring to the market. If you can’t think of anything that sets you apart, then trust me: branding is the least of your worries.
Congratulations to our friends at Harrison Pensa for a really good new website — one from which other firms could take a lesson.