A Cleveland-based national law firm used a technology stack audit to mitigate website downtime and inform a technology modernization roadmap outlining the path toward a best-in-class digital experience for attorneys and clients.
Headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio, McDonald Hopkins has earned a reputation as a proactive and innovative business advisory and advocacy law firm. With 140 attorneys, 50 service and industry teams and an 80-year history of guiding clients across various industries through difficult times, McDonald Hopkins is known for keeping its clients ahead of their challenges and informed on the latest legal developments affecting their business.
No matter how digital our world becomes, there is no 1:1 replacement for the human connection that occurs between an attorney and his or her client. The importance of this relationship makes it challenging to scale personalized digital experiences for law firms, but not impossible. McDonald Hopkins, a Cleveland-based national firm, set out in 2016 to do just that.
The firm was especially interested in turning their website into a multi-faceted resource hub for clients and prospects, offering robust, specific and personalized content at scale. They partnered with a local agency to execute the project, but unfortunately, the output fell far short of the vision. Not only was the promised functionality absent from the website’s back-end for the marketing team and attorneys, the website itself began experiencing almost daily bouts of downtime with no apparent cause.
McDonald Hopkins needed urgent assistance stabilizing the website’s up-time; the marketing team was unable to promote events, send emails or publish articles to support the business. They sought a consultant with a deep, proven expertise in systems integration and technology modernization to help execute the full vision of the website as it was originally intended.
Falls Digital’s Solution
While website stability was the urgent priority, the firm’s marketing leadership team did not neglect the importance of rectifying errors with an eye toward supporting the long-term vision of building a best-in-class digital experience for clients and attorneys. Falls Digital recommended the following approach to the project
Urgent stabilization of the website by assessing error logs and database servers
The Falls Digital team was able to immediately recognize and resolve a capacity issue on the database server. The team also combed through thousands of error log files to identify any urgent concerns and areas for code improvement. Several security setting modifications were recommended based on the initial sweep of error logs. Sitecore, the content management system on which McDonald Hopkins’ website was developed, is built using the Microsoft .NET Framework, which includes a base level of security best practices. However, as with all web-based products, it is important to include security hardening measures customized to the specific product. We also recommended putting policies in place in the event of a malicious attack, such as Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) or clickjacking
In-depth technology audit to evaluate system performance
After stabilizing the website, the Falls Digital technology team conducted a systematic, in-depth audit of McDonald Hopkins’ Sitecore system, resulting in the following recommendations:
- Upgrade to the latest stable release of Sitecore, bringing with it notable improvements in security and analytics
- Rectify the errors within the Sitecore experience editor caused by component-based architecture
- Update all third-party tools and frameworks leveraged during development
Falls Digital also recommended several long-term enhancements for the McDonald Hopkins marketing team, including:
- Leverage a dedicated event management tool to supplement Sitecore’s web content functionality
- Integrate a marketing automation platform and CRM solution to power dynamic, personalized content requirements in the future
The audit and user interviews informed a 3-year technology modernization roadmap for McDonald Hopkins, in which Falls Digital recommended the following technology stack to complement the CMS and support the firm’s marketing goals:
- CRM: Salesforce
- CMS: Sitecore
- Marketing automation: HubSpot
- Event marketing: Eventbrite
Impact on Client’s Business
For McDonald Hopkins, their engagement with Falls Digital became a story of technology-fueled business growth. Stabilizing the website helped build relationship equity and trust between the two teams, and the audit outlined a blueprint for the future.
The technology stack implementation allowed the firm to provide personalized, relevant customer experiences for customers, finally recognizing the vision that started them on their website journey in the first place. The attorneys were armed with content engagement and consumption data synced into Salesforce from HubSpot and Eventbrite, and the marketing team was empowered to distribute and promote premium content to support and educate clients and prospects.