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How a website redesign reinvented a law firm’s marketing

How a website redesign reinvented a law firm’s marketing

Best practice from Design UK.


Berwin Leighton Paisner LLP (BLP) is a premier, full-service law firm headquartered in the City of London. It offers pragmatic, commercial legal advice to help companies, public sector bodies and private clients achieve their business goals.

BLP is an ambitious law firm that has been one of the fastest growing in the UK over recent years, and is committed to the personal service it delivers to clients. BLP’s reach extends to over 65 jurisdictions through offices in Abu Dhabi, Brussels, Moscow, Paris and Singapore, and managed relationships with more than 100 other expert law firms worldwide.

The Problem – The original site just wasn’t selling the firm

BLP’s previous website was developed in the early ‘Noughties’, and had been relatively untouched in terms of design and build until now. With a mass of content stretching over more than 1500 pages, visitors were finding it hard to access the information they required on the website. This led to a low level of ‘stickiness’, with few people spending time delving into the wealth of content available on the site before clicking out.

The original navigation struggled to cope with BLP’s depth of expertise, which spans over 60 legal disciplines, more than 20 industry sectors and multiple continents, therefore users were finding it hard to navigate to the information they needed. There was also little evidence that the website was acting as a lead generator for the firm.

Ultimately, the site didn’t provide a compelling platform to promote or showcase the strengths of the firm, such as the Law Firm of the Year award won by BLP from Chambers Europe in 2008.

The Challenges – Demonstrate BLP’s Expertise and International Capabilities

BLP had two major objectives in rebuilding its website: to increase the conversion rate by getting potential clients to contact the firm’s lawyers directly by phone or email; and to better reflect the firm’s progressive brand.  To achieve this, the new website needed to do several things:

The first task was to immediately engage visitors to the site via improved design and the promotion of important developments in the legal market and the firm itself. BLP needed somewhere it could really communicate breaking legal updates and firm news.

Coupled to that was the need for improved ease of navigation to get visitors to where they needed to be. Most potential clients are either senior-level legal counsel, company executives or other senior business stakeholders. They are no-nonsense, time-poor people that know what they want, so it was vital they could find what they needed quickly.

With a vast amount of often-complex content, it was also important to break it down into more accessible bite-sized chunks. BLP wanted existing clients visiting its site to be exposed to the other areas of law practised by the firm, as well as its international expertise. Improved navigation and content promotion had a vital role to play in showcasing the breadth and depth of BLP’s offerings, to improve overall service awareness.

“In 15 years, this was one of the hardest briefs I’ve given anyone,” said Brian Macreadie, Marketing Development Manager at BLP.  “We wanted a site that was going to work hard for visitors and for the business. We needed to better showcase our experience, our legal talent and our ability to help clients, guiding visitors straight to the right lawyer for them. Added to that, we wanted to stand out from the crowd without resorting to pointless gimmicks.

“We needed a fresh site, but we’re a serious law firm dealing with serious issues and had to avoid looking like a comic book. People aren’t looking for a friend at a law firm, but they do want a human, so we needed our lawyers to be easy to find, easy to contact and welcoming, all handled through a professional, yet cutting edge, website.”

The Solution – A Modern Approach for a Traditional Business

Working closely with a large, cross-functional team from BLP, Design UK’s first step was to get under the skin of what visitors to the site were looking for - to really understand what prospective clients wanted. Some wanted a general overview of the firm, while others wanted to navigate straight to a specific legal discipline or team.

The knowledge Design UK developed enabled them to map out different types of ‘user journey’ through the site, which it was then able to convert into a site and navigation structure. Furthermore, Design UK learned that prospective clients wanted a quick overview of BLP’s legal capability, but then wanted to see examples of clients BLP has advised, deals it has completed and important legal updates or opinions.

Taken over 60 legal disciplines, Design UK needed to come up with a menu structure that people could quickly get their heads around - and that also wouldn’t require a large amount of clicking.

Design UK drew on its consumer experience to deliver a logical and visitor-friendly menu system for the new BLP website. Visitors have a number of routes to the content - via search, home page highlight features, a user-friendly ‘how can we help you?’ menu, tabbed content and ‘mega-menus’ – graphical menus on the main navigation that appear when one hovers over them.

The homepage was updated to showcase the latest big legal and firm developments, which BLP can change at the drop of a hat to keep the site fresh and ‘of the moment’. Design UK also put an interactive map on the website to demonstrate BLP’s international capability.

Every law firm’s main focus is understandably its lawyers, and Design UK reflected this using lawyer pictures throughout.  These design traits are consistent across the site, and provide a clear and logical pathway through over 1500 pages of information, each with a clear ‘call to action’ inviting contact with an individual at BLP.  A ‘find a lawyer’ function is also always available, so visitors can always short-cut straight to a team or a specific lawyer.

Behind the scenes, Design UK implemented a number of features to make it easy for BLP to edit the site without recourse to expert HTML coders. For example, BLP can add lawyers, edit their profiles and assign them to different teams on the site using a straightforward point and click interface. Design UK also implemented Webtrends analytics to help BLP better understand what clients are looking for and consequently fine-tune the effectiveness of the site.

The Results – BLP Lawyers Called Upon for Their Expertise

The new BLP website demonstrates that methods used in the consumer space to create smart, client-friendly user interfaces and complex websites can be translated to the business realm with great success.

The visual clarity and sharp design of the site also mean that users feel invited to contact BLP at every stage of their journey, helping to push up the conversion rate for the website and meeting the objective of the BLP brief. But ultimately, it is results that count. Despite the new site launching only recently, BLP has already seen site statistics that prove they’re on the right track.

“It’s early days yet and we’re not resting on our laurels, but early traffic results are encouraging. The average visitor is staying on site approximately 50% longer and one-page visits have reduced by a third compared to our original site, which we believe is down to improved navigation and more interesting presentation.

We’ve also seen people coming to look at one legal discipline, and then take time to check-out others, which can’t harm our chances of cross-selling our services,” said Macreadie.

“Some items such as the new hover menu system are fresh for the legal sector, but still not out of place on a professional website, so we believe we’ve achieved a good balance between being ‘too samey’ and ‘too scary’.

Visitors to BLP should now get a clearer idea of our legal expertise, scale and ability to help them - which in turn we hope will positively influence legal counsel and other buyers of legal services to pick up the phone and talk to us.

“Ultimately, that’s what we wanted to do - to welcome prospective clients to BLP and invite them to find out more about how our lawyers can help them. Design UK was incredibly responsive throughout this project, paid enormous attention to detail - which is paramount to our lawyers - and in the end delivered exactly what we needed. I’m convinced we made the right choice in appointing them.”

The website was developed on LavaSuite, Design UK’s online marketing platform, providing the BLP team total control over content, and the ability to manage and assess the success of different parts of the site.

BLP aims to continue developing the website as a key element of its marketing strategy, with plans to stream video footage and audio podcasts through it. LavaSuite will enable them to achieve this themselves with ease, as BLP has full control of the site and can maintain its fresh, forward-looking brand image, online as well as off.

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