Business Development

3
Oct
2016

Business Development:

Why your legal firm needs a website, and how to build one

The Clio Team
Columbus, OH



Make Yourself the Best—and Easiest—Choice for Clients


Clients make decisions about you based on your website. Not having a website for your firm means handing off potential business to lawyers that do.

While personal referrals are still the most common way for clients to find and hire a lawyer, online searches are becoming more frequent—especially among 18 to 24-year-olds. According to a recent study that looked at behavior among a set of 19,539 consumers, of the 1,578 who hired a lawyer in the previous year, 15.5% used an internet search engine to find the lawyer they chose.

When looking at the blank canvas of possibilities, deciding what to include on your site is a big step. Here, we’ll look at what goes into building a website, and your options for getting it done.

What Your Clients Need From You

For many clients, your website will be a first point of contact. Depending on your focus industry, you’ll likely want to balance a degree of professionalism with personability. Being professional means offering a clean and efficient presentation, free of errors and with a great sense of the value you provide. Being personable is about putting forward a good image of yourself and using a tone of voice that is approachable for the type of client you want to attract.

You’ll need to provide information about you and your practice. This information could live on your site’s home page, on a dedicated “About” page, or spread across multiple pages. As a rule of thumb, use as few pages as possible to minimize the amount of clicking your readers have to do to get the information they need. For a small firm, one page will be enough.

When describing your services, it may seem tempting to cast a wide net, offering every possible service under the sun. But this can be counter-intuitive. Narrowing the focus of your practice area will make you stand out among non-specialized firms, presenting you as a valuable niche expert. If you find yourself spending time dealing with bad leads—i.e. leads that aren’t a good fit for your services, or that won’t be profitable—narrowing your practice area can be a way of filtering your clients.

You’ll also want to give your clients the means in which to reach you, whether it’s through email or phone. Be sure to include this information on a contact page, and make sure it’s linked to every other page via a header or footer, or both.

Invest in Good Design

There are a few options to consider when setting up your website.

Do-it-yourself approach. There are a number of tools available to set up your own website for a marginal cost. WordPress is one of the most popular platforms, but there is a bit of a learning curve if you want to avoid the most basic and generic presentations. There are also simple drag-and-drop platforms, such as Weebly and Wix, which are fairly intuitive. While these platforms may be easy to use, it’s worth noting that there’s much to be said for professional-quality content and design—especially if you haven’t already invested in developing your own image and branding.

Professional web developers. There are many professional services that can cost as little as a few hundred dollars to more than $100,000 (not including the ongoing support to maintain them). For a simple firm, a developer should be able to create a comprehensive and unique design scheme, with proper training and support, for a few thousand dollars. Though, the number of pages, content support, and additional features can affect the overall cost. The best way to ensure you’re getting what you want, for the best price, is to shop around.

How much you want to spend on a website may depend on the industry and practice area you work in. If your firm relies on word-of-mouth referrals and repeat business, you might only need a placeholder website to build your online identity. If you firm has high turnover rates, it might be worth investing more.

Aside getting price estimates, some questions to ask when hiring a web developer:

● When will you be available to work on my website? How long will it take?

What training will you offer to show me how to use the site?

Will I be able to update content on my own?

Will you be available for support in the future? This may include software and security updates, but it could be crucial if something breaks on the site.

What steps will you take to optimize my site for search engines?

Will my site be responsive for mobile and tablet browsing?  

Who will own the domain and hosting accounts?

Some of these questions should be easy to answer up-front. Others, (cost and time, for example), will require a bit of discussion to determine your needs. You’ll want to find a developer who offers services that match your budget, level of knowledge, and time availability.

Not Just a Pretty Page

A website can be more than just a place to be found. It can be a means to engage potential clients.

By sharing knowledge and discussing issues relevant to your industry and practice area, you position yourself as an authority to potential clients. It’s all part of demonstrating your potential value. Without even meeting you, clients build their own sense of your expertise.

To make your website more than just a static repository, you can use a number of tools to create and share dynamic content—keeping your site fresh for audiences and search engines.

Blogs, articles, and white papers. Publishing regular content is a great way to make yourself seem topical and relevant to emerging issues in your industry. It’s also a great way to earn the favor of search engines, which can be lucrative in drawing traffic to your site.

Social media integration. Social media accounts can be created easily and for free on most platforms. Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are great resources for finding and reaching out to people. Published a new blog article? Let people know through social media. For people who visit your site, including a link to your social profiles can be a way to engage them again in the future.

Newsletters. If repeat clients are common in your area of practice, publishing a newsletter can be a way of keeping yourself top-of-mind whenever legal issues crop up. They don’t need to be super frequent, or even consistent. Sending a newsletter twice per year may be enough to remind previous and potential clients of your vast knowledge.

Creating a quality website 

A website can be a powerful tool—bringing together your online communications and serving as a great resource for potential clients. Make sure it’s a good representation of your practice. When preparing to work with a developer, it’s a good idea to review other websites to determine what you like, and what you might want to avoid. To help you stand out, you’ll also want to differentiate your website from other firms. Consider reviewing websites in non-competitive industries as well.

At the end of the day, you want to ensure you’re setting up good expectations for your services. If your site doesn’t reflect what you do, it might be time to look at doing a redesign.

Content courtesy of Clio.