The least useful page on your law firm website is the one titled “Our History.” It puzzles me that so many law firms, even (or especially) smaller ones, take the time and effort to provide visitors with an extended recital of the riveting story of how the firm came to be.
Many such recitals start with the firm’s founding in the 19th or 20th centuries and provide biographies of various name partners. Then they dive into unaccountably detailed genealogies that cover various name changes, the retirement/death/judicial appointment of original partners, several periods of expansion, and long-ago achievements like drafting community property legislation in 1947 or developing rate-fixing expertise in 1958. One firm’s history runs twice as long as its “Client Service” page. Another tells the firm’s history through a series of videos. Quite a few identify the local address or street corners where the firm originally practised, or the nearby men’s clothing store, or the partner’s father-in-law who ran the local bank. It’s not quite “I had an onion on my belt,” but it can come pretty close.
I’m not suggesting these pages should be removed. There’s value to highlighting the firm’s longevity to underline its reliability: a firm founded in 1889 can reasonably present itself as a trustworthy institution. (Query the value of a firm history that dates back to 2006). And if a firm wants to emphasize its local community roots for marketing purposes, there’s no harm in playing up its sepia-toned memories. But there’s a self-seriousness about most law firm histories that invites a certain degree of mockery, whether it’s the bulletin-style historical flashpoints (“1947: John Smith retires. The firm is now called Jones and Robinson”) to the intricate recitation of letterhead changes “(Jones and Robinson merges with Peterson & Williams. The new firm is called Jones & Peterson until 1956, when Al Richards joins the partnership.”) It’s like being stuck on the couch next to that uncle who mapped out the family tree five generations back.
My biggest problem with “Our History” pages on law firm websites is that they illustrate the huge gap between what lawyers think is important and what clients think is important. Most lawyers are proud of their law firm’s history, especially when they or their ancestors are prominently featured. Most clients will glance at the year the firm was founded and read no farther, because they don’t care what the firm was called in 1963, they care about what the firm can do for them by next Tuesday. They want to know what the firm does, who it does those things for, what results the firm has achieved, how much the firm’s services cost, and how they can connect with someone at the firm right now. Law firms should make comprehensive and reliable answers to those queries conveniently available before spending any more time on their “Our History” page.
Here’s my challenge to law firms: If you have an “Our History” page on your website, keep it there. But start developing another web page, called “Your Future.” This page tells visitors, in the same loving and painstaking detail with which you relate your genealogy, exactly how your firm meets its clients’ needs in ways other firms don’t. Be specific: don’t just say that you’ll “solve their problems” and provide “excellent service,” because everyone else says that. Explain precisely how your customer service is demonstrably better, exactly how your client experience has been engineered for maximum convenience, and specifically how your prices are reliable and come with a 100% satisfaction guarantee to serve the client’s interests and help achieve its goals. If your firm doesn’t have these kinds of service guarantees and protocols in place, I suggest you start developing them now.
Start thinking about a “Your Futures” page to both complement and supersede your firm’s “Our History” page. Show visitors to your website how their tomorrow is more important to you than your yesterday.