LOMA : Articles
Websites for Solos
and Small Firms- An Idea Whose Time is Now Here
"Perhaps the most valuable result of all
education is the ability to make yourself
do the thing you have to do, when it ought to be done, whether you like it
- Thomas H. Huxley
When I first
asked the question about needing a website five years ago (yes, five
years), my answer was, "probably not at this time." A lot has changed in
these five years and my answer now is "Yes and the sooner the better.
Some statistics to reinforce my belief that the time has come
for most solos and small firms to develop their own websites: * (from a
presentation Websites for Lawyers by Andy Adkins, Florida Bar
Association, June 2004 - statistics from Touchpoint Metrics)
65% of buyers
of legal services have gone online to locate a law firm
online for legal services at least weekly
search engines to find law firm websites
86 % go
directly to a law firm's site
71% enter law
firm websites through portals such as Findlaw, Martindale Hubble
search engines, 84% search by practice area and 69% by industry experience
looking for a new law firm, 32% visit sites for content
Absolute Minimum Requirement
Even if you
choose to never have a website, you should have a domain name. The domain
name is what comes after the @ in your email address. In addition, it is
usually the URL for a website. If you want to see which domain names are
available there are many sites for that information. Two are
there are some ethics opinions related to this issue. Ethics opinions,
97-26, 02-18, 04-15 can be read at
Tips to Get You Started
Decide The Purpose of Your Site
Your site can
have a variety of purposes but you need to know what they are before you
can decide what information will go on the site and what you expect to
gain from having a site.
Some of the reasons for firm sites are:
To get new clients
To market "niche" practice
To improve communication with current clients
To provide information to current clients and/or the public
To let clients and potential clients that they are a technology savvy firm
To keep up with the competition
Ten Tips For a Website
1. Take the Time to
Take the time to decide what segment of the
population you want to visit your site. You need to decide if you want to
attract a new audience and/or your current client base. Your site might
be an electronic brochure or an electronic client newsletter or a
combination of both.
Once you have an idea of your ideal audience or market, decide
what look or "theme" will cause this market to stay to look for
information. You will also need to determine what information this market
will need to contact you for further information or come back for
If you determine that your audience is your current client
base, you need to know what information your clients want to obtain on an
on-going basis. If your practice is a single niche or if it depends
heavily on referrals from a particular profession, you might also want
your sight be a resource for your referral sources.
2. Content is King (or
should be "Content is King". Regardless of the purpose of your site, most
of the people you want to attract are looking for information. The true
value of the internet is access to information. Even if you are using you
site as an electronic brochure, you should include some useful information
to the reader.
Your site does not have to be huge or include a lot of
information. It has to be good and provide valuable and interesting
Make certain there are no grammatical or spelling errors
anywhere on the site.
3. KISS Theory
it simple, stupid should be the way for your website. The site should be
easy to navigate and it should be easy to find information. Before you
put the site up live, have some others use it and see if they can find
information that your audience wants.
4. Keep Graphics to a
sites are very exciting and colorful, the large graphics take too long to
load especially on older home computers. It is possible to have an
attractive, even bold site without huge graphics.
Make sure that you use a variety of computers when testing
your site to see how long it takes to load. You should also test older
versions of browsers to see how it looks with these older versions. Most
people do not always have the latest version.
5. Provide Links -
Lots of Links
One of the
main reasons people will "bookmark" a site is because the sites provides a
large number of valuable links. One way to have people come back to your
site again and again is to provide a large number of links your audience
will find useful. I have many law firm sites bookmarked because they
provide wonderful links to helpful sites.
One of the biggest maintenance headaches for links is making
sure that they continue to work. You should have someone regularly check
your hypertext links to make certain they are still working.
6. Include a Contact
This is a
link that will allow someone to send an e-mail to a specific address. If
you do not want it to be a specific person, you can create an alias such
firstname.lastname@example.org. Many people who use the internet are
comfortable submitting a request via e-mail. Also, many people may be on
your site when there is no one in the office to answer the phone.
You should also provide the firm's phone number and address as
well as e-mail contact and e-mail addresses.
necessary to put some disclaimers on your site especially if you are
allowing e-mail contact and are providing information.
You must let everyone know that e-mail is not
confidential and that e-mail can be intercepted.
You should have a disclaimer indicating that any e-mail
communication does not constitute legal representation. You should
indicate that simply because they request information, you are not their
lawyer and they are not your client. That would only happen if a fee or
representation letter is signed.
No information on the sight should be considered legal
advice. It is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for
8. Update Your Site
of your goals should be to have people return to your site regularly, then
it is critical that the information be updated regularly. If you want
clients or referral sources to use your site then updating is very
important. If your goal is for new clients to use the site, then this is
less important but not unimportant.
At a minimum, take down
old information especially if it is time or date sensitive. You should
indicate on your site each time the site is updated. Your site should be
updated at least weekly. It can be something as simple as "link of the
week" "news item of the week"
You need to determine who is going to do this from both a
technical and a content point of view. Very often the technical person is
not the content person. The most difficult aspect of maintaining the site
is updating the content.
9. Emphasize something
unique or special about your practice
Obviously if you have a niche practice this is very easy to do. If you
limit your practice to only doing adoptions from foreign countries, the
internet is a great place for you. If you are a general practitioner or
you practice in a number of areas, you should still find something unique
about the types of services you provide. You should be more specific when
describing your areas.
10. Yes, You Can (and
Should) Be a Little Creative
it is not necessary to use large graphics or have a wild website, this is
a great place to show a little creativity. This is an opportunity to
share some information on local events or some things that some staff may
be doing. If you are active in a small community you could include some
information on your participation. There are many ways that you could
include some creativity into your site.
11. Tell People About
that your site is up, let people know. Send announcements to all your
clients and referral sources. Send a notice or press release to smaller
local newspapers. Put the information on your business card. Make
certain your staff, friends and family know about the site and can give
out the URL.
Places To Go for More
that your look at other sites before deciding on how you want yours to
look. Some (of the many) sites to view are:
www.redstreet.com - This has a review of the National Law Journal's
top 250. While these are large firms, there is a lot of valuable
www.webpagesthatsuck.com - This is a wonderful site that is
just what it sounds like. It discusses what to do and not do with
websites. It is not just for law firms
Sites from Solos and
www.taxprophet.com This is the site of a solo practitioner
www.visalaw.com This is the site of Greg Siskind, an
immigration lawyer from Tennessee. He wrote the book on using the
internet to increase your practice. While immigration law is more suited
to the internet than most areas, this is site is amazing to view.
www.aviationlawcorp.com This is a great example of a site for a solo
with a niche practice.
www.consumerlawpage.com A site with a lot of information
www.consumerlaw.com This is an example of a site that is for Hawaii
citizens but a lot of the content is provided by two Hawaiian
I have a large packet of additional material available on creating a law
firm website. If you would like the information sent to you, contact me
email@example.com and indicate you want the material. You may also
contact me by phone at 410-685-7878 or 800-492-1964, ext 3039. Please
leave your name (spell it slowly) and your mailing address if you get my