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Law Firm Websites – Where Does Yours Stand?

I've made the point many times in personal and group presentations that the advent of websites shares qualities with a communications breakthrough that took place about a hundred years prior - the telephone. As with any technology, there are the early adopters, and there are those who want to wait a while to see how it plays out. Starting in the early 20th century it became more and more apparent that every business could benefit from what the telephone had to offer, now its modern counterpart is demonstrating similar qualities. Websites haven't replaced phone communications or printed materials, but we have gradually developed expectations that we can find whatever we want online, including information about what we can buy, learn, and sell.

Like most modern businesses, yours likely has both a telephone and a website. And as we've seen the progression of the simple phone to generations of devices that are more and more advanced, so we see websites that have also grown in sophistication. With the unique nature of every law firm, there will be needs that will ultimately set your website apart from that of your competitors and affiliates - visual, functional and organizational differences.

Here's a simple exercise: conduct a mini-audit of your current web presence, examining a couple key areas to assess where yours stands in relation to others. Some are obvious, others a bit nuanced.

1. My firm's presence. What does your web presence consist of? Yes there are firms that don't even have a site; they may have only a simple listing with one of the large directory providers. If you rely on this approach, then your presence will likely appear as something stamped from a cookie cutter. When you have a site of your own, you should be able to dictate what kind of message and image you project to the world. We recommend to our clients that they periodically conduct Google searches on their own firm and their individual attorneys. This helps you see where you currently land on a SERP, and it gives you an idea of not only what you say about yourself, but what the rest of the world may be saying about you.

2. Do people get it? When glancing at a page related to your site, is it clear to the viewer what kind of law, and where you practice? There may be issues with layout, font usage, photographs, and general visual design, as well as the organization of your page content that can be altered to make it clearer at first blush.

3. Editing your site. How do you change the content of your website? (Do you?) An easy-to-use content management system can work toward ensuring that your site content stays fresh. Search engines reward sites that are alive and active with higher page rank than those that remain static. While older sites relied on html programmers to make content changes, a system like WordPress can put those controls into the hands of the owner or admin of the law firm.

Looking at expectations, what it you want the rest of the world to know as the result of your website? It generally revolves around what kind of law you practice, where, and what kind of expertise do you bring. An estate planner will take an approach that differs from a litigator; an environmental expert doesn't want to be confused with a solo whose focus is divorce.

There isn't a single simple solution that can be applied to all websites, with each business comes a unique set of needs and expectations. Similarly, there isn't a single element that will vault a firm's site to the top position on a search page; it's the cumulative effect of an orchestrated strategy. An experienced professional web design and development company is someone you should be able to work with to collaborate on visual design and content, making your site the most accurate and efficient reflection of your practice possible.

Rocky Laber

Rocky Laber is a graphic designer and web developer, principal at DSD Law Site Solutions. His experience in building websites dates back to 1994.

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About the Author: Rocky Laber is a graphic designer and web developer, principal at DSD Law Site Solutions. His experience in building websites dates back to 1994.

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