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Lerners LLP

How One of Canada’s Most Iconic Law Firms Became Formidable Online

Lerners LLP is a 100+ year old, multi-disciplinary law firm with 13 practice areas, and stands as Southwestern Ontario’s largest law firm and as one of Canada’s largest and most esteemed firms. The firm has over 130 lawyers and, in addition to support staff, totals over 350 staff.

Ontario’s law firm industry has become more competitive as the Internet allows firms with few resources to reach audiences not directly in their geographic marketplace more economically.

Lerners LLP, on the other hand, has built its reputation tested over a century of collective practice. They were looking for an effective way to take its century-plus reputation digitally and become formidable online.

A New WordPress Website

At the onset of this project, there were several critical items that needed to be considered:

  1. Multiple Domains: Lerners LLP had a series of microsites (about 10 in total), each one representing a different practice area. These microsites were set up at a time when Google’s search engine valued keyword-rich domain names; however, in recent years, Google has begun to de-value keyword rich microsites, making the management of 10 domains on a regular basis a staggering task. Today, a big metric for SEO success is making sure a website is updated on an ongoing basis and building strength in one domain, with optimized, keyword-rich subdomains, which is exactly how we approached it for Lerners LLP.
  2. Diverse Practice Area Needs: Lerners LLP has 13 practice areas in total, each with a diverse mission, target audience, and range of legal solutions for its client base. Since Lerners LLP is a full multi-disciplinary firm, a more complex branding problem presented itself: their new website and accompanying brand identity will not only need to continue to show the breadth of Lerners LLP’s expertise, but also take into consideration the 13 practice areas’ requirements.
  3. Content Production: Over 70% of Lerners LLP’s website traffic was coming through its articles via Organic Search traffic. To take advantage of this trend, any website solution should focus on lawyers to produce more content.

Structure for Success

Lerners LLP runs a large organization with 350 staff and 130+ lawyers across 13 practice areas. It is important for each practice area to be able share their knowledge base and position itself within the overall integrated website. These individual lawyer contributions will balance the need to highlight individual practices and the firm as a whole, to emphasize their successful as a larger unit while further conveying the nuance differences between each practice area need to be taken into consideration.

tbk Creative’s CEO & Chief Creative Officer, Melissa McInerney, led a series of discovery meetings where she met wit  leadership in every practice area (who operate as completely separate entities) to hear their unique needs and develop a strategy to build out their subdomain as a part of lerners.ca. We needed to work with leadership from each group to figure out how to create something that each individual practice area would be proud to be a part of.

Bringing It All Together

After a discovery process that spanned across over a dozen practice areas, over a hundred hours of knowledge sharing, and involving about 20 lawyers and 5 support staff, tbk Creative had the knowledge base to get to work.

The following is a list of core features that make the new website stand out against many of its competitors:

1

WordPress: Originally established as a blogging platform, WordPress has evolved into a full robust website content management system that now powers over 25% of the world’s websites. It’s also known to be user-friendly for non-technical staff who may be in charge of updating the site. For a firm that was already generating over 70% of their website traffic from content, WordPress was a natural choice for the new Learners.ca because of its powerful, content management system.

2

Merging Microsites: Lerners LLP and tbk Creative decided to merge the ~13 microsites into one single .ca*. By implementing this SEO change, Google will, over time, see Lerners.ca as a more authoritative domain.

3

Unique Practice Areas: In the website world, most websites are either built with zero design files (they are built right in the browser using CSS/HTML) or are built from pre-designed themes (and may have up to two design files). One of the differential factors in tbk Creative’s higher-end websites is the volume of custom high-fidelity artwork files we create for a project. The 13 practice areas were a part of the Lerners LLP brand but acted as their own business units with their own unique legal solutions and target audiences. tbk Creative created 6 custom design files for each individual practice area, allowing the practice areas to not only remain a part of the new website, and benefit from the Lerners LLP and domain authority, but to also have the ability to be customized to fit their unique differences.

As depicted above, each practice area had its own set of unique subpages. This almost created an effect where there were sites within the main Lerners.ca domain to effectively optimize search engines.

4

LernX: With over 70% of website traffic arriving on content-pages via Google, we created a sophisticated blogging and content sharing area that we termed “LernX”.

LernX

Many unique and useful features were implemented:

  • The ability to filter content based on different variables such as practice areas.
Lerners LLP LernX blog drop down menu
  • The installation of hero images with a gradient effect so that each image fades out. This was built into WordPress, where managers of the system only have to upload a given picture.
Example of Lerners LLP blog post
  • The incorporation of an Author Spotlight: a big part of a law firm’s success is adequate recognition of its lawyers. For each article, an author could be selected within WordPress from its lawyer database, a byline created at the start of the article and a large call to action with more of their personal information at the bottom.
Lerners LLP author spotlight example
  • The implementation of a Reading Time plugin: based on an article’s number of words, the plugin provides readers the estimated number of minutes it takes to read the article.
An example of a blog with Reading Time plugin installed

5

Desktop Menu System: A website like Lerners consists of thousands of pages and dozens of divisions or partitioned areas. One of the challenges websites often get into when there is a plethora of content to distribute is organizing it all. The upfront time put into the discovery stage is crucial in designing a content architecture that will work, make sense, and not be overwhelming.

We deployed a hero menu that systematically displays the disparate pieces of content through very simple navigation. We felt this was the best available tactic to get the information across in a sharply organized way.

Hero Menu - 02
Hero Menu - 03
Hero Menu - 04
Hero Menu - 05
Hero Menu - 01

6

Finding a Lawyer: The Find a Lawyer search tool was prominently featured near the logo. In the professional services field, it’s more unique to not put this key hyperlink with the regular links in the menu navigation; instead, we decided to move the link so it prominently stands out near the logo.

In addition to the Find a Lawyer search tool, we custom-designed and custom-built a global search module. People often see search features as simple, but are actually quite complex. In this case, one single search bar searches 4 types of content at once and the user can click any result and go straight to the content.

Pasted image at 2017_06_19 11_01 AM (1)
Lerners LLP global search module results

The Results:

  • Date Range: August 1st, 2016 – April 30th, 2017
  • Total Sessions: +35.19% (119,607 > 161,695)
  • Organic Search: +30.69% (103,389 > 135,120)
  • User navigating new practice area menu: 87%
  • LERNx (blog) entries: +81.11% (from 5,510 to 9,979)
  • Lawyer bio PDF downloads: +1500 at the 2012 Internet Advertising Competition.

Outstanding Legal Website

Web Marketing Association’s 2016 WebAwards

What we learned

  • Melissa McInerney, tbk Creative

    Traditional industries are hungry for—and deserve—great UX. Details matter, and it’s easy to get lost in details, but when the vision is kept alive each step of the way, a fantastic product is created. With this website, tbk Creative pushed the boundaries in order to create a memorable and effective digital experience. In an industry where details are everything, we learned this extended into the website. Every decision on this website was steeped in strategy to ensure we effectively spoke to a wide range of target demographics.

  • Andre LeFort, tbk Creative

    I learned that the sum of the parts is more than the whole. Various components were painstakingly managed and developed to ensure a successful transition from Lerner LLP's previous website's multi micro-site structure. The technology department was involved in almost every area of this website's success: Website design, SEO, Custom Website development, Post Launch Stabilization, and more. Technology really and truly is at the heart of a brand's digital presence.

  • Amanda Tadgell, tbk Creative

    For this website project, there were we worked with 12 practice groups to develop their search engine optimization strategies. We held many meetings and completed numerous audits to develop a strategy and plan to ensure the new website was fully optimized for all practice groups. I learned the importance of educating clients to ensure the long-term success for search engine optimization. Investing the time to focus on SEO at the discovery phase of the project made for a smoother implementation in the end and resulted in the mutual understanding of the importance of an optimized website.

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