The Internet is today’s yellow pages. And for a lawyer, a quality website is a must to get your name out. But there are a variety of issues to consider before you establish an Internet presence.
DIY or expert services?
There are many website designers, including companies that provide you with all the do-it-yourself tools needed to build and maintain your own site. DIY projects are far less pricey; but, the finished product is usually basic and quite boring. In contrast, third-party website designers provide a variety of specialized website services, from building to hosting to marketing the site, all at various price points.
If you decide to hire an expert, choose one that specializes in law firms, especially small firms or solos, if applicable. Ask for a list of websites the company has designed to verify the quality of its work.
Don’t settle for the first website designer you find. Reputable companies will provide a free consultation. Take advantage of this and ask for a list of services and prices up front as prices can vary wildly from company to company.
For a quality website containing about 20 webpages, expect to pay at least $3,000–$5,000 (plus a nominal monthly hosting fee). If you want additional bells and whistles, such as advanced marketing (see below), you may pay many thousands more per year.
Think carefully about what you will name your website, i.e., what your Web address will be. You must choose a domain name and register it through a variety of companies maintain lists of available domain names. Your website designer can do this for you.
Personal names are a popular choice (e.g., www.johnafischerlawfirm.com), but if your name or a name of one of the members of your firm is difficult to spell, consider using initials (e.g., www.dfattorneys.com for Dearie & Fischer LLC). Or reference your area of practice or location (e.g., www.clevelandricoattorney.com). Check your state’s ethical rules for any restrictions on naming conventions.
Also obtain an e-mail address that is tied to your domain name. Even DIY website-building services provide e-mail addresses for your domain name. Although many lawyers still use Gmail or AOL for work e-mail, such addresses are not professional and will not build confidence in potential or current clients.
It is best to keep your homepage short and simple. Include a brief introduction of you or your firm and the services you provide. Long articles or running blogs just clutter up the page and make it difficult to find the important information—your contact number. Remember, most clients still want to talk to a real person at the end of the day. So make it easy for them to find your number.
Most website designers will include an automated e-mail form on your homepage so prospective clients can enter their contact information and send you an e-mail regarding their legal problem. This technique makes finding clients easier (in fact, they find you).
At minimum, in addition to your homepage, you should have a biographical webpage for you (and the other members of your firm) and individual webpages devoted to the areas in which you practice. You might also consider a page highlighting your latest achievements. An article touting a recent summary judgment victory will instill confidence in prospective clients.
Consider a blog
Some attorneys maintain a blog on their websites that discuss current events in the legal field, especially in their areas of practice. If you blog, make sure to update it regularly to help prioritize your website in many search engines. Stale postings from months or, even worse, years ago will not instill confidence in a prospective client.
Most third-party website designers offer additional marketing packages. These services will help to prioritize your firm’s website on the most popular search engines. Remember, many prospective clients call the first attorney they can find; so, getting priority listing on a popular search engine can reap great rewards. This process can be expensive, so check pricing and your budget before proceeding.
Most clients expect to find their attorneys on the Internet; yet, many solos and small firms still lack a basic Internet presence. Consider taking this all-important step into cyberspace.
Lawyer Websites: Ethical Traps and How to Avoid Them (1.50 CLE Credit Hrs. Audio CD Package). 2010. The Center for Professional Responsibility and Section of Family Law.
Social Media for Lawyers: The Next Frontier. 2010. Law Practice Management Section.