The law firm website with ‘balls’

Singaporean law firm TSMP has been causing a stir with its unique website. NZ Lawyer catches up with its joint managing director to find out about the thought process behind creating websites clients actually want to spend time on

Law firm websites tend to be fairly stock-standard affairs: Lots of stern greys and dark blues, above-the-shoulder head shots of partners, managers and associates and a list of each individual’s particular professional highlights. Yawn.

But one boutique Singaporean firm has been making waves far outside its own jurisdiction, thanks to its unique approach to web design. And, while some firms in the past have drawn online attention for all the wrong reasons, TSMP appears to have struck a positive chord – even UK legal satire newsfeed RollonFriday struggled to fault it.

The firm’s site combines numerous glossy photos of its partners in fashion-shoot style poses, with individual taglines like “Jonathan is not a very good lawyer - before he has his morning coffee. It's a good thing he never forgets it,” beside their candid profile shots.

However, TSMP joint managing director, Stefanie Yuen Thio (whose own profile picture depicts her perched atop her desk), says the design layout simply came down to a direct understanding of the site’s target audience.

“We have two key audiences for our website: First, potential new lawyers for TSMP, be they undergraduates or existing PQEs. For this group of people, the ethos and environment of the firm that they join is important,” she says. “We made it a point to try and communicate those values.

“Our website is also there to connect with our clients. Our positioning is very much that of a Wall Street firm, but with a "high touch" partner-heavy delivery. The website sets out to communicate both the length and breadth of our domain expertise, as well as how we service each client relationship.”

Yuen Thio says the use of vibrant images on TSMP’s site was a deliberate away to catch viewers’ attention and draw them in.

“More than 70% of first impressions are visual and I have seen far too many websites that were drowning in their own verbiage. We decided to go a different way,” she says.
While some might argue that a larger firm has less flexibility than boutiques do when it comes to steering away from traditional layouts, Yuen Thio says there’s nevertheless a risk in allowing a website to be too “fun”.

“As a boutique firm, we have to take our credibility very seriously,” she says. “We wouldn't have a ‘fun’ website just for the publicity or the number of hits. Our website strives to communicate the personality behind the firm…Of course, it takes a special kind of lawyer to work in this type of firm, and we are lucky to have attracted a pool of great lawyers. So yes, we are able to create a great website because we have the right people to build the story around.”

Yuen Thio is modest when asked if she has any advice for New Zealand firms wanting to revamp their own websites, but says TSMP has learned one thing: It’s no longer enough to stick with the traditional templates.

“New Zealand is a very developed and mature legal market so I wouldn't presume to proffer advice,” says Yuen Thio. “One thing we have learned is that we need to decide what's important to us to communicate through the website and do that effectively and authentically. The old ways of regurgitating what deals we have done and how experienced our lawyers are won't do the job anymore.”

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