I’ve spent some time recently doing some research that required me to look at a lot of law firm websites. I have a few observations.
I first wrote and spoke about law firm web pages in 1996. You can see a review of St. Louis law firm sites I did in 1998/1999 here, which might be interesting for nostalgia and other reasons. Most of my wrting on law firm web pages can be found in the collected columns called The Internet Roundtable I co-write with Jerry Lawson and Brenda Howard on LLRX.com.
However, I have written much, if anything, about websites in the blog/RSS era – that’s how much blogs and RSS have changed the landscape.
It would be very instructive for firms without blogs to look at a few law-related blogs and then visit their own website. Traditional websites seem so, well, static in comparison.
I was looking for specific information, including contact information for individual lawyers, so I did not take an in-depth look at any of the sites I visited. In general, my sense is that many firms have websites that are working against them and not for them.
Here are a few problem areas:
1. Not Considering Likely Usage. Many times, I go to a law firm website simply to get contact information for a lawyer or the firm (phone number, mailing address , email address). I have to believe that this a common reason people go to websites. It surprises me how many websites do not have the office mailing addresss and main phone number on the front page. It shocks me, though, how difficult some sites make it to find that information. As an another example, it can take a trip to several pages and a search box or two to find lawyer bios, some of which still do not include phone numbers and email addresses. It’s almost impossible to put standard contact info in too many places on a website.
2. Making the Biographies Hard to Find and Use. I do not mind finding a page that has a short bio (with contact info) and a link to PDF version of the full (long) bio. However, some firms force you to go directly to the long PDF bio (which sometimes does not have the firm’s name or the lawyer’s direct dial number or email address). Even worse, some of the long PDF bios have not been optimized for the web and take a long time to download. PDFs can be quite useful, especially if you expect someone to print them out, but what happens a few weeks or months later when I look at the printout of your bio and it doesn’t include the firm name on it or other contact info?
3. Building a Fortress Around Your Email Addresses. Many times, I go to a law firm website just to get an email address for someone I’ve met or already know. At some law firm websites, it would be easier to get into the office safe than it is to get a lawyer’s email address. While my guess is that this is done as a spam prevention technique, it sends a clear “do not email us” message. This is bad idea for at least three reasons. 1. Your clients and people who might be looking for your email address to ask you if you were interested in a referral might not bother to track you down by other routes. 2. In every case where there was a method to shield email addresses in some way, I could find the email address through Google or another route. 3. These techniques offer no protection against spammers, but they do work to discourage people from sending you work. By the way, many bloggers also are guilty of this.
4. Forgetting the Non-Lawyers in the Firm. From legal administrators to IT directors to librarians and others, many firms have employees who appear in public through speaking, writing and other channels. As many people have noted, very few law firm websites contain any mention whatsoever of these people. That’s unfortunate because someone may have met one of these people and then try to contact them as an entry point for a potential new client or referral.
5. A Relentlessly Internal Focus. Law firm websites generally are organized in ways that make sense only to insiders of the firm. This makes them expecially hard to use and navigate.
Oh, you wouldn’t be surprised to find that I had a bunch of other observations as well, but these struck me as being both very basic and very fixable.
It’s probably a good time to look at your law firm’s website with fresh eyes.
Here are three suggestions:
1. Visit 5 or 6 of the websites (non-law) that you use on a regular basis (Amazon, et al). Then visit your law firm’s website.
2. Visit 5 or 6 of your clients’ websites. Then visit your website.
3. Visit a few of the websites of your law firm competitors. Then visit your website.
I think that you’ll have plenty of notes by the end of that process.
Although many of the tools and feature of websites have changed in the last ten years, most of the core principles remain in place. First and foremost of the principles is to think like someone who is actually trying to use your website.
By the way, I did bail out on some websites before finding the contact information I wanted. I hope it wasn’t your website, but can you be sure it wasn’t?
[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (https://www.denniskennedy.com/blog/)]
Learn more about legal technology and law firm websites at Dennis Kennedy’s Legal Technology Central page.
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