|Law Office Management
LOMA : Articles
Now What Do We Do? What Should Be On
By Patricia Yevics
Director, Law Office Management
Maryland State Bar Association, Inc.
In part one of this article (Is It Time To Have a Website? If Yes, Then
Here are Tips to Get Started, Bar Bulletin, August 2000), I
discussed reasons why you should have a website.
We are going to assume that you have taken my advice and you are
prepared to put up a website either on your own or using a web designer.
Now that you have made the decision you will need to decide what is going
to go onto to your site and the look you want for your site.
Top Ten Tips
1. Take the Time to Plan
Although we think of the internet and everything dot.com as
instantaneous, you still must take the time to plan your site. It is so
easy to put information or a website on the net that we forget the
importance of low-tech paper planning.
Take the time to decide what segment of the population you want to
visit your site. You need to decide if you want to attract a new audience
and/or your current client base. Your site might be an electronic brochure
or an electronic client newsletter or a combination of both.
Once you have an idea of your ideal audience or market, decide what
look or "theme" will cause this market to stay to look for
information. You will also need to determine what information this market
will need to contact you for further information or come back for
If you determine that your audience is your current client base, you
need to know what information your clients want to obtain on an on-going
basis. If your practice is a single niche or if it depends heavily on
referrals from a particular profession, you might also want your sight be
a resource for your referral sources.
Once you have decided on your theme or purpose, you will then have to
decide upon whether or not you plan to do the work or you plan to use a
consultant. Regardless of which route you choose, do the planning first.
2. Content is King (or Queen)
Your mantra should be "Content is King". Regardless of the
purpose of your site, most of the people you want to attract are looking
for information. The true value of the internet is access to information.
Even if you are using you site as an electronic brochure, you should
include some useful information to the reader.
Your site does not have to be huge or include a lot of information. It
has to be good and provide valuable and interesting information
Make certain there are no grammatical or spelling errors anywhere on
3. KISS Theory
Keep it simple, stupid should be the way for your website. The site
should be easy to navigate and it should be easy to find information.
Before you put the site up live, have some others use it and see if they
can find information that your audience wants.
4. Keep Graphics to a Minimum
While many sites are very exciting and colorful, the large graphics
take too long to load especially on older home computers. It is possible
to have an attractive, even bold site without huge graphics.
Make sure that you use a variety of computers when testing your site to
see how long it takes to load. You should also test older versions of
browsers to see how it looks with these older versions. Most people do not
always have the latest version.
It is very important to consider this if you are using a consultant
because they will have the latest versions of all software and newer
machines. What most of the public sees may be completely different from
what your web designer sees. You really need to design for a lower common
denominator unless your clients are high tech companies.
4. Provide Links - Lots of Links
One of the main reasons people will "bookmark" a site is
because the sites provides a large number of valuable links. One way to
have people come back to your site again and again is to provide a large
number of links your audience will find useful. I have many law firm sites
bookmarked because they provide wonderful links to helpful sites.
One of the biggest maintenance headaches for links is making sure that
they continue to work. You should have someone regularly check your
hypertext links to make certain they are still working. This is an
important but time-consuming and dull project so it could be assigned to
someone in the office to do during non-business hours. It is worth paying
some overtime to have it done. It can even be done from a home computer.
5. Include a Contact Us link.
This is a link that will allow someone to send an e-mail to a specific
address. If you do not want it to be a specific person, you can create an
alias such as firstname.lastname@example.org.
Many people who use the internet are comfortable submitting a request via
e-mail. Also, many people may be on your site when there is no one in the
office to answer the phone.
You should also provide the firm's phone number and address as well as
e-mail contact and e-mail addresses. Too often I have seen sites that did
not include phone numbers and addresses and only e-mail address. I am
uncomfortable dealing with any business that does not include this
Caution: E-mail must be answered as quickly as a phone call. If you are
not going to respond within 24 hours to an e-mail contact do not make this
available on your site.
It is necessary to put some disclaimers on your site especially if
you are allowing e-mail contact and are providing information.
Some warnings are:
You must let everyone know that e-mail is not confidential and that
e-mail can be intercepted.
You should have a disclaimer indicating that any e-mail communication
does not constitute legal representation. You should indicate that simple
because they request information, you are not their lawyer and they are
not your client. That would only happen if a fee or representation letter
No information on the sight should be considered legal advice. It is
for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for legal
7. Update Your Site Regularly
If one of your goals should be to have people return to your site
regularly, then it is critical that the information be updated regularly.
If you want clients or referral sources to use your site then updating is
very important. If your goal is for new clients to use the site, then this
is less important but not unimportant.
At a minimum, take down old information especially if it is time or
date sensitive. You should indicate on your site each time the site is
updated. Your site should be updated at least weekly. It can be something
as simple as "link of the week" "news item of the
You need to determine who is going to do this from both a technical and
a content point of view. Very often the technical person is not the
content person. The most difficult aspect of maintaining the site is
updating the content.
8. Emphasize something unique or special about your practice
Obviously if you have a niche practice this is very easy to do. If
you limit your practice to only doing adoptions from foreign countries,
the internet is a great place for you. If you are a general practitioner
or you practice in a number of areas, you should still find something
unique about the types of services you provide. You should be more
specific when describing your areas.
9. Yes, You Can (and Should) Be a Little Creative
While it is not necessary to use large graphics or have a wild
website, this is a great place to show a little creativity. This is
opportunity to share some information on local events or some things that
some staff may be doing. If you are active in a small community you could
include some information on your participation. There are many ways that
you could include some creativity into your site.
10. Tell People About Your Site
Now that your site is up, let people know. Send announcements to
all your clients and referral sources. Send a notice or press release to
smaller local newspapers. Put the information on your business card. Make
certain your staff, friends and family know about the site and can give
out the URL.
Places To Go for More Information
Make certain that your look at other sites before deciding on how you
want yours to look. Some (of the many) sites to view are:
www.redstreet.com - This has a
review of the National Law Journal's top 250. While these are large firms,
there is a lot of valuable information.
This is a wonderful site that is just what it sounds like. It discusses
what to do and not do with websites. It is not just for law firms
This is a list of sites listed on Findlaw's site. There are quite a few
and they are not reviewed but it is a quick way to have a large list.
Sites from Solos and Small Firms
(I intentionally did not include any websites from Maryland attorneys
because I was sure to omit some who had wonderful sites. There are many
Maryland attorneys from solo and small firm practices that have great
sites. The best place to find some of them will be on the Findlaw site)
www.taxprophet.com This is the
site of a solo practitioner
www.visalaw.com This is the site
of Greg Siskind, an immigration lawyer from Tennessee. He wrote the book
on using the internet to increase your practice. While immigration law is
more suited to the internet than most areas, this is site is amazing to
This is a great example of a site for a solo with a niche practice.
site with a lot of information
www.consumerlaw.com This is
an example of a site that is for Hawaii citizens but a lot of the content
is provided by two Hawaiian attorneys.
In addition, I have a large packet of additional material available on
creating a law firm website. If you would like the information sent to
you, contact me at email@example.com
and indicate you want the material. You may also contact me by phone at
410-685-7878 or 800-492-1964, ext 3039. Please leave your name (spell it
slowly) and your mailing address if you get my voice mail.
If we can be of any other assistance please do not hesitate to contact
us. If you missed Part One in the August issue, it is available at http://www.msba.org/departments/loma/articles/articles.htm.