Monday, April 30, 2012

“About Us” Evaluation: Sullivan & Cromwell Gets an A

Sullivan & Cromwell LLP, one of the world’s preeminent law firms, was established in New York’s Financial District in 1879. It has played prominent – sometimes pioneering - roles in legal matters ranging from railroads to derivatives. Today the firm has over 800 partners in 12 offices in Asia, Australia, Europe, and the United States. S&C’s main About Us page is here

Perhaps it’s those logical legal minds at S&C that make this site so easy to use and so informative: whatever the reason, we are very impressed. Quite frankly, the S&C site stands in stark contrast to minimalist sites of a few other big firms, which show no personality and resemble memos on white letterhead.

Products/Services: A
S&C’s overview is a beautifully concise statement, opening with what they do and how long they’ve done it, then moving on to how they recruit lawyers, who their clients are, and where the company’s offices are. The sidebar menu is a well-organized list: Our Firm (Lawyers, Practices, Regions, Offices), Careers, Alumni, News and Resources (Achievements, News, Publications, Events & Speaking Engagements).

Kudos to whatever extremely intelligent person summarized S&C’s 130 years on the History page. The narrative is focused on what matters to clients: the areas of practice S&C pioneered in and excels in. But the narrative also relates these events to world history, with mentions of S&C’s role in American railroads, the Panama Canal, the Great Depression, and economic expansion after World War II. This effortlessly shows S&C as a long-term player on the world stage.

One of the impressive features of S&C’s About Us pages is the fact that the News and Achievements sections are up to the minute - or up to the week, at least. And not only are they current: every news mention has a page with a summary, and an option to go to the full story online or, for print articles, to download the article in PDF format – with S&C branding. (Here’s an example.)

One of the few pages that could use some tweaking is the Firm and Lawyer Recognitions. We are impressed by the sheer multitude of awards, but some logos, subheads, and/or links are needed to make that long, long flow of text enticing to readers, and to make it easy to contact the lawyers who are mentioned.

Personality: A
Sullivan & Cromwell’s Overview conveys a strong corporate personality, but it’s very easy to go to a page about any partner, and every one of those pages is full of very specific information. The lawyer’s bio is followed by headings for selected cases, recognitions, and community involvement. The sidebar has a brief summary of the lawyer’s specialties, mentions in the news, upcoming engagements, education, and bar admissions. All this wealth of information is laid out so it’s easy to sort through it.

We also like the Alumni Profiles page, which offers brief looks at a few S&C partners who have gone on to prominent positions elsewhere. The alumni offer very personal takes on the company, and the very existence of the page implies that S&C is so well-established and long-lived that it can afford to give web space to lawyers who are no longer with the firm.

Accessibility: A
The Contact Us page (accessible via a link in every footer) is the usual online form, followed by a list of S&C offices and a contact name for those seeking other information.

The feature that earned S&C an “A” for accessibility is not on the contact page, but on the pages for individual lawyers. S&C offers the option of adding a lawyer to your address book by downloading a VCard, which you can then import to your address book. We haven’t seen this option on any other site. We did not realize until we saw it here how very, very tired we are of separately copying and pasting email, phone, and address to our email address book. S&C may not be the first site to offer this, but they’re the first we’ve seen, so they get the “big salad” thank-you.

Sullivan & Cromwell’s site is a reminder that if you’ve got great content that’s well organized, you don’t need high-tech bells and whistles. The most memorable feature about these pages, though, is the level of integration. The History page mentions the firm’s strengths. The Contact Us page mentions the firm’s history. The News  page lets us easily contact the lawyer featured in a given story. The pages for each partner have links to news stories that mention them. This is the way websites should be tied together, and we have seldom seen it done so well.

Does your Web site’s “About Us” section accurately convey your organization’s history and capabilities? Every two weeks we evaluate one example, grading it in three areas that are key to potential customers: Personality (Who are you?), Products/Services (What can you do for us?), and Accessibility (How can we reach you?). Contact us if you’d like to have your site evaluated—there’s no charge and no obligation.
Today’s example was chosen at random; has no ties to this company.