General Practice, Solo & Small Firm Section

Hankering for a Homepage?
Here Are Some Things to Keep in Mind

by Erika Penzer

You have probably heard quite a lot by now about homepages or "sites" on the World Wide Web. The Web has made the front page of nearly every major newspaper and magazine in the country during the past year. And lawyers are jumping into this new medium with gusto. But many are doing so with little planning or forethought, and thus are building truly mediocre homepages. What a shame! If you're going to spend the time and money to put something up on the Web--and by the way, compared to your other marketing options on-line, this is by far the most expensive and time-consuming--you might as well do it right.

Before you leap feet first into cyberspace, here are some things you should consider. First, timeliness. One of the worst things about the Web is that people have to choose to visit your homepage--unlike a magazine, it's not a publication you can deliver to someone's door. A Web publisher, therefore, needs to give people a reason to visit a site and to come back again and again.

The best way to do this is to update the materials on the site regularly and frequently. A few law firms have started having "What's New" or "News Highlights" sections on their sites that change every few weeks. But not many. Wouldn't it be great for a law firm site to have a section at the top that says "Today's (or This Week's) Top Legal News" with links to news that the Supreme Court has agreed to hear certain cases, to lawsuits that have been filed, or to important decisions coming down? As a visitor, this would tell me that (1) the firm keeps up with important developments, (2) they are interested in getting me the information they think I need to know, and (3) they are actually putting some ongoing effort into maintaining their Web presence.

One of the biggest mistakes law firms make in setting up Web sites is creating the equivalent of their brochures or bios. I have looked at dozens of law firm sites, and I can tell you that if I were a client, I would have no interest in clicking my way through a law firm's brochure, when I could just as easily read it on paper.

Content is king on the Web. Newsletters, articles, checklists, summaries of frequently asked questions--these are the items that win over Web visitors. Like any publisher, a law firm needs to think about the audience it's trying to reach with its Web sites. Most people surfing the Web aren't corporate counsel; they're small business owners (or small-business dreamers), and, for the most part, they aren't too familiar with the law, the way law firms work, hiring lawyers, etc. And they don't much care how many lawyers are in the firm or who the managing partner is. They want information they can use.

Erika Penzer is executive editor of Lexis Counsel Connect.

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