Law firms which practice both Plaintiff/Defense litigation have a unique dilemma when it comes to the firm website. Unfortunately, many web companies do not have experience in servicing these kind of legal practices. The uniqueness lends itself to the potential conflict that the law firm may face if the Insurance company (defense client) realizes that a firm will also handle plaintiffs work (representing the victim of an injury). At Obu, we call these kind of law practices “Hybrid Firms.”
A hybrid firm will not accept a case to file against State Farm if State Farm is already their client. But let’s say a tractor trailer crosses a median on a New Jersey turnpike because a worn steering component fails due to improper maintenance. The truck slams head on into an SUV at 50 MPH leaving the driver, a mother of three, paraplegic. In this hypothetical incident, the truck’s insurance carrier is NOT a client of the law firm. The wheel-chair bound mother now needs a skilled litigator to ensure a maximum recovery for her injuries and life-long care. Borrowing from the sports adage, “the best offense is a good defense”, a seasoned trial lawyer who has spent years defending the trucking industry might make an excellent plaintiff’s lawyer.
Below are design elements we recommend considering when servicing a hybrid law firm. Note that many of the points discuss recoveries as they are a testament to the plaintiffs practice, however they could be a potential turnoff to an insurance agency should they view the firm’s website:
- Individuals. Corporations. Municipalities. “The injured.” If the firm wants to put a statement about who they represent, use the term “clients,” particularly on the homepage. Be more specific on interior pages, or within a Practice Areas page. For instance, “At Johnson, Harlan & Cambridge we are steadfastly committed to representing our clients.” This appeals to everyone.
- Don’t display verdict & settlement dollar figures for injuries on the homepage. Should the firm elect to post a recovery, it should be done on an interior page, or on the attorney’s biography. IMPORTANT: check with state bar rules about case expenses, some states require expenses to be published.
- Maintain the corporate-defense design of a website. A conservative design of blues, greens, grays, and earth tones keeps the site visually subdued. Avoid yellows, bright reds or Flash animation as they attract unnecessary attention.
- Some insurance carriers represent medical facilities and hospitals, while others offer general liability. A carrier may overlook a resolution like the tractor trailer accident above, particularly if an effective back story is applied. Medical professionals spend years in school to avoid making errors, but they are still human. Be sensitive to the fact that a $2,000,000 medical malpractice verdict for an anesthesia error won’t go over as well as a truck accident. Tip: Unless medical malpractice is considered a significant part of the plaintiff’s work, it may be best to omit these verdicts.
- Speaking of numbers…,”$7,000,000.00,” “Seven-million dollars,” or “7-figures?” Use numerals to attract attention, or in this case, spell it out to subdue it.
- When listing practice areas on the homepage, do not list “Motorcycle Accidents,” “Cerebral Palsy,” etc. as this will again make the firm appear tilted to the plaintiffs side. Keep the practice areas general and alphabetical; Commercial Litigation, Employment Law, Injury Law, Products Liability, Zoning Law. A potential plaintiff will see “Injury Law” and that will suffice.
- Feel free to make statements of service. “Personalized, immediate response” can be directed towards an individual or corporation.
The creation of any law firm’s website is one that requires insight to the business of law, and nothing can substitute for years of experience. Legal Administrators and Managing Partners must do their due diligence when hiring a web firm. References, example work, and a name in the industry are all good indicators of a company that can execute properly.