|Many of our clients have asked our opinion on what the standards for law firm websites should be; with our 17 years of experience in this field, we've created a list of law firm website best practices.|
Too many law firm websites try to portray a firm incorrectly; as a big firm when they are not big, for instance, or as a tech-savvy firm when they get things accomplished the old-fashioned way. If you are honest with your firm's self-portrayal, you will attract the right clients for you; the ones who want a firm like yours, and will stay with you long-term. Make sure your site is an accurate reflection of who you are as a firm.
Whether the website visitor is a potential client, a referral, or a casual viewer, you don't want them to have to dig too deeply within your site's structure to find what your firm is good at. Tell them what your strengths are on the home page, on the about page, on the practice pages, and on the attorney bio pages. Your visitor will only occasionally land on your website starting with your home page, so why limit your strengths to that page alone?
Descriptions of practice areas should always be linked back to the attorneys who practice in those fields. News items should link back to the attorney(s) who are responsible for that article of news release. This inter-linking (which is easy with a proper content management tool such as LawAdmin) of information is one of the most important "best practice" of all, because it allows the website user to seamlessly weave between information and the most suitable practitioners for their needs.
For every 1 well-maintained law firm Facebook page I've seen, I've run across 10 that look flimsy and as interesting as a vacant lot. In the old days before law firms took their websites seriously, I'd run into clients who had such horrific websites I'd advise them to take the site down until we could complete their new one. The same goes for Facebook and Twitter; unless you're able to devote a reasonable amount of time to the types of social media platforms that require constant attention, you're better off with nothing. There are many other social media sites (such as Linkedin and third-party news feeds) that allow you to have a professional presence without having to update the information regularly. If your designer insists that you HAVE to have a Facebook page for your law firm, find a new designer.
You're not selling cell phones or video games, after all. You're selling a high-end professional service, which calls for some restraint in the presentation of your firm. Most video and Flash animation cannot be seen on smart phones and wireless devices anyway, so if you want to grab attention and be different be creative, and do it with a great presentation of words and testimonials and still imagery.
Your legal content management system (CMS) should be one that is developed specifically for law firms (such as the LawAdmin product), as law firms have precise needs that are unique to their industry. The CMS should allow you to easily add and update attorney information (All of it!), as well as practice area text, new and articles, and other textual page content. It should allow you to easily upload photos and PDF files, and interlink attorney biographies with practice areas, news, and other related pages. It should be usable by people with little or no knowledge of website coding (HTML). You should not pay any licensing fees on this software unless you are being provided with regular upgrades.
No one likes filling out forms. So making it easier will result in more people responding to your request that they give you their information. Don't make them enter every detail of your case - you'd prefer to do that on the phone anyway. Make sure someone is in charge of responding to them, even if the case is not something your firm handles.
This page is the most frequently visited page by far of all your website's pages. With that in mind, these elements should be given careful consideration. First, your attorney photos need to be done professionally, in a controlled setting so they are consistent. The page layout is also important; try to avoid too much text and old-fashioned case information in the biography, unless it is linked to an outside source. Make sure every bio has a v-card link, a printable page link, and when it is printed no content is lost. Many CMS systems do this automatically, and also include a special print style sheet so printed pages don't display unneeded navigation buttons and other graphics.