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HowBarristersDirectAccess isMarketed

AReportbyLegalAlchemy
01628200400info@legalchemy.co.uk LegalAlchemy,POBox4252,Marlow,SL79BP 1
CopyrightLegalAlchemy2014

Introduction

Therecanbelittledoubtthatthepast12monthshavebeenaperiodofsignificantchangeforthelegalprofessionasawholeandin particulartheBar.
2004,itonlyreallystartedtogaintractioninthelastyear,and Althoughtheconceptofpublic/directaccesshasbeenaroundsince therehasbeenamushroomingofonlineservicesofvariouskinds,designedtoassisttheprocessofbringingdirectaccessbarristers andpotentialclientstogether.

Thereare3basictypesofwebsites:

Wheretherearequalifiedbarristersprofilesthatpotentialclientscansearch Wherepotentialclientsleavedetailsoftheircasesandsuitable barristersarethenfoundforthem Acombinationoftheabovetwo

Asdigitalmarketingexperts,wewereattractedtothissectorbecause ofitspotential,notonlyfortheservicethatwewereproposing tooffer,butalsobecausereallyforthefirsttime,thesectorwasbeingexposedtoscrutinybythegeneralpublic,andthereforehaving torecognise,ifnotnecessarilyharness,theconceptofmassmarketingandinparticular,digitalmarketing.

TheChallenge

ThebasicpurposeofusingtheInternetasabusinesstoolisthreefold: Acquiringmakingyourpotentialclientsawareofyourexistence Convertingturningpotentialclientsintoactualclients Keepingturningactualclientsintoregularclientsand/orambassadorsforyourservices

yourInternet/digitalmarketingstrategyisprovidingareturnon andtestingandmeasuringeachelementandprocesstoensurethat yourinvestmentonanongoingbasis. 2


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necessarytounderstandhowpeoplesearchontheinternet,andinparticular,howthatwillaffectdirect Giventheseobjectives,itis accessbarristers.

Generallyspeakingpeoplesearchontheinternetfor: Researchwherefairlygeneric,nonspecificsearchtermsareusede.g.,familylawyerforwhich,accordingtoGoogles KeywordTool,thereareabout22,000searchespermonthintheUK TransactionsorBuyingwheremuchnarrowertermsareusedbecausethesearcherismuchmorefocussede.g., divorcelawbarristerforwhichthereareabout260permonth

Ideally,onemightwanttoappearinthesearchresultsforbothterms,sinceResearchcouldleadontoaTransaction,butthecostin termsofSearchEngineOptimisation(SEO)orpaidadvertisingwouldprobablybeprohibitive. ItwouldbelikelytobemuchmorecosteffectivetobefoundwhenthesearcherisfurtheradvancedintheBuyingCycle. So,wheredoesthetermdirectaccessbarristersitresearchortransactionorboth. CurrentlyGooglereckonsthereareabout1,600searchespermonthforthatterm.Itisdifficulttoarguethatitisatransactionterm, becauseitobviouslyappliestoanylegalspecialism.Itmightsuggesttherefore,thattheuseofthetermismoreoutofcuriosityand researchoftheconcept,thanadesiretoinitiateaninstruction. Aspeoplebecomemoreawarethatbarristerscanbeinstructedwithouthavingtouseasolicitor,theywillassumethatanybarrister thattheyfindontheinternetwillbecontactabledirectly. Webelievethatitisthebarristersspecialismthatwilldictatethetermsofthesearch,notwhetherheorshehasthenecessaryBar Councilqualification.

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TheBarsResponsetoDate
WhathasbeenparticularlyinterestingfromourpointofviewistonotehowtheBarasawhole,andbarristersindividually,have respondedtothischallenge. Evenmoreinterestingtousisthatthevastmajorityoftheprofession,whetherindividuallyoraspartofChambers,werestarting fromafairlyunsophisticatedbase.Anditiscertainlytruetosaythatsomehaven'tdevelopedtheirpositionmuchintheintervening period.

Chambers
Howeverthosethathavedone,haverespondedinanumberofdifferentways: themajorityhaveaddeddirect/publicaccesspagestotheirChamberswebsitesprovidingavarietyofdetailfrommerely describingthescheme,togivingcomprehensiveinformationaboutsuitablyqualifiedbarristersand/orthespecialisms covered. some,anditwouldappeartobeagrowingnumber,havecreatednewdirectaccessspecificwebsites.Insomecases,these havebeenbrandedsothattheycanbeclearlyidentifiedasrelatingtoaparticularChambers,butnotineverycase. somehaveadoptedahybridapproachfocusingindividualsitesonparticularspecialismswhilstatthesametimepromotingthe directaccessscheme.

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IndividualBarristers.

It'sanoldadage,thatpeoplebuyfrompeopleandit'ssomethingthatindividualbarristersneedtobearinmindwhenconsideringwhatthey wanttoachieveoutofbeingqualifiedtoacceptinstructionsdirectfrommembersofthepublic. ObviouslyiftheonlyrequirementisthepubliccancontactindividualsthroughtheChamberswebsite,thentheactionthatneedstobetakenis thattheChambersprofileisascomprehensiveaspossible. Andcorrectlyformatted.Ifthecontentofthechamber'swebsiteiscorrectlyconstructedandefficient,welloptimisedwithalltherightcoding, thenthereisnoreasonwhyindividualprofilesshouldnotberankedintheirownright.Soiftheindividualbarrister'sprofilepageiscarefully thoughtout,intermsofdistributionofspecialismkeywordsandsearchterms,itshouldrankhighintheSearchEngineslikeGoogleandBing. Howeverifanindividualbarristerwantstodevelophisownbrand,i.e.promotinghimselforherselfasaseparateentityfromtheChambers,then thereisnorealalternativetohavingone'sownwebsite. Itmeansthatthesitecanbededicatedtothespecialismsandthesearchtermsthatheorshewishestobefoundunder. Thelookandfeelcanbedesignedpurelytopromotetheindividualconcerned,freefromthestyleoftheChamberswebsiteandthehierarchyof barristersinit.Itenablesbarristerswhomayberelativelyjuniortohaveapersonawaybeyondthatwhichthevisitorwillseebyjustlookingatthe Chamberswebsite. ItenablesthebarristertointeractwithpotentialvisitorsinawaythatwouldbeextremelydifficultwithjustaChamberswebsiteentry.Besides offeringthebarristertheultimateflexibilityinbeingabletopromotehimselfashewishes,therearealsodistinctbenefitsfortheChambersas well. IfthebarristerhasalinktohisChambersprofilefromhisownwebsite,theChamberswebsitewillbenefitfromasearchengineoptimisationpoint ofviewbecauseofthehighqualitylinktoit.ObviouslythiscouldbeaquidproquobenefitiftheChambersprofilehasalinktotheindividuals website. Butbeware.Duringourresearch,wecameacrossanumberofsitesthatweresopoor,intermsofcontentandtechnologythattheirexistence waslikelytobecounterproductive. If,thatis,anybodyactuallymanagedtofindthem.

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WhatsinaName

InthosecaseswhereChambershavecreatedsitespecificallyfordirectaccess,orwithindividualbarristerswebsites,therehasbeena cleartrendtowardschoosingwebaddresseswiththewords"direct"or"public"or"access"or"barrister"(andsimilar)or combinationsthereof,astheprimarydescriptors. SuchaddressesareknownasExactMatchDomains(EMD)andithasbeengenerallyacceptedthatEMDswereveryhelpfulforsearch engineoptimisation.Inotherwords,tohaveapopularandrelevantsearchtermaspartofthewebsitesURLwouldberewardedby Googleintherankingofthatparticularsiteinitslistings(providingofcoursethatalltheothernecessaryelementsofgoodsearch engineoptimisationwerealsoinplace). However,thelatestthinkingisthatthisnolongerapplies,andinfactGoogleismoreinclinedtopunishEMDsthanrewardthem.The argumentisthatGoogleismuchmoreconcernedwiththequalityofthecontentofawebsite,ratherthantheaddress. WealsobelievethatgenericorwideEMDsareprobablyamistake. Forinstanceifyourwebsiteaddresscontainswordslikedirectaccessbarrister(orvariationsthereof),itdoesn'treallyhelppotential clientswhoaremuchmoreinterestedinwhatyouractualexpertiseorspecialismsare,andarelikelytobedisappointediftheyclick onyoursiteandfindthatyoucannotfulfiltheirrequirements. Aspeoplebecomemoreawarethatbarristerscanbeinstructedwithouthavingtouseasolicitor,theywillassumethatanybarrister thattheyfindontheinternetwillbecontactabledirectly. Andasstatedabove,webelievethatitisthebarristersspecialismthatwilldictatethetermsofthesearch,notwhetherheorshehas thenecessaryBarCouncilqualification. Ouradvicewouldbetherefore,thatthewebsiteaddressshouldincludethenameofthebarristerorChambersplusaspecialismor groupofspecialismseg.,johnsmithdivorcelawbarristerorjanesmithfamilylawbarrister.

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Research

InordertoassesstheeffectivenessoftheBarsmarketingasawhole,wetestedawiderangeofsitesinthefollowingcategories.The figuresinbracketsindicatethenumberstestedineachcategory: Chamberssites(89) ChambersspecificDirectAccesssites(17) Individualbarristerssites(83)

Thesiteswereevaluatedonthebasisoftheirvisibility,accessibilityandtechnologywithaviewtodetermininghowdifficultitwould beforexistingornewwebsitestoimprovetheirrankings.Allthevariouselementsofthethreeassessmentswerescoredoutof10 andthenaveragedtogiveonefigureperassessmenti.e.visibility,accessibilityandtechnology. Visibility Inotherwordshoweasyaretheytofind?Howsophisticatedisthemarketingofthesesites? Thisinvolvednotonlyexaminingthetechnology,codingandformattingthatisrequiredtomakethejobofthesearchengineseasier, andthereforemorelikelytoberewardedbythemintheirrankings,butalsoassessingtheincreasinglyimportantuseof,andprofile within,socialmedia. Itshouldbenotedthatourresearchignoredpayperclickadvertisingwhich,itcanbeargued,providesinstantvisibilityforwebsites.It shouldberememberedhoweverthatfewerthan30%ofvisitorsclickontheseadsthevastmajorityclickontheorganiclistings whichiswhatourresearchhasfocusedon. Accessibility Inparticular,howaccessiblearethesitestopeopletryingtoreadthemonamobiledeviceortablet,asmanyincreasinglydo,andas isgenerallyaccepted,thisisatrendwhichisgoingtocontinuetogrow.Andofcourse,searchenginesnowtakeintoaccountwhether siteshaveamobileversion,andrewardthemaccordingly. Technology Ingeneraltermshowwellarethesitesconstructedincludingcodequality,tagging,URLformatting,imagesetc.
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Results

Visibility Accessibility Technology

Chambers Websites

Chambers DirectAccess Websites

Individual Barristers Websites

One Inner TempleLane Chambers

4.9 7.1 6.3

3.8 7.0 6.2

3.7 6.9 6.0

6.2 7.2 6.9

Thefirstthreecolumnsofnumbersrelatetothescores(outof10)averagedforeachcategoryofwebsitetested.Thefinalcolumnrelatestoa namedChambersand,whererelevant,aDirectAccesswebsiteorIndividualBarristerswebsite.

Conclusions
1. ThemajorityofChamberswebsitesaretechnologicallysound,withafewoutstandingexamplesonadvancedplatforms combininghighqualityandfreshwrittencontentwithattractiveandwelldesignedgraphics,providingapositiveand informativeshopwindow.Evensomeofthesehowever,persistintheuseofthethirdpersonwhentalkingaboutthemselves, whichisanabsoluteanathematotraineddigitalmarketerssteepedinthelanguageofpersuasionmarketingandwebsite conversiontechniques. 2. Nomatterhowwellconstructed,mostindividualbarristerswebsitesstruggletocompetewithChamberswebsitesinterms oflistingpositionsformostsearchterms.ThisisprimarilybecausetheChamberswebsiteshaveconsiderablymorecontent whichthesearchenginesreward,andalmostinevitablyhavebeenabletoinvestmoreintheirproductionandongoingsearch engineoptimisation(i.e.promotion).
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3. Havingsaidthathowever,whatourresearchalsorevealedwasthatmarketingsophistication inthissectorisstillinits relativeinfancyanditwouldcertainlybepossibleforindividualbarristerswebsitestobenefitfromGooglepage1listingsfor theirpreferredsearchtermsandspecialisms,aheadoftheChambersones. 4. Withoutgoingintotoomuchdetail,themainareaofmarketingweaknessisintheengagementwith,orlackof,socialmedia inallitsforms.Searchengines,andGoogleinparticular,attachanincreasingimportancetoawebsitessocialfootprint,so muchsoinfactthatitwon'tbetoolong,webelieve,beforethiselementofthemarketingmixbecomesthemostpredominant indecidinglistingpositions. 5. TooursurpriseafairlyhighproportionofthewebsitesdidnothaveGoogleAnalyticscode(orothertypeofvisitortracking code)ontheirsites,andwesuspectthatforthemajority(eventhosewherethecodeexists)littleuseismadeofthis invaluableresource.Measuringperformanceisakeytoimprovingit. 6. Inouropinion,areasonablywellconstructedwebsitewithinterestingcontent,bothwrittenandotherwise,combinedwithan ongoing,wellthoughtout(andrelevanttothebarristersparticularspecialism)socialmediastrategy,wouldrelativelysoon achieveapage1listing.Lookingatthescoresabove,thereisplentyofroomforimprovement.Andbecauseitwouldbe primarilyreliantonsocialmediaforpromotion,ratherthanpaidmarketing,itwouldbeafairlyinexpensiveoperation. 7. Giventhenatureofthemedium,onemighthaveexpectedthattheyoungergenerationofbarristerswouldhaveadopted digitalmarketingmorereadilythantheirmoreseniorcolleagues.Howeverthisisnotthecase,andinfactthepredominance ofhighqualitywebsitesistobefoundamongstthesilversurfersgeneration.Whetherthisisbecausetheyhavehigher incomesandarethereforemoreabletobuyinthenecessaryskillsandresourcestoachieveaprofessionalonlinepresence, maybeapossibleexplanation.
8. Whatremainsinexplicabletoushowever,istheapparentlackofwomenbarristersinvolvedintheirpromotionthroughdigital marketing.Ifoneacceptsthegenerallyheldviewthatabout35%oftheBarisfemale,whichisinitselfsurprising,werecordedfewerthan 10%oftheindividualbarristerswebsitesthatwefoundtobewomenbarristerspromotingthemselves.Giventhathalfofthepotential clientslikelytobeinterestedininstructingabarristeraregoingtobefemaleand,notunreasonably,maywishtodealwithsomeoneof theirowngender,theywillhavetodoafairbitofdiggingtofindone.Howevertheresearchclearlyshowsthatthechallengeofself promotion,giventherelativelackofoverallmarketingsophistication,iseminentlyachievable.Andinfact,themosteffectiveindividuals websitebelongstoafemalebarrister. Finally,ratherthantryingtooveranalysethisstatistichowever,itisprobablymoreproductivetorecognisethattheoverallpictureofthis relativelyuntappeddigitalresourcerepresentsasignificantopportunity,notonlyforwomenbarristers,butfortheprofessionasawholeasmore andmoreofitsmembersqualifytoacceptdirectinstructionsfromthegeneralpublicandattempttomaximisetheopeningupofthemarket. 9
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ButwereallLawyersnow..
Itcanbelegitimatelyarguedthattheresearchwecarriedoutandthesubsequentreportactuallymissesthepoint. ThesearchtermsusedtogaugetheeffectivenessofChambersorindividualbarristersinpromotingthemselveswereorientated towardstheBarandbarristers,whereastherealcompetitionintheprovisionoflegalservicesismuchwider.Inotherwords,itdoesnt reallymatterhowsuccessfulthesitesareinrankinghighlyontermslikebarristerschambersordirectaccessbarrister,because therealbattlegroundrevolvesaroundmuchmoregenericterms. Soforexample,ifsomeoneisseekinglegaladviceaboutgettingadivorce,whatsearchtermswouldbeused? AccordingtoGoogle,about400peopleamonthintheUKusethetermdivorcelawyer,about200willtypeindivorcesolicitorand approximately30optfordivorcebarrister.Somebelievethat,asthepublicbecomemoreawareoftheconceptofdirect/public access,thesearchvolumeforbarristerwillincrease.Unfortunatelythenumbersaretoosmalltoindicateanytrendstosupportthis. Webelievethelikelierscenarioisthat,irrespectiveofwhethertheconceptofpublic/directaccessgainsrealtraction,suchisthe relativelackofknowledgeofthereal(andarguablydeclining)distinctionbetweenbarristersandsolicitors,thatsearcherswilldefault tothetermlawyerorlawyerstherebyavoidinganyconfusion. UnfortunatelyhadweusedthosetermsasthebasisofassessingVisibilityinthetableonpage8,theoverwhelmingmajorityofsites wetestedwouldbarelyhaveregisteredatall,whichwouldnthavebeenparticularlyhelpful. Despiteusingfairlynarrowsearchtermstoderivethedatawehavepublished,theconclusionswehavedrawnabovearestillvalid. Effectivesitesarestilleffectivesites,andwillbeeasiertorankonhightrafficsearchtermsthanpoorones,butmorethoughtneedsto begiventowhatsearchtermstheywishtorankonandwhere.Carefulanalysisshouldbecarriedouttoassessthestrengthofthe competitionineachsearchterm/specialsimtargetedandsuitablestrategiesdevelopedaccordingly.Itmaybe,forinstancethatfor certainterms/specialismsaparticularsocialmediaplatform(suchasFacebookorLinkedIn)mightbemoreproductivethanGoogle. ThecentralmessageremainsthatthepotentialintermsofdigitalmarketingfortheBarissignificantandwillonlybecomemoresoin thefuture.
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