Law School Website Design: 7 Insights for Recruitment Success

October 18, 2016
Best Law School Website Design Strategies

With law schools across the country facing diminishing class sizes and enrollments, the pressure to recruit and retain students is increasing. As a recent Forbes article notes, even the top law schools are “facing a shrinking applicant pool.” With law school websites often being cited by prospects as the top research tool, it’s important for law school marketing and admissions teams to rethink how to redefine the law school website to focus on the prospective student rather than institutional needs.

Rankings Matter in Every Discussion

The influence of ranking lists such as the U.S. News and World Report and Princeton Review is well known – and often bemoaned – in law school admissions. In our interviews with prospective law students, prospects prize getting into the highest-ranked law school possible. Prospects see a straight-line from the best law schools to the best law firms. The better the school, the better the job.

But prospects view other aspects of law school content through a rankings lens too. They look at the faculty to see what law schools they have attended. The more faculty a school has from highly ranked law schools and the more publications at prestigiously ranked journals the more value they see.

Understanding the Customer Journey of Law Students on Websites

When prospects start exploring law schools, they typically focus first on a location or a legal specialty (e.g., environment). Then they seek out the laws schools that are the highest ranked in the desired geography or speciality and develop a short list As they evaluate the short list, prospective law students are asking some key questions:

  • What are my job prospects?

  • Will I pass the bar?

  • What are the students like?

  • What is the quality of the academic environment?

To answer these questions, prospects use law school fairs, interviews, and the website to form an impression of the school.

After prospects receive acceptance letters, they transform into intensive researchers with long website visits and additional on-campus visits. Prospects are often comparing your school’s website content against a competitor’s website content in head-to-head comparisons.

ABA disclosures are helpful to prospective students since these expose key statistics – bar passage rate, professional outcomes, etc. – in a consistent manner across all of the schools. Prospects also compare courses, networking, and faculty head-to-head. This behavior by prospects makes a competitor audit a critical step in your website redesign process.

Focus Faculty Profiles on Expertise

After acceptance, prospects use your law school’s website to seek out the faculty members they will learn from. They want to know about their professional and educational experience, and the experience learning from them in and out of the classroom. Successful faculty profiles include:

  • Warm, inviting introduction

  • Educational experience

  • Professional experience

  • Research and publications with links

  • Contact information

  • Professional photo

While many faculty members view their profile as a professional profile, in the case of law school websites it is important that these profiles be given a strong marketing review to appeal to prospective students.

Highlight Your Curriculum Options on the Website

Prospective law students dig into curriculum details, and, like faculty members, compare your curriculum to other law schools. Three key components for curriculum include:

  1. On your law school website don’t just add in a list of course titles copied from your catalog. These prospects are researchers; they want details and they want a narrative. If you can, craft a curriculum section that narrates the why of the curriculum or the philosophy wrapped around the courses that helps prospects.

  2. Prospects really try to get a sense of the educational experience over all three years. They want to know what’s required, but when they can start elective courses or focusing on a specific area. Too often curriculum guides don’t offer the nuance and context prospects desire. It’s important to provide a narrative approach.

  3. With the changing landscape of the legal profession, prospective students want options. If you offer alternatives to the traditional JD, such as additional certificates, joint degrees, or masters, be sure to highlight these options and help prospects compare the degree formats.

Communicate the Student Experience on Your Law School’s Website

Prospective students want to understand the student experience. It’s less about the city that they will be living in but more about the interactions with other students and the academic atmosphere. They are curious about their peers and how your alumni achieve success.

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To help prospects understand how students turn networking, internships, and courses into a successful career, we worked with Northeastern School of Law to develop in-depth student and alumni profiles called pathways.

Call Out Networking Opportunities Across the World

Law students are calculating and ambitious about their academic journey. For prospects, networking and internship opportunities are critical to highlight in website content. Prospects are less interested in answering questions like: “Will I be able to go to baseball games and work out in a nice gym?” and more interested in “What are other students doing in the summer to further their careers?” Prospects view internship opportunities as a way to gain experience and open up doors in a new city where they are considering living after graduation.

Address Law School Cost and Financial Aid Head On

In our research, almost all law prospects know that they will be taking loans and receiving some financial aid. This means that they take a wait and see approach to evaluating and researching cost. They wait to see the “discount” the school offers before digging deep into cost or aid information on the website.

Cost is a critical factor to law students. Prospects are looking for validation throughout the journey to justify the cost. Thinking hard about messaging or a narrative that contextualizes the cost and communicates the school’s commitment to affordability is important.

How Much Does it Cost to Redesign a Law School Website?

A typical website redesign takes between six to 12 months. If you’re planning your website redesign, we’ve developed a budget planning tool that allows you to explore scope options and understand the total cost of investment. This tool will help you understand the key project steps including discovery, information architecture, content strategy, visual design, and content management system selection and build.

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