[NOTE: Effective immediately, the Maryland State Bar Association has endorsed the web developer ESQSites123 to assist firms, especially solo and small firms, to develop cost-effective websites. You will need to use the code MSBA at the site in order to receive the MSBA discount.]
Each year, many of us sit down and write out, jot down or scribble a few things we would all like to achieve in the calendar year. Perennial favorites include losing those few extra pounds, spending more time with our families and less time in the office, earning more money, taking a vacation, etc. The list goes on. Some of us are able to meet the goals we set, but many of us fall a bit short.
Would you like to know a resolution you can complete in less than ten minutes? No, it is not buying a lottery ticket. Give up? It is a website for your practice.
1. Credibility. The Internet has come of age. Regardless of the type of client that you have, everyone is familiar with and has some comfort level using the Internet. Consumers (and clients are consumers) are going to the Interent to obtain information about firms. Even if potential clients are referred by others, they will “google” you or your firm. If they are not able to locate you through an Internet search, it may create a negative impression of your firm’s ability. In short, an Internet presence enhances your credibility in the eyes of potential clients.
2. Information. Once a client or potential client locates your website, there will hopefully be information that is worth reading and is up to date. Since many solo and small firm practitioners practice in more than one area of law, this is an excellent opportunity to inform clients and potential clients of all the areas that you cover.
A website is an extension of your business card. It allows you to subtly “toot your horn.” You can share information about the law and the services you can provide.
The January/February 2008 Issue of the ABA GPSOLO contained an article entitled “The Client Matters”. The article addressed the issue of keeping clients happy not just when they are clients, but even before they are clients. One way they suggested was to provide helpful free information. Robert A. Kraft, a Texas lawyer, says, “[M]y firm offers many educational articles and other information on our various websites and blogs. We have printed pamphlets available to potential clients. Do not underestimate the power of educational marketing tools.”
3. Cost. Most solo practitioners rarely, if ever, create a marketing budget. If they do, it is usually prompted by a decrease in caseload. It usually takes the form of placing a random ad in the local newspaper or, if they really want to splurge, developing and airing a commercial or taking out an ad with the local yellow pages. Though still in existence, these traditional marketing mediums are rapidly becoming antiquated. The Internet and a web presence provide a continuous presence for your practice – at a fraction of the cost.
4. Misperception. Most people who have legal problems are often afraid to contact attorneys because they believe that all lawyers charge exorbitant fees. Many potential clients who are not familiar with the legal system or have limited resources are reluctant to call a law office to discuss their legal problem. Their fear stems from the uncertainty of how fees are determined. The perception is that attorneys charge huge fees, and the average potential client is concerned about costs. The Internet – and, specifically, a website – allows an individual to gather information about you in the neutrality of their own home. In short, the anxiety clients experienced about calling a lawyer is eased because you have provided information in advance.
Although you may not directly quote your fees on your website, you can ease concerns by providing helpful information about the legal service process which includes billing and fees. [NOTE: There is a link to a PDF brochure on the MSBA website entitled Lawyers and Legal Fees, which is available for MSBA members.]
5. Profitability. You probably have used the Internet to purchase airline tickets, make hotel reservations and purchase holiday gifts. For many, that is the extent of their use of the Internet. However, millions of people are making life-changing decisions every day using information they find on the Internet.
For most people, choosing an attorney for an important issue is one of those decisions. Aside from the cost, most consumers try to do some homework on the person who will represent their legal interests. Lawyers are not immune to the power of the Internet.
A website is one of the most cost-effective ways to provide information about you and your practice to current and potential clients. It is another tool for your marketing efforts. It is also easy to track traffic on your site. One call, one client can pay for your website for quite a long time.
There are many reasons to have a website, but those mentioned in this article are meant to illustrate some of the issues which may cause you to reconsider establishing a website for your practice.
For more help with determining what to include on your website, read the article “Now What Do We Do? What to Include on Your Website”, by Pat Yevics, online at www.msba.org/departments/loma/articles/marketing/whattodo.htm
Anthony E. Kalikas is CEO and Co-Founder EsqSites123.com. Pat Yevics is Director of MSBA Law Office Management Assistance.