November 2013 | The Internet Marketing Issue
Quickly Making a Professional-Looking Website
I am constantly surprised at the number of lawyers and law firms choosing not to have websites. The reasoning frequently is along the lines of, “I get all my clients from referrals.” I agree, referrals are the best source of clients, but potential clients want to know about their potential lawyers. Providing a website is a great way for those clients to get to know you. In addition, failing to have a website means that you are limiting how clients can find you. What happens if your referral sources dry up? Or how about expanding your practice? In addition, most lawyers do not get enough clients through referrals. They need alternative sources. These days, the best source for clients, bar none, is a well-designed, informative website.
I believe lawyers do not have websites for a variety of reasons. They might be uncertain how to create a site, concerned about being ripped off by vendors, and worried about ethical requirements. I don’t blame my colleagues for these concerns. Creating a website can be complicated, it is hard to find a good (and reasonably priced) web designer, and many web designers do not understand or appreciate our ethical requirements. Fortunately, a solution is available for all of these concerns: WordPress.
WordPress is (mostly) free software that is used to create millions of websites around the world. You might have heard of WordPress, probably as a blogging tool. But WordPress is much more than blogging software, it is a quick and relatively simple way to create your own website. In addition, once you create your website, you can avoid the pitfall that most firms encounter: failing to keep the website up to date.
WordPress is easily installed (if you choose the right host) and easily managed day-to-day. Further, if you prefer to work with a designer for the initial set up of your site, using WordPress means you can save money in the future by editing or adding pages and blog posts, along with media such as video and pictures, on your own.
Should you desire to create your own website using WordPress, you need to think about and obtain a few things before you begin.
The first thing you need is a domain name. The domain name is what people type to get to your website. Give a lot of thought to your domain name, because it is your branding on the web. Your domain name should not only be your website address, but your email address. If you are using @aol.com or @gmail.com, now is the time to change your email address. Don’t worry about losing emails, you can simply forward your old address to your new one for as long as you need. Once you pick your domain name, you will need to register it with a domain registrar such as Bluehost or Hostgator.
Next you need to obtain a web host. This is the provider who will store the content of your website. Be sure to choose a high-quality host, and don’t go for the cheapest package. You can expect to spend between $6 and $20 per month for a base level of service, depending on the host and how much you pay in advance (many web hosts will give a discount for paying for a year of web hosting in advance, rather than paying on a monthly basis).
After you identify and purchase your domain name and hosting plan, installation of WordPress is easy, if you choose a host that offers one-click installation. Both Bluehost and Hostgator offer good hosting and quick installation of WordPress. For the average law firm, either host would work quite well.
The next step is to design your site. Designing your site can be an out-of-the box process if you desire. The design of a WordPress site is based on a theme. WordPress offers many free or inexpensive themes that you can use just as they are. Begin with a simple theme that pleases your eye. Get your website up and running and then, over time, you can make changes to the theme by using applications called plug-ins (they add functionality to the back end of your website) and widgets (they add functionality to the front end or user side of your website.)
Begin with simple content, adding pages and details as you have time and are able. Start with a welcoming home page that describes your firm. Then add in your practice areas, bios and other useful information. Let potential clients understand who you are and what you do. Don’t forget to use pictures. Take photos of the lawyers and staff and put them on the site. Consider using video to introduce the lawyers. It is fine to take a video with your iPhone, post it on YouTube and then put it onto your website.
Every law firm should have a website. At the early stages, don’t worry about SEO or glitz and glamour. Begin with a basic, professional-looking site that you can easily add to and update yourself. WordPress enables law firms to get up and running with a website that they completely control, quickly and relatively easily. Learn more and try WordPress out by visiting www.wordpress.org and www.wordpress.com, and keep an eye out for my forthcoming book, WordPress in One Hour for Lawyers, from the Law Practice Division.
Jennifer Ellis is an attorney with the Philadelphia firm of Lowenthal & Abrams, and is a law practice management consultant. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
LAW PRACTICE TODAY
Micah U Buchdahl, HTMLawyers, Inc
Allison C. Shields, Legal Ease Consulting, Inc.
Andrea Malone, White and Williams LLP
BOARD OF EDITORS
Janis Alexander, Ambrose Law Group LLC
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Leah Beckham, BillBLAST
John Bowers, Fox Rothschild LLP
Amy Drushal, Trenam Kemker
Chase Edwards, Paul M. Hebert Law School, Louisiana State University
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Richard Goldstein, Goldstein Patent Law
Katy Goshtasbi, KG Consulting Group Inc, d/b/a Puris Image
Alan Craig Haston, The Haston Law Firm, P.C.
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Kathryn M Jakabcin, Young Conaway Stargatt & Taylor LLP
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Jay Roderik "Rod" Stephen, The Stephens Law Firm
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