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One of the changes that has taken place in the business world�and, by extension, the legal industry�over the past decade has been a tremendous increase in the amount of business conducted abroad. Doing business internationally used to be the preserve of an upper tier of multinational corporations; now, companies that are restricted to their home markets are exceptions rather than the rule. Building a coherent, integrated marketing strategy that conveys a strong central message and brand to an international audience becomes a key challenge. Many firms�particularly those that have built global footprints through mergers or alliances�have yet to succeed in this task. Web sites present a special challenge in this regard, particularly with a leading-edge Web presence where almost all content is generated dynamically. When sites were static online documents, globalization efforts involved little more than translation, some localization and a series of little “flag” icons in a corner. But Web sites have, for the most part, moved well beyond that simplistic model, and the challenge in globalizing them has intensified. Part of the challenge has to do with the balancing act of maintaining global consistency while ensuring local relevance. For example, a single site that is rendered in English and that contains only general firm information ranks high in terms of global consistency, but for a user in Japan it is totally irrelevant. In fact, the lack of an effort to speak to Japanese needs may even be perceived as insulting. Conversely, achieving local relevance�a site with content that meets the precise needs of a local audience, both linguistically and in terms of the information presented�may only be achievable at the expense of global consistency. Eliminating the tradeoff Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton has been a pioneer in the globalization of the practice of law. Of some 160 partners, almost 40% reside outside the United States, and more than one-third have served in two or more of the firm’s offices. The firm’s lawyers are licensed to practice law in 15 countries. From the time the firm opened its Paris office in 1949, three years after its founding, Cleary Gottlieb has pursued a policy of integrating all the nationalities represented into its professional ranks and operates as a single, unified, worldwide partnership. Accordingly, when the firm made the decision to globalize its Web site, every effort was made to offer locally relevant content while still maintaining global consistency. Recent improvements in Web technology have eased the task of balancing global appeal with successful localization. Before the development of sophisticated content-management systems, maintaining and updating a firm’s site, even the sections that required infrequent changes, was largely a manual task. Changing a large, content-intensive site was, as a practical matter, virtually impossible. Now, with the advent of workflow-enabled content-management software, the task of managing “fully dynamic” sites has been largely automated. Content that needs to be centralized to ensure global identity consistency can be easily controlled, while locally relevant or industry-based information-some generated automatically through newswire feeds or through integration with back-office systems-is added to the mix presented to the users, establishing the site’s direct relevance to its particular geography or industry segment. Communications professionals can now focus on what they do best: developing content to meet the needs of the audience. These developments allow a firm to centralize and easily post locally relevant information, enabling the Web site to offer a better mix of content to accommodate diverse audiences. Along with the main navigation of the site, the Cleary Gottlieb home page contains continually changing elements, including “latest news,” “top honors” and photos from the firm’s collection of venues in each of the cities where it has offices. Changing the content also allows the firm to highlight the most current information for visitors to the site. Key decisions Although automated content-management systems and fully dynamic Web sites are not new, reductions in cost and easier integration with existing law firm technologies have greatly expanded the practical utility of applications. One of the most important decisions to make before globalizing a Web site is to choose the right developer and system. Because few large law firms have made significant Web globalization efforts, finding a developer with specific law firm experience and a track record of large-scale globalization projects can be challenging. The potential waste of time, effort and money if the project degenerates into one huge trial-and-error process makes ensuring a vendor’s competence and experience critical. After a careful selection process, Cleary Gottlieb decided to hire Chicago-based Hubbard One for both the Web development and the content-management system. The firm selected Hubbard partly because the company focuses exclusively on Web sites and Web-based applications for large law firms, and also because it has worked with several of the nation’s largest firms-although the law firm’s international focus required additional emphasis on accommodating local considerations in multiple countries. Cleary Gottlieb also felt that Hubbard understood the firm’s technological platform and could craft solutions that would integrate seamlessly with its existing data sources. Although most Web design firms offer backgrounds that emphasize design, many law firms may fare better by focusing on the technological qualifications of the developer. In Cleary Gott-lieb’s case, the technological challenges directed the selection of the vendor. Hubbard brought a methodical, disciplined approach that suited the firm’s needs. When considering a content-management system for a Web site, a law firm should ensure that the system is flexible enough to allow for customization. The firm should also consider whether it will need to be integrated with other existing content systems. Some of the mainstream content-management platforms that are designed to serve a number of different industries offer features and capabilities that extend well beyond the needs of law firms or simply do not work well in a law firm environment. FirmConnect, Hubbard’s content-management system, focuses on the features law firms typically require, such as ease of use, flexibility of organization of content for display and ease of integration with existing systems. End result A truly global Web site should provide users around the world with a visitor experience that is as effortless as surfing a local site. For example, a number of large law firms currently have Web content translated into two or three languages other than English. Another distinctive aspect of Cleary Gottlieb’s site is the use of dynamic content management based on Internet protocol detection. Because Cleary Gottlieb’s offices are members of the local bars in their jurisdictions, the firm has been sensitive to compliance with local bar rules regarding advertising and publicity. When a user accesses the Cleary Gottlieb site at www.clearygottlieb.com, its engine detects the IP address broadcast by the user’s machine. That IP address contains a country-specific code, and the site uses that code to determine what content can be displayed to the visitor consistent with local requirements. As with all Web projects, integration is key, not only for maximizing the value of the current investment but also for ensuring that the project has a strong foundation for future development. To maximize the value of the site, Cleary Gottlieb has integrated the information in its site with its proprietary business proposal assembly software. The business development efforts require incorporation of the most current information. Linking the Web information with business proposal software creates a simple and effective way of ensuring consistent content in the information the firm distributes. As Cleary continues to enhance its site, the system has the potential to leverage existing resources to update content. Also, the platform will enable Cleary to integrate its site with extranets (access to alumnae/alumni or clients) and intranets (Internet access within the firm). Before embarking on a Web site globalization project, a law firm should make sure the “people element” is factored in. The firm’s senior legal and administrative decision-makers should fully back the project and be involved in every phase, from concept discussions through rollout. It should ensure that people in the international offices, who will benefit from a well-executed globalization program, also support the project. This is particularly important if the firm’s global footprint is relatively recent. This is crucial not only for the initial globalization effort but for ongoing site maintenance and content verification. Individuals in each office need to feel ownership of the site; otherwise their involvement will wane over time. The firm should include decision-makers in every jurisdiction and ask for feedback. A global Web site is a reflection of the global commitment of the firm: Be confident that the commitment exists. Yolanda Cartusciello is director of marketing at New York’s Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton.

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