A brand new quarterly legal sector benchmarking report has found that several of the top 30 UK law firms by revenue still have unsecured websites and that few of the top 20 firms by revenue make it into the top 15 digital rankings, based on metrics including optimised content, audience engagement across the four main social media platforms, security and a strong “off-site” strategy. Many of the UK top 50 by revenue are in the bottom half of the table.

The report, by law firm marketing agency TBD Marketing Ltd, finds that Leigh Day is at number one of the overall Digital 100 rankings, as we first revealed in the September Orange Rag. Irwin Mitchell is at number two, Mishcon de Reya at three, Forsters at four and Linklaters at number five. Lewis Silkin is at number six, equal with Simpson Millar, with Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer at number 8, Shoosmiths at number 9 and Michelmores at number 10.

In the bottom 10 of the report are Harbottle & Lewis; Charles Russell Speechlys; Sackers; Weightmans; DAC Beachcroft; Penningtons Manches Cooper; Ince & Co; Wedlake Bell; Cripps Pemberton Greenish; and Dickson Minto.

Leigh Day is a top-ranked London and Manchester firm specialising in the biggest and highest-profile employment and personal injury disputes. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it has an excellent social media strategy and is described by TBD founder and CEO Simon Marshall as “well-loved on YouTube”, which is still rare even among firms with the best digital strategies.

Leigh Day’s marketing director David Standard told Legal IT Insider: “We get a lot of traffic because of the size of some of the stories we deal with. We’re high profile and have to have a coordinated and consistent digital strategy to manage that and help our clients.”

He adds: “The key really is consistency and having a great digital marketing team.”

Irwin Mitchell also handles high profile personal injury claims and is known to invest heavily in its digital presence, including in adverts on television, which are amplified on the firm’s YouTube channel. It has invested in lead generation and if you type “personal injury” into www.google.co.uk Irwin Mitchell features at number two, after Slater and Gordon. The firm wasn’t immediately available for comment.

At Mishcon, we spoke to head of communication, Hayley Geffin, who told us: “It’s something that has moved on so quickly from ‘you have a website to read what work people do or to find their phone number’ to creating content that is engaging and says something about you.

“On our website we have all the directory information you need but we want to give people a feel for what we‘re about and show we have personality. We’ve been working with The Economist and have created a series of short films that link to our brand campaign about the ways in which we are looking at what comes next, not just now, as part of the bigger picture.”

And at Linklaters, which appears ahead of the firms that generate more revenue – DLA Piper; Clifford Chance and Allen & Overy – head of digital marketing, Nick Andrews, said: “The firm has made a big investment in our digital strategy over the last couple of years. We want to drive the client experience and maximise the value clients get across our whole site and all channels.” Linklaters’ digital team has grown by a third over the past few years.

You can hear more from Geffin and Andrews below.

Here are some wider key findings in the report:

– Several of the top 30 firms by revenue still have unsecured websites. We are aware of the firms, but TBD has made the decision not to publish the names. It has written to the firms. Each firm has its own “dashboard” and the security vulnerability has been flagged;

– None of the firms in The Digital 100 rank in the top 100,000 websites globally, whereas three of the Big Four accountants are ranked in the top 10,000 – a considerable order of magnitude higher in terms of total web traffic;

– Only one-quarter of the firms in the top 200 are ranked in the top one million places for web traffic, globally;

– The mean average ranking for a Digital 100 firm is 1,590,947. The median is 1,128,965th place;

– The mean ranking for the next 100 law firms is 4,547,620, over 3 million places down on average. The median for the 101-200 firms is 3,507,812th.

On average, firms have dropped 300,000 places in global traffic rankings over the past quarter.

Simon Marshall, founder and CEO of TBD, said: “Managing partners and marketing directors or CMOs need to be having conversations about how to use digital marketing to win greater market share.”

Thoughts from the market

Hayley Geffin, head of communications and PR, Mishcon de Reya

How has your digital media strategy changed/evolved?

“It’s something that has moved on so quickly from ‘you have a website to read what work people do or to find their phone number’ to creating content that is engaging and says something about you.

“On our website we have all the directory information you need but we want to give people a feel for what we‘re about and show we have personality. We’ve been working with The Economist and have created a series of short films that link to our brand campaign about the ways in which we are looking at what comes next, not just now, as part of the bigger picture.”

Do you post a lot of content on YouTube?

“We don’t do a lot on YouTube. One of the main concerns is security. But we’re in talks to maximise our digital coverage.”

Do you encourage lawyers to have a strong social media presence?

“It has to be a personal choice but we do encourage people that want to and we have a platform called Clearview where we can share posts with everyone: you get a curated email once or twice a week. You get the email and you can use it to post things. We have a friendly competition about who is sharing the most: we go down the encouragement rather than requirement route. Privacy is obviously incredibly important.”

You obviously handle high profile deals, does that help?

“A natural consequence of being in the media means more people will search for you online but there is more to it than that, and being in the media can also be a negative thing. If someone Googles you because you’re in the news, when they get to where they’re going what you’re saying has to be interesting.”

Have you invested in your digital team?

“We have invested in our digital team. On one side we have our digital marketing team led by Michelle Morgan that is seven people strong. And we also have a tech team led by Nick West that works with all our law firm technology and the two do meet because the way we market ourselves requires both to work together.”

Nick Andrews, head of digital marketing, Linklaters.

Have you invested a lot in your digital strategy lately?

“The firm has made a big investment in our digital strategy over the last couple of years. We want to drive the client experience and maximise the value clients get across our whole site and all channels.

“The website is our hub – we relaunched linklaters.com and have worked hard on delivering engaging content. Our lawyers are changing and building capability so they understand how better to showcase their experience and we are driving a really good digital experience in spite of the fact that our client base is very global. We have offices and lawyers around the world and our business language is English. The team in London work with our teams across the regions to deliver great content both locally and in their own area.”

Have you invested in growing the digital team?

“Yes, I joined Linklaters a little under four years ago and the team has grown by about a third in the last few years. We have brought all the digital strands into one place – social, client subscription products and the website.”

Are you big users of YouTube?

“It’s not something we’re massively focused on, in spite of the fact that it’s the world’s second biggest search engine. We have a video portal that we push videos through and stream. Some remain internal and some can be exposed in different places.

“It just makes it easier. We’re already hosting a lot of content and rather than having an inefficient multiple publishing model we’re harmonising it all so we can go out to market quickly.”

Do you encourage your lawyers to use social media?

“We give lawyers advice and talk about their public profiles and how they present themselves. They have the ability really to show case what they can do and we know clients find them on line.”

Presumably you also do or try to do lots of TV/thought leadership activity?

We’ve got a very strong press offering and are always speaking to the likes of the Wall Street Journal or Financial Times and we pull that content back to gain some of the engagement that that will drive. The whole thing is about how do we get our clients to understand what we can do for them, and we can amplify that through our digital channels.