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A Million Dollar Website

by Carolyn Elefant on February 28, 2010 · 16 comments

in Legal Profession Trends, Marketing & Making Money, Websites and Blogs

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California mega law firm, Morrison Foerster is MoFo, and this (above) is its website.

Understandably, the site might confuse you since mofo has more widely recognized, colloquial meanings.  But Morrison Foerster ranks first in search for “mofo.”

The Mofo website cost one million to build, claims Above the Law.  Was it worth it?  Above the Law trashes the site in a  hilarious review but I have to admit that the clean design and originality of site (as well as the little graphics and puzzles – see ATL review for details) wowed me at first.  Until I realized that my opinion of the site really doesn’t matter; it’s what clients think that counts.

So what would a client think about the MoFo site?

Well, for starters, some clients might not even be able to read it.  After asking around on one of my listserves, seems that many people can’t read white on black (which is how the interior of the site is designed) and skip over any site with that kind of text.  Others couldn’t experience the full effect of the MoFo site (which is flash based) since they’ve disabled flash from their browsers.  Spending a million dollars on a site that a large percentage of prospective, or more importantly existing clients can’t read or otherwise fully appreciate doesn’t come across as particularly client friendly.

Nor does the site provide much in the way of resources for clients, or an opportunity to gain insight into how the firm’s lawyers write or think.  The firm doesn’t have any blogs, and the resources – newsletters, client alerts and the like (accessible through the “resources link” on the toolbar), but all are in PDF format.  Thus, users must go to the trouble of opening a document to find content instead of being able to access it on the screen or through an RSS feed.

Admittedly many clients might find the MoFo site innovative or distinctive and therefore assume that MoFo practices law with similar flair and creativity — which was presumably the site’s intent.  But if clients discover the million dollar price tag, they’d think twice.  It doesn’t take much creativity to design a fancy website or handle a complicated legal matter on a million dollar budget.  The real test of creativity is what a firm can accomplish when clients don’t have unlimited dollars to burn.

  • http://twitter.com/mglickman mglickman

    Speaking with some design experience, I can appreciate the aesthetic of the site. Unfortunately, they screwed up – the points you raise are issues that should have been identified ahead of time when doing the initial design.
    It’s especially egregious since the issues can easily be remedied while maintaining the new look.
    I’m also curious how the million buck breaks down.

  • http://twitter.com/mglickman mglickman

    Speaking with some design experience, I can appreciate the aesthetic of the site. Unfortunately, they screwed up – the points you raise are issues that should have been identified ahead of time when doing the initial design.
    It’s especially egregious since the issues can easily be remedied while maintaining the new look.
    I’m also curious how the million buck breaks down.

  • http://www.gulbransen.net/preaching/ Dave!

    I can’t imagine that actually cost $1M to make… and god forbid “Above the Law” ever got anything wrong (*roll eyes*).
    I like the clean look of the site, but not the reverse text.
    And I think I would pay them to work there, just so I could say I’m a MoFo Attorney. :)

  • http://www.gulbransen.net/preaching/ Dave!

    I can’t imagine that actually cost $1M to make… and god forbid “Above the Law” ever got anything wrong (*roll eyes*).
    I like the clean look of the site, but not the reverse text.
    And I think I would pay them to work there, just so I could say I’m a MoFo Attorney. :)

  • http://www.OhioLemonLaw.com Ron Burdge

    A million dollars? The white print on black doesn’t bother me a lot and I wonder if that whole argument isn’t a bit over-rated (admittedly lots of people say that), but the real kicker is just how do you spend a million and get so little to show for it? The issues pointed out could easily have been designed out of the picture way ahead of time and with that kind of money to throw around, it certainly should have been. A million dollars? But then again this is a firm that wants the site visitor to know is a “techie and gadget” bunce in the first place. The site does make that apparent. But a million dollars? If the cost is accurate and known to their clients, the more obvious message may be something like “we charge a lot and have money to burn because of it” and in this economy, that may not be a good message to send.

  • http://www.OhioLemonLaw.com Ron Burdge

    A million dollars? The white print on black doesn’t bother me a lot and I wonder if that whole argument isn’t a bit over-rated (admittedly lots of people say that), but the real kicker is just how do you spend a million and get so little to show for it? The issues pointed out could easily have been designed out of the picture way ahead of time and with that kind of money to throw around, it certainly should have been. A million dollars? But then again this is a firm that wants the site visitor to know is a “techie and gadget” bunce in the first place. The site does make that apparent. But a million dollars? If the cost is accurate and known to their clients, the more obvious message may be something like “we charge a lot and have money to burn because of it” and in this economy, that may not be a good message to send.

  • http://www.brucegodfrey.com Bruce

    I believe that the “o”s in MoFo are pronounced as the “ở” in the Vietnamese dish “phở”.
    The site is clumsy and overly aggressive in my view. There has to be a better way to communicate innovation than screaming the English word in 72+point type. The ancient Greeks had an eye for proportion and the “golden triangle”; this site does not.
    AFAIK, MoFo doesn’t deliver innovation so much as the grinding unimaginative delivery of the unimaginative and this site to me suggests that they are using marketing to understate, not deliver, their true core competence. If I am wrong (which is quite possible, this site does not help me understand how I am wrong.

  • http://www.brucegodfrey.com Bruce

    I believe that the “o”s in MoFo are pronounced as the “ở” in the Vietnamese dish “phở”.
    The site is clumsy and overly aggressive in my view. There has to be a better way to communicate innovation than screaming the English word in 72+point type. The ancient Greeks had an eye for proportion and the “golden triangle”; this site does not.
    AFAIK, MoFo doesn’t deliver innovation so much as the grinding unimaginative delivery of the unimaginative and this site to me suggests that they are using marketing to understate, not deliver, their true core competence. If I am wrong (which is quite possible, this site does not help me understand how I am wrong.

  • http://www.ramcharanlaw.com RE Ramcharan

    Maybe it’s because I live in a small town, but I have a hard time seeing how adopting an identity based on a vulgar term for an objectionable person would be an advantage.
    Mr. Burdge has a point about the $million, which suggests that MoFo’s core competency is burning through money. I’d love to hear how much they spend on their Christmas party.

  • http://www.ramcharanlaw.com RE Ramcharan

    Maybe it’s because I live in a small town, but I have a hard time seeing how adopting an identity based on a vulgar term for an objectionable person would be an advantage.
    Mr. Burdge has a point about the $million, which suggests that MoFo’s core competency is burning through money. I’d love to hear how much they spend on their Christmas party.

  • http://lawyersvideostudio.com Gerry Oginski

    Putting aside the price point for their website, the aesthetics and functionality leave a lot to be desired. The entire goal of creating a usable website is to eliminate all obstacles for viewers to obtain information.
    For simplicity, just look at Google’s home page. Trying to navigate around their website was extremely frustrating. It kept bringing me to search boxes with multiple search parameters. If I were a client I would not want to spend all my time trying to use search parameters looking for a particular thing.
    It seems as if they threw the kitchen sink in here and hid it behind multiple layers that, from a practical standpoint, make it extremely difficult for people to get through and read.
    A better idea would have created entire offshoot of blogs and websites for each of their practice areas allowing each of their attorneys or team of attorneys to present useful information that would be easily searchable and found.
    I am perplexed as to how they could have spent so much money to design a site and nobody bothered to tell them to use the most effective form of social media today; video. If they have video on their site, I certainly can’t find it.
    They lose my vote and I would quickly move on to another law firm’s website.

  • http://lawyersvideostudio.com Gerry Oginski

    Putting aside the price point for their website, the aesthetics and functionality leave a lot to be desired. The entire goal of creating a usable website is to eliminate all obstacles for viewers to obtain information.
    For simplicity, just look at Google’s home page. Trying to navigate around their website was extremely frustrating. It kept bringing me to search boxes with multiple search parameters. If I were a client I would not want to spend all my time trying to use search parameters looking for a particular thing.
    It seems as if they threw the kitchen sink in here and hid it behind multiple layers that, from a practical standpoint, make it extremely difficult for people to get through and read.
    A better idea would have created entire offshoot of blogs and websites for each of their practice areas allowing each of their attorneys or team of attorneys to present useful information that would be easily searchable and found.
    I am perplexed as to how they could have spent so much money to design a site and nobody bothered to tell them to use the most effective form of social media today; video. If they have video on their site, I certainly can’t find it.
    They lose my vote and I would quickly move on to another law firm’s website.

  • http://www.ramcharanlaw.com RE Ramcharan

    Or it could be their way of saying, “We’ve got tons of dough, we’re so big and so powerful that we can do whatever we want and not have to worry about the consequences. And we’re only interested in clients just like us.”
    It’s counterintuitive, but it seems to have brought them this far in life.

  • http://www.ramcharanlaw.com RE Ramcharan

    Or it could be their way of saying, “We’ve got tons of dough, we’re so big and so powerful that we can do whatever we want and not have to worry about the consequences. And we’re only interested in clients just like us.”
    It’s counterintuitive, but it seems to have brought them this far in life.

  • Johanna

    Or they have targeted the rap/urban market and want prospects to know they kick serious ass…

  • Johanna

    Or they have targeted the rap/urban market and want prospects to know they kick serious ass…

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