Law schools generally aren’t known for hosting cutting-edge websites. In fact, one 2011 survey of law school sites found that they tended to favor bland photos of happy students lounging beneath trees, Supreme Court justices or moot court competitions.
Now at least one law school has broken out of that ho-hum mold. The University of Pennsylvania Law School on April 30 won the Webby People’s Voice Award in the law category—meaning that online voters thought its website was the best among the five nominees in the category. (The Webbys are widely considered the most prestigious Internet awards.)
The formally juried Webby in law went to Philadelphia’s Juvenile Law Center, a nonprofit public interest law group that works with Penn Law’s legal clinic.
Penn spent about a year redesigning its website, which debuted in July 2012, said associate dean for communications Steven Barnes. "We wanted to create an overall web experience so that, going to the site, people would feel connected and engaged with the law school," he said. "We wanted a site on the forefront of web design and user experience."
The school aimed for a site that is efficient and easy to navigate, but that also would make it extremely simple for users to share content via social media. Much of the website’s content is indexed with hashtags, which helps users find information about specific topics or people. The site integrates the law school’s Tumblr.
A key feature is what administrators call "the pipeline"—two vertical columns that appear along either side of the homepage that constantly are updated with news and legal analysis posted by administrators, students and faculty members.
"A student can take a photo from a pro bono project or something like that, upload it themselves and, voila, it’s on the homepage," Barnes said. "By having a crowdsourcing approach to content, it actually makes things a lot easier in some respects."
Administrators wanted to provide prospective students with a more realistic sense of what it’s like to attend the law school, and make it easier for students and faculty to connect and keep up on campus news, he said.
"We approached the redesign with the understanding that we are communicating with a number of different audiences: prospective students, current students, faculty, researchers and the media," Barnes said.
Contact Karen Sloan at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more of The National Law Journal’s law school coverage, visit: http://www.facebook.com/NLJLawSchools.