Decide the Purpose of Your Site
Your site can serve 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 gain new clients
To market a “niche” practice
To improve communication with current clients
To provide information to current clients and/or the
To let clients and potential clients know that they
are a tech-savvy firm
To keep up with the competition.
Eleven Tips for a Website
1. Take the time to plan. Take the time to decide what segment
of the population you want visiting your site. Do you want to attract a new
audience and/or your current client base? Your site might be an electronic
brochure, 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 in order to contact you for further information or come back for additional
If you determine that your audience is your current client
base, you need to know what information your clients want to obtain on an ongoing
basis. If your practice focuses on a single niche or if it depends heavily
on referrals from a particular profession, you might also want your site to
be a resource for your referral sources.
2. Content is king (or queen). This should
be your mantra. Regardless of your site’s purpose, most of the people
you want to attract are looking for information. The true value of the Internet
is the access to information that it provides. Even if you are using your site
as an electronic brochure, you should include some useful information to the
Your site does not have to be huge or include a lot of information.
But it must be good, providing information that is both valuable and interesting.
Also, make certain that there are no grammatical or spelling
errors anywhere on the site.
3. The KISS theory. “K(eep) I(t) S(imple),
S(tupid)” should be the ethos behind your site’s design. 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 minimum. While many sites
are very exciting and colorful, 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 those older versions, as 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; hence, one way to have people return to your site again
and again is to provide a large number of links that 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 Us” link. 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
as email@example.com. Many people who use the Internet are comfortable submitting
a request via e-mail. Also, many people may be visiting 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.
7. Include a disclaimer. It is necessary to
put some disclaimers on your site, especially if you are providing information
and allowing e-mail contact. Here are some warnings that should be included:
Let everyone know that e-mail is not confidential and that
it can be intercepted.
Include a disclaimer indicating that any e-mail communication
does not constitute legal representation. You should clearly 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
No information on the site should be considered legal advice;
rather, it is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for legal
8. Update your site regularly. Should you want
people to return to your site regularly 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 primary goal is for new clients to
use the site, keeping information up to date is less critical, though not entirely
At a minimum, remove old information from the site, especially
if it is time-sensitive. You should indicate on your site each time the site
is updated (ideally no less than weekly). The update can be something as simple
as the “link of the week” or “news item of the week”.
Determine who is going to do this, from both a technical
and a content point of view (the technical person is seldom the content person).
The most difficult aspect of maintaining the site is updating the content.
9. Emphasize something unique or special about your
practice. If you have a niche practice, this is obviously very
easy to do. If you limit your practice to, say, 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 that you provide. Be more
specific when describing your areas.
10. Yes, you can (and should) be a little creative. While
it is not necessary to use large graphics or all the bells and whistles, your
website is a great place to show a little creativity. It is a fine opportunity
to share information on local events or some activities or accomplishments
of your staff. If you are active in a small community, consider including some
information on your participation in local activities.
11. Tell people about your site. Now that your
site is up, let people know about it! Send announcements to all of your clients
and referral sources. Send a notice or press release to smaller local newspapers.
Put the information on your business card. Give out the URL, and make certain
that your staff, friends and family know about the site.
Places to Go for More Information
Be sure to 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 information.
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, and it is not just for law firms.
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
site is nonetheless amazing to view.
www.aviationlawcorp.com – This
is a great example of a site for a solo with a niche practice.
www.consumerlawpage.com – This
site features a lot of information.
www.consumerlaw.com – Compiled
by a pair of Hawaiian attorneys, this site provides a lot of information
for citizens of the Aloha State.
In addition, I have a large packet of additional material
available on creating a law firm website; contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and
indicate that you want the material, and it will be sent to you. You may also
contact me by phone at (410) 685-7878 or (800) 492-1964, ext. 3039. If leaving
a voice mail, please leave your name (spell it slowly) and your mailing address.