How To Write Content For Your New Law Firm Website

March 30, 2021

I love website rebrands. After all, we build websites for a living here at Pixelcarve. I’ve seen how excited my clients get from a new website, and the opportunity for them to put a personal stamp on their company’s web presence. I get it, it’s like refurbishing your home, or moving to bigger offices.

Rebrands and redesigns also make for a killer marketing strategy. You can marry it with a launch event, or populate it with content that will help your sales team. Your business imagination is the limit.

But in all my time working with law firms on their websites, I kept seeing the same mistakes pop up again and again. Mistakes which ruin all the hard work we both put into making a beautiful and functional website.

Mistakes, it seems, that lawyers are doomed to repeat as long as websites remain relevant.

You just aren’t the right person for the job

Humans are visual creatures; we’re influenced and pre-occupied by beauty. Yet this is why many make a simple mistake with web design. They forget that when it comes to websites, the content of the website is as important as the design of the website.

One way to illustrate this is to remember when you used to buy magazines (remember when they were a thing?). The design may be what draws your eye, but it’s the content that you read. It’s the content that gives you value. The same is true for websites. Yet many law firms treat the content of their website as an afterthought.

You may have the most beautiful website that’s ever existed. But if the copy isn’t targeted towards the reader—if it doesn’t hook their attention and pull them in—they’ll click away and that’s a potential client you’ve lost.

In our experience many law firm clients believe they can do their website’s copy themselves. An admirable goal, but they forget that web copywriting is a different skillset from print copywriting, and is a completely different skillset from legal writing. Both may involve constructing sentences but that doesn’t mean it’s the same skill. You wouldn’t expect a sushi chef to perform well in a pastry kitchen. (Unless they’ve received pastry training).

Also, there are legal marketing restrictions that a good legal copywriter will be aware of, yet a lawyer likely wouldn’t. For instance The Law Society of Upper Canada’s Code of Conduct has three different rules which govern legal marketing (3.02, 3.03, 3.04). A Canadian legal marketing copywriter would know these rules. You will need to make sure a legal copywriter in your country is aware of similar restrictions.

Legal copywriting has different goals from legal writing. Legal writing first is channeling the law. Secondly, it has to balance the tight rope of being specific yet vague; informing yet concealing; acting in good faith yet protecting your client. Legal copywriting isn’t concerned with any of that.

It focuses on marketing your business, on selling your business, on promoting your business. Its aim is to convert visitors to your website into an audience that takes the action you want them to.

These reasons are why lawyers may make great legal writers…but make for terrible legal copywriters.

What Bad Copy Can Do To Your Website

Imagine for a second you’ve splashed out on a gorgeous new website. The design agency has billed you a hefty amount, but it’s been worth it. Everyone in the firm is happy with the website, and visually it’s lightyears ahead of your competition (and your old site). The colour palette and layout express professionalism, prestige, but with a hint of character. It’s just you.

The only problem? The website came populated with all of your old scattered website content, or worse, lorem ipsum, because you decided to not hire copywriters. You chose to do the copy yourselves, believing it’s a waste of money. Better to spend the budget on video production for your About page, than to hire a writer. Fair.

So, you sit down, crack open your laptop and go about writing the content of the website. You write some drafts and share it with the team. Some people suggest a change in language here and there. Some correct your grammar, or ask you to discuss some examples from your firm a bit more. You sit there, edit and tweak the copy, until you’re happy with it.

Let’s pretend this isn’t going to take you 8 months to do, in between your busy trials, case prep, meetings, and fleeting personal time.

You then input your copy into your website’s content management system, publish it and make your website live.

Except something happens. Over time you notice that top hires decide to go with your competition instead of you. Potential clients who were on the brink of signing, see your website, and disappear on you.

Confused you wonder what’s going on. You think that this gorgeous website you ordered, mustn’t be as gorgeous as you thought. Maybe the colours are actually wrong? Maybe the layout isn’t easy to use? Maybe it isn’t you!

Meanwhile your website is costing you time and driving away potential business. Time better spent on billable hours for existing clients. Business that could bring you more revenue to cover your overheads.

What you don’t know, is that to your audience there is something off about your website. They can’t put their finger on it, but they’re repelled by it. They look at it, and at first they’re impressed. So, they start to dig deeper but suddenly, according to the analytics, they “bounce”. They go onto the next shiny object in their view. Whether it’s the latest message from a work colleague, an Instagram notification, or a pressing email. If you could look over their shoulder and ask the visitor why they clicked away, they probably wouldn’t be able to tell you. In fact, they’ll say “I’ll look at it later” and mean it.

But we both know they’ll never get to it.

This is what poor planning and poor execution of copywriting can do to your website. Like a restaurant that focuses only on excellent presentation—it doesn’t matter how good the presentation, if the food isn’t great, you’re not going to want to go again. A great website is one with great design and great copy.

So how do you get that?

What a Great Legal Copywriter Knows

A great legal copywriter takes into account a few facts when writing web content. Like Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, these facts might seem contradictory, but they are the way the world works. The sooner the copywriter understands them, the sooner they can write compelling copy.

Short Attention Spans but Readers Buy

First, as we’ve alluded to, readers on the web have short attention spans. You’re competing with social media, email, streaming TV, the newest shiny app they installed, messages from friends and family, dating apps, and the 1 million articles they’ve saved to read later. We live in the attention economy now, and competition is fierce.

Yet, at Pixelcarve we’ve noticed one thing, and we educate all our clients on this—readers buy. If your website is able to reel a visitor in from the one hundred distractions in front of them, they will dig and consume all the content on your website. And they’ll be likely to follow your call to action. Whether that be to send that enquiry email, to call you, or to submit their resume.

You Must Write for Three Audiences

Second, law firms unlike most other websites, have three different audiences. Social media websites have two audiences—users and visitors. News outlets and blogs have one audience—readers interested in that topic.

But in our experience a legal website needs to consider:

1.) Potential clients. Your website might try to educate visitors and use an SEO strategy to attract and convert visitors into buyers. Or your website might be there to help you close on existing potential clients. Whatever the case your legal website is integral to your marketing strategy, and a key part of your sales team.

2.) Opposing counsel. Your opponents on a case will scout out your website before they face you across the table or courtroom. A consumer website does well with friendly photos of the team. But a great legal website does well with intimidating photos of the team. Be aware the battle begins before you face opposing counsel. As Sun Tzu says “Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win”

3.) Recruitment. In Canada, law firms must take on law students for articling or for a summer program. Because this is a necessity, law firms angle to get the top talent. Not only because they’re looking for the next bright star, but so the competition doesn’t get them. You can be guaranteed that the next generation are on the internet and judging your firm by your website.

Emotive Yet Authoritative Language

Thirdly, the language you write with has to be emotive. It has to be conversational. It has to engage and make the reader feel like they’re sitting at the bar with you. Not in a lecture hall bored to tears.

But…your language must still also convey authority. It must still be true to your brand. It must still make the reader respect you.

Armed with these three facts, a legal copywriter can start planning web copy and putting words down. Yet, writing the copy that engages and hooks a reader is more an art than science.

How do you do that?

Legal Copywriting Guidelines to Follow

It may be more art than science, but there are some general guidelines to follow when writing legal copy. Here are the top nine to follow when crafting legal copy.

Active, not passive voice

Use the active form when writing, not the passive form. “A proposal was asked for by Jim” reads a lot less strong than “Jim asked for a proposal”.

Writing in the active form makes for punchy sentences. It grabs the reader’s attention, and makes them less likely to click away to that cute cat photo.

Write Powerful Headlines

Headlines are what grab our attention when reading. Whether on the web or in print. David Ogilvy noted that five times as many readers read the headline than read the copy. This means you should sink most of your efforts into writing compelling headlines instead of beautiful prose.

When crafting headlines remember that a headline’s job is to grab the reader’s attention. Not to convey the subject, not to summarise the content, but to make the reader want to read more.

Your headlines have to appeal to the emotional part of your readers brain, not the rational side. The danger to avoid is to not write clickbait that harms your credibility and authority. Finally, the more you can make the headline about them, the better. (This rule holds for the rest of your copy as well).

For instance, let’s say a law firm wants to highlight their ‘client first’ ethos. When writing copy they could make a few changes to boilerplate headlines. Instead of writing “About Us” they should write “Meet the Team Who Puts Your Case First”. Instead of writing “We Are Professional” they should write “The Professionals Who Go the Extra Mile For The Client”.

In copywriting you can’t lose if you make it all about the reader, but you can if you make it all about yourself.

Website copywriting also allows you to use multiple levels of headlines. You’re not just limited to the top-level title (technically referred to as H1 in web development terms). You can have up to 6 levels of headlines on a web page. We recommend using a minimum of 3.Which brings me to my next point.

Make it Skimmable

You are not writing the next great novel. You are not writing for a Pulitzer. You are not writing a legal document. You are writing for the web. Tests have shown that 79% of people don’t read on the web, they skim. They scan, look for relevant, useful, and actionable information.

The temptation is to word vomit all you have to say. Don’t do that.

Don’t hold back your information either. Instead break it up into chunks.

  • Use sub headlines (the 6 levels of headlines)
  • Break it into subpages if appropriate.
  • Use images to break up the text.
  • Use bullet points when you can.
  • Use video if it works.

But don’t write an essay. Your visitors buy books for that, save the beautiful prose for your next book deal.

Be Concise

“If I started to write elaborately…I found that I could cut that scrollwork or ornament out and throw it away…” – Ernest Hemingway

This applies to any medium of writing, but more so for the web where people have short attention spans. If you can explain in one sentence what you took a paragraph to say, then go back and rewrite it.

There is a sentence in Joyce’s Ulysses that runs on for 3,687 words. Compare that to Hemingway’s famous six-word story, “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”

With your website, go towards being Hemingway, and not Joyce.

Be Specific

This might contrast with the above point, keep reading. The more specific you are, the more credible your point. This holds truer when it comes to examples, or when you’re selling yourself. It’s tempting when dealing with hypotheticals, or when promoting ourselves, to keep it vague. But murkiness will turn off your reader.

Instead paint a picture. Which is more believable?

  • We are Toronto’s best law firm
  • Our law firm earned the “Toronto’s best law firm” award at the Acme Chamber of Lawyers for the fourth year in a row.

Don’t fear telling a story when you’re trying to drive an emotional point home.

Instead of talking about how hard you work for your clients (like the rest of your competition), illustrate with an example. Tell a story about someone in your firm who went the extra mile for a client against a hard deadline. Someone who thought outside the box to find a critical piece of info that won the case.

Now that’ll convince your readers you’ll work hard for their hard-earned money.

Avoid jargon and buzzwords

Don’t use legal jargon, don’t use corporate buzzwords and in general don’t use what editors used to call $10 words.

Which do you eagerly await to watch, the next HBO blockbuster? Or an advert with stock footage, that goes on about “synergy”, “people first” and “building the future for tomorrow’s generation.”

You’re already switching off as I write that (sorry). But when it comes to writing copy, many lawyers fall into the same trap. They see their competition writing with the same language. Or they believe that it will impress potential clients.

Clients are human like you. They are turned off from corporate speak like you. So, avoid using it.

Put your copy through a Flesch-Kincaid readability tool which lets you know how readable your content is. Don’t dumb down your copy, but remember that people skim when reading on the web.

The simpler your language, the more they’ll take in.

Answer questions, but make them hungry for more

Your website serves several purposes, but a big one is to prove your authority and credibility. How can you do that? By answering your reader’s questions before they’ve even asked them.

Make sure to identify your audience’s pain points, areas of frustration, and subjects that confuse them during your research. Then address and answer these topics. As you answer their questions though, make them hungry for more. Hungry enough to pick up the phone and give you a call or complete that web form.

Emotions sell, not facts

We touched on this when talking about storytelling. At the end of the day we’re emotional creatures not rational ones. We may consider the facts reasonably, but our decisions are emotional ones.

So, don’t be bland. Weave emotions in your copy. Consider what you want your readers to feel. Do you want them to feel awe? To feel relieved? To feel increased frustration? To feel joy? To feel sadness?

Reflect on this and adjust your copy to suit. Use adjectives and tell stories that convey these emotions. If your readers emotions are engaged, they’re hooked. And if they’re hooked, they won’t click away.

Know Your Unique Value Proposition

You would think this doesn’t belong in a legal content article, but a business strategy article, but you’d be wrong. When crafting your copy make sure to keep front of mind your UVP.

Are you an award-winning law firm? Then plan your content around that. Are you an underdog who is willing to work harder? Then make sure to centre your copy on that point.

Your UVP is the gravitational object which all your copy orbits around. If you don’t factor it in, your copy will be adrift, floating through the blank vacuum of space, catching no-one’s attention…


A website rebrand is a critical opportunity to get your law firm into the next level. It can get you noticed by new sectors of the market, and can help you attract the cream of the crop of talent. But if you fall into the same trap that I see most lawyers do, you’ll have wasted your hard earned cash.

I’m by no means knocking your legal writing skills, but while you can draft a bulletproof contract, it might mean you’re not the best at drafting marketing copy. But it’s good to know our weaknesses right? It’s the path to growth.

Tackle writing your website copy with a bit of humility. Leave your legal writing skills behind, and put on the hat of a legal copywriter. Write emotively, not factually. Be concise, not verbose. If it’s too much work, just as you would advise people to secure counsel and not legally represent themselves, so too should you consider hiring a legal copywriter. The upside? Your competition is making the same mistake, believing they can write marketing copy the same way they can write legal documents. I challenge you to be different. I challenge you to get better results for your website.