No news is bad news for Bar websites
A comprehensive survey of barristers’ websites has found that a large majority neglect the potential value of news about members’ achievements in the cases they handle. A total of 252 Bar websites were surveyed by LawComms (an independent consultancy specialising in media relations, marketing, and websites for lawyers) in June 2008. This found that:
• 52% of the profession’s Home Pages present only static brochure-style information; they lack even the most basic updates about the set’s activities. On other sites, news and announcements are relegated to a separate page, where visitors are much less likely to see them.
• 20% of barristers’ sites have no updates of any kind. Two thirds have out-of-date news, more than a month old. Most sites feature only professional announcements and seminar details, with no updates about recent cases.
• Only about a quarter of news pages mentioned members’ cases. News items were mostly professional announcements, about new tenants or QC appointments, which were almost invariably in the “Chambers congratulates…” style and very rarely told visitors anything useful about the individual’s experience or qualities. Another group concerned seminars and there were a handful about pro bono activity.
• Only 86 of the 252 sites included recent news. There were many examples of “news” where the latest item was badly out of date, including: on many sites, the QC appointments announced in January; the Chambers & Partners and Legal 500 legal directory recommendations published last autumn; a list of recent cases in which the most recent was in 2005; requests for pupillage applications with a closing date months previously; picture features of Christmas parties; invitations to seminars which had already taken place; the “current” newsletter, published in spring 2006.
Gerald Newman of LawComms commented: “No news is bad news for barristers. A Home Page packed with news about the latest cases presents an effective low-cost way to promote members’ skills and experience. Unfortunately, too many sets are missing this opportunity.”
During June 2008, LawComms.com visited the websites of 252 barristers’ chambers in England and Wales. Web addresses were found for another 40 sets but these were unavailable when the survey was conducted and are not included in statistics given above. The Bar Directory lists 686 sets of chambers altogether but the majority appear to be sole practitioners without a website.
LawComms adopted a broad and flexible definition of “news”, to include notices about seminars, as well as professional announcements, and news about casework or pro bono activities. Details of recent cases given in individual member profiles were, however, not included in the definition.
Of the sites surveyed, 121 (48%) had news on the Home Page, and another 81 (32%) carried items elsewhere.
If the Home Page itself did not include any items of news, the site was searched for news pages elsewhere through the menu and links on the Home Page. Some sites did not include a link to “News” on the Home Page, but only from a subsidiary pages such as “About Us”. All news, whether on the Home Page, was reviewed and the research recorded the date of the latest item (if it could be ascertained) and an outline of the contents.
Commentary is given in a detailed analysis on the LawComms website at www.lawcomms.com