Law firm Ratings 2020: what the data tell us

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Law firm Ratings 2020: what the data tell us

16 April 2020

It’s quite possible that the brand and digital intelligence of law firms has never been so critical to the sustainability of the law firm sector. Without face-to-face interaction where do target audiences go for assurance about a firm? Brand and websites need to work harder, faster and smarter than ever before, and be flexible to accommodate change and fast-to-market content.

The good news is that our latest Ratings analysis shows a definite improvement across the sector, driven by several new law firm brands that launched over the prior 12 months and many firms working hard to improve specific elements of their digital presence.

Engagement is our measurement of website functionality and technology as well as the social media channels used by a law firm. In this broad category, we have seen an uptick across nearly all our metrics. For example, the average SEO score for the sector and the use of geo-location technology to deliver content are both up by 10%. One of the biggest gains has been stronger information architecture (navigation) across websites, up by over 30%.

On the downside, however, the quality of the search functionality deployed across most law firms continues to be a frustrating experience. We do raise the bar each year in this category, but there’s little excuse to serve up long lists of content that leave your reader having to search again – manually – scrolling through screen after screen.

The provision of multi-language websites has also dipped this year to less that 50%. We do recognise that they are hard to create and even harder to maintain, and we will, over the course of the coming months, look to learn more about the reasons behind this decrease as we speak to numerous firms about our 2020 report.

Evidence is our measurement of each firm’s brand and content used across its website and social media channels, and we're pleased to report that we’ve seen an improvement across most metrics used here as well.

We’ve seen an increase in the use of a consistent brand positioning on firms’ home pages and social media channels, up by 13% from 2019. While this is still presented by only 40%, the trend represents a step in the right direction with regards to answering the who, what and why questions up front. We’ve also seen a small increase in law firms communicating their brand values and sharing case studies on their websites, up to 41% and 22% respectively.

If there was a single area most in need of improvement, it would be people content. As much as 95% of firms do not have any useful or relevant content on their people landing page. Instead, target audiences are met with a cold search function devoid of brand personality or messaging. What does that tell a prospective client or lateral hire about a firm’s ethos, strengths or culture? At the very least, law firms should tell audiences about what unites and drives their business, and what clients can expect from their people, with a link to the culture section of their website (assuming there is one).

In summary, it’s been great to see an improvement across the sector and hopefully this is just the beginning of changes to a sector that has often lagged behind other industries, in terms of brand and digital. Of course, there’s still room for improvement and we explore this further in our Living Ratings report.

If you'd like to find out more about this year's law firm Ratings, please contact please contact Duncan Shaw.