One of the most important points of information that a law firm can put on its website is a list of industries it serves. Industry experience is one of the first things that corporate executives and in-house counsel look for. They want to know if your lawyers are familiar with the trends affecting their business, and smart law firms put this information right up front.
Think about it: when your firm is choosing among vendors, you inquire whether the vendor has experience with the legal profession and can list other law firms as references. Corporations vet law firms in the same fashion.
The link to "Industries Served" should be right on the home page. Don't hide it on the back pages, because industry representation is a key selling point. This takes advantage of the way that clients and prospective clients think. Clients see themselves as being part of an industry. They do not view themselves as clients of a practice group. They also see their cases as business problems, not legal matters.
A good example is the law firm Womble Carlyle, a 450-lawyer firm located in the mid-Atlantic and the Southeast. Founded in 1876, the Firm celebrated its 125th anniversary in 2001.
Womble Carlyle offers visitors industry news in 24 different categories, including the banking, computers, real estate and telecommunications industries. Industries like Internet are further broken down into sub-categories, including advertising, e-commerce, e-money, e-stocks, regulations and security. Visitors can pick an industry or find the news they want with a keyword search. When a visitor selects a news story, it is displayed on the Womble Carlyle site, with all the links and branding intact.
The effect is to convey that the firm is knowledgeable in those industries, and sure enough, the firm has practice area links to capital markets, technology & commerce, real estate and telecommunications. Not only does the firm communicate its expertise, but having news stories makes the site a "portal," or an information destination by itself.
Examples of firms that describe their industry experience effectively include:
- Reed Smith, which emphasizes the financial services, health care and technology industries. Each industry focus page lists statistics, clients, publicity and case examples.
- Winston & Strawn, which lists industry-specific practice groups in energy, information technology, construction, real estate, financial services, health care, transportation, pharmaceutical, maritime and admiralty.
- Foley & Lardner, which lists the automotive, energy, health care, life sciences and technology industries.
- Holland & Hart, which lists eight industries: broadband communications, construction and design, energy & electricity, health care, mining, oil & gas, skiing, and telecommunications.
An easy method to follow is to start with the firm's list of representative clients (or list of top 50 clients). Label each company according to the industry in which it is best known. You don't need to be precise in naming the industry, and you can use the categories found in the annual Fortune 500 listing or the Wall Street Journal's regular reports on stocks. Once you've got all the clients labeled, sort them out into industry categories and put the list on your website. You won't regret it.