For a great law firm website, go beyond the basics

Web Design Tips for Lawyers: The Truth and Nothing But The Truth

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If you’re an attorney with a thriving practice, you probably have a website. That’s a good thing when you consider statistics related to the impact of web search and smartphone usage growth.
The structure of law firm websites come in all sizes and shapes but generally fall into three categories:

  1. A custom-built site maintained by your in-house staff or outside web consultant
  2. A template based site provided by an industry group or association with some level of content management
  3. A template based or custom open-source solution – such as WordPress, that offers full content management along with other features

Whatever category the attorney website falls into, the following is a list of basic features that should be included.

The basics

These days, a website for a law firm SHOULD include:

  1. Content management – the ability for you to add, delete, modify content on your site.
  2. Analytics code – providing data about your site’s visibility and traffic and page level activity.
  3. Base-level SEO – Strategic naming of pages and inclusion of page-level meta data.
  4. Content that answers the basic questions about the firm’s practice areas, attorneys, location and contact information.

Websites for law firms SHOULD at a minimum include the features described above. If not, it’s time to bring the firm’s website up to date. Hiring a website design & SEO services can help.

Beyond the basics

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by technical opportunities and choices. Even so, there are a number of additional features websites for lawyers could include:

  1. A blog – If a law firm publishes a newsletter in print or pdf form, they should seriously consider reformatting content for blog use. Without going into much detail, frequent, strategic blogging can positively affect site search ranking.
  2. Social Media – The ability to share content on any or all of the major social media platforms; LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or other legal social media platforms that may exist in your area.
  3. List management features – Today’s websites should include a way for visitors to add their names to a list to be contacted, or opt-in to receive important updates they may be interested in. A firm should already have their existing clients on a list. More advanced list functionality would allow a law firm to selectively target certain groups within a list and personalize messages.
  4. Offers and Landing pages – There are tight restrictions about law firms advertising. Even so, there are opportunities to provide information on an educational basis. This means that a lawyer could provide helpful information to existing and potential clients through offers and landing pages. These approaches can create leads, and ultimately build client relationships.
  5. Responsive design – Smartphone usage is growing, and search engines are becoming much more friendly to smartphones. A law firm website should be easily viewable on a smartphone. There are a few solutions. One is to build the website to respond to the viewing device (smartphone or desktop or tablet); or to build a second mobile friendly site. The second option can be a great choice if the primary site is older and would require a major upgrade to modify.

Adding the five features and activities above can dramatically improve traffic to an attorney’s website and thereby create opportunities to develop more business.

By definition, a successful law firm is most likely very busy, and the challenge of maintaining or improving an attorney website comes down to manpower or budgeting. Many firms find it difficult assign a project leader or make it a priority to do what’s needed to the website.

When it comes to blogging or publishing enewsletters, a specialized knowledge is required to write intelligently about law or changes in regulations. Typically, the firm’s own staff of attorneys have little time to dedicate to this type of writing.

The rub, and what to do about it

See your website as an on-going activity

Despite best-laid plans, gone are the days of building a law firm website, and considering the project done, even every two years. To make the most of online opportunities, portions of a website for an attorney need to be refreshed continuously.

What many firms forget is that they may be losing opportunities to competitive firms. It is very likely another firm with the same specialty as theirs is doing all the activities mentioned above and beating their competitors to the punch. Even if you choose to go with paid listings (PPC) as opposed to more organic approaches, content has to be considered a critical component.

Tackle issues one at a time:

  1. Website functionality: Find a website services consultant who will evaluate your current site and can advise on the best way to add what you need. You can search your online for web designers, SEO services, ask a peer for a name, or look to related industry and see who is building websites for those specialties.
  2. Writing: Assign writing responsibilities to a junior attorney and frame the responsibility as another form of getting business and developing relationships. These days, writing for publication should be a part of a lawyer’s job description. Leveraging the web with blog content for new business is a sort of digital networking. You can also consider outsourcing writing to an outside professional or attorney who enjoys the process.
  3. Social Media: A specialist can help you develop a strategy that is a step beyond pressing the “like” button, or re-tweeting other posts. Many design firms offer these services.
  4. SEO: many graphic and website firms who offer design and build, also offer SEO services. What’s important is to find out if they understand how to approach SEO. They need to understand the impact of search engine algorithm updates and how to navigate the issues. It is also helpful if they can appreciate your specialty, your clients, and what content will help you get found through online search.

Addressing the challenges of upgrading your website is easier with an understanding of each activity above. I hope this article helps you get the process started.

About the author: Tom Weinkle is a founder and partner of Vortex Communications, a graphic and website design firm who offers graphic and WordPress web design, build, troubleshooting and training services based in Miami, Florida. Tom has over 25 years of experience in visual communications for the healthcare, medical, law, accounting, software, financial services and banking industries.

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