Successful lawyers have long-known the following client development formula:
Doing Great Legal Work + People Telling Others = New Clients
In the digital age, this formula hasn’t changed much. However, today’s legal landscape is probably more competitive than it has ever been and communications technologies are evolving at an astonishing pace. Doing great work is necessary, but usually not sufficient. The ways people talk about their experiences with lawyers have undergone dramatic change. Today, no matter how people hear about you, at some point, it’s likely that they will look you up online. In fact, people expect to be able to find information about you online. If you desire to have any influence in communicating the value of your legal services, you ought to understand how to shape your professional presence on the web.
The following is an excerpt from the MyCaseBook: Effective Law Firm Websites, by author Guy Tsakalakis.
Building Your Site
There are a gazillion ways to plan, design, develop and launch a legal website–way too many to list here. Fortunately, we can distill down what you need to know to affordably create a legal website that you can be proud of. The web is an increasingly flexible, dynamic and social communications tool. Therefore, it’s best to avoid limiting our concept of law firm websites to rigid, static one-way brochures. Effective legal websites can take many forms. However, most them share a common characteristic: They are designed to achieve specific goals and objectives.
What is the purpose of your website? At first, this question may strike you as silly. Many of you will respond:
- To get more clients
- To market my practice
- Because someone told me I needed one.
However, the answer to this question should have a tremendous impact on the design, development and marketing of your website.
Failing to develop a website plan is among the most pervasive mistakes made by lawyers and legal marketers. If the purpose of your website is to earn meaningful attention, motivate people to take an intended action, and earn new clients, you must make a plan. Effective website planning begins with understanding your target audience. Who are the people you want to attract to your website? What demographic information do you know about them (age, sex, income, education, etc)? What about psychographic information (attitudes, values, behavior, etc)?
At one end of the design spectrum (the expensive end) you can choose to hire a professional web designer. The advantages of working with a professional designer are numerous. From appropriate application of color theory to having a completely unique design that differentiates your firm from all others, hiring a designer is usually well-worth the added cost. For our purposes, I’m going to assume you’re on a very tight budget. I’m also going to assume that you’re using WordPress. This leaves us with two main design options:
1. Choosing a Free WordPress Theme — The WordPress Theme Directory (wordpress.org/themes) has a truly amazing number of completely free WordPress themes.
+ They’re FREE!
+ If they’re in the official WP repository, they’ve undergone a review process
+ They tend to support a wide variety of plugins and configurations
– Your site will likely look like someone else’s
– Typically less support than premium themes
– No assurance of upgrades, future compatibility, etc.
– Higher risk of spam, scams and hacks
2. Choosing a Premium WordPress Theme— If you thought there were a lot options in the WordPress Theme Directory, try searching for “premium wordpress theme” in Google. There are a seemingly infinite number of premium WP themes out there.
+ It’s less likely that your site will look like others
+ Support for most well-respected premium theme vendors is superior to free themes
+ Better reliability and less risk of spam, scams and hacks
+ Better designs
– They cost money
– Excessive, unnecessary features
– Potential licensing issues
For most of the lawyers reading this, a premium theme will be the best choice. Premium WordPress themes can range from a few dollars to a couple hundred dollars. Before selecting a theme, be sure to spend some time playing with the demo. Most premium theme sites will allow you to explore a live demo before buying. You should also read the documentation and reviews. This is the best way to avoid the frustration of finding out your new theme doesn’t work the way you had planned.
For more in-depth information on building effective law firm websites, download your free PDF copy of the MyCase eBook: Effective Law Firm Websites, by author Guy Tsakalakis.