LOMA : Articles
Common Mistakes to Avoid when Starting, Maintaining or Improving Your
It has been almost two years since I wrote my first
article on whether or not solo and small firm practitioners would benefit
from having a website. It is time to revisit this topic. Two years is a
long time in web-years. A lot has changed and I believe that not only is
it more important than before to have a site, it is also easier.
If you do not have a website and are not yet
convinced that you should have one, please read the article "Is It
Time to Have a Website? Tips to Get Started" and "What to Have
on Your Website" at http://www.msba.org/departments/loma/articles/articles.htm.
This article will discuss some mistakes that
many law firms make when creating and maintaining their websites.
A Lawyer Who Represents Himself Has a Fool For a
For the same reason that most people should not
represent themselves in court, you should not create and technically
maintain your own website. Your time is much better spent practicing law,
keeping current clients happy and getting new clients.
If You Do Not Know Where You Are Going, It Does
Not Matter What Road You Take.
Too often firms fail to take planning first
seriously. Get ideas from others in the firm and perhaps in your
family. Even before looking for a web developer, you need to determine:
- the image you want to convey
- the type of client you want to attract
- the type of information you want current clients
to find on the site
- the type of information you want prospective
clients to find
- how people will find your site.
We Don't Sell Widgets
Use a company that has worked with professional
service firms. There is a world of difference from selling services
to selling widgets. The Internet Lawyer has a list of legal website
developers at http://www.internetlawyer.com/til/marketing/developers/index.htm
The Never-Ending Project.
Budget money and time for maintaining the site.
Putting up a website is just the beginning of the project and not the end.
You MUST budget time and money for the site's upkeep.
If there is someone in your office that is
technically proficient and shows an interest, he/she may be given the
responsibility for maintaining the site but only if he/she is relieved of
other responsibilities. Maintaining the site should not be a task that is
done only when there is time from other legal related tasks. You may have
to hire a part-time person to do the updates.
Nobody Likes Stale Bread
The same is true of websites. It is CRITICAL to
keep the information on the website up to date and to change the content
regularly. This is really the difficult and time-consuming part and where
your time should be spent. You do not need to write all the content. The
content can consist of links to information from other sites (not other
law firms) that your clients and prospective clients would find useful.
This is the most difficult and most important aspect
of your website. You have to give people information. It is the reason
people use the internet.
Make your URL easy
Your URL is your domain name. It is everything that
comes after the @. The best name is the actual name of your law firm.
www.yevicslawfirm.com . (For details on finding and registering a domain
name, read the articles listed above.)
You Can't be Too Rich or Too Fast
Time is money for both you and your clients and
potential clients. Make your site easy and fast to load. Unless you
are in the technology field and your clients are high-tech companies, most
clients and potential clients are not that interested in graphics. They
are looking for information so do not make them sit and wait for graphics
to load. This goes back to determining what type of client you want to
attract. To make certain that it does not take too long to load, try
loading the site on a computer with a dial up 56K modem. According to
Deborah McMurray in the December, 2001 issue of Law Practice
Management, it should not take longer than 8 seconds to load. She also
recommends running the same timing test for all the pages on your site.
Don't Hide Your Light Under a Basket
It is useless to create a site and then not promote
it. The company/person who designs your site should have created the site
in such a way to make certain that search engines find it when potential
clients use specific keywords.
However, it is important to forward your site's URL
to many of the search directories. You can spend the time to do it
yourself or you can use software such at www.sitepromoter.com
and www.submit-it.com. These sites
will assist you in sending sites information about your URL.
Don't Ignore Low-Tech Promotion
Put your URL on all your stationary, business cards,
fax coversheets, newsletters and any other announcements or mailings that
are sent to clients and prospects. Make sure everyone in your office and
your friends and family knows the URL.
Some Rules Can't Be Broken
A website is advertising and all rules regarding
advertising apply to your website. Make sure you know the Maryland Rules
regarding advertising. In addition there two opinions from the Ethics
Committee on use of the internet. They are 97-26, Propriety of Use of
Internet to Promote Law Firm and 2001-3, Internet to bring lawyers and
potential clients together. Both of these opinions can be found on-line at
Another site that may prove helpful is http://www.computerbar.org/netethic/abawill.htm.
This is an article from the Georgia State Bar Association but it
discusses ethics of the internet and has links to all states and other
And Some Can.
There are some very interesting law firm sites
on the Internet and it would be helpful to spend some time looking at the
good and the bad. The best place to start would be at http://directory.findlaw.com/.
This lists many lawyers and links to any law firms with websites. It is
time consuming but it could be time well spent.
Some creative site worth looking at are:
These are just three sites that use the internet to market a niche
practice. There are many other examples. You can be creative and
Your Location Out of Cyberspace.
Make it easy for people to contact you either by
phone or e-mail. Give your address and directions to your office. Make it
easy to find this information. If many people in the firm have e-mail
addresses, provide that information.
Some Legal Stuff Necessary
Some disclaimers are necessary although you should
keep legalese out of the text of the site. You will need disclaimers
informing visitors that you are not giving legal advice and that you have
not created a client/attorney relationship.
The best place to find disclaimers is on other law
firm websites. In addition, there are some sample disclaimers listed at http://www.msba.org/departments/loma/articles/articles.htm.
These are just samples and should be reviewed by an attorney to make
certain they are appropriate for your site and situation.
For a more detailed packet of information from a
variety of sources on developing law firm websites, please send an e-mail
with your mailing address to firstname.lastname@example.org
or call Pat Yevics at 410-685-7878 or 800-492-1964, ext 3039. Please leave
your name and address if you get the voice mail.