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Faulkner's Practical Web Strategies for Attorneys: New Year's Resolution: Update Your Website

By Frederick L. Faulkner IV, Published on June 10, 2006
Frederick L. Faulkner IV is the Webmaster of the American Bar Association. Fred discusses the "big picture" regarding the Internet, marketing, and business at his Website, From the 21st Floor

It is a new year and we've all jotted down a few resolutions for ourselves - and probably already broken a few too. So now is a good time to also make a few resolutions for your organization as well. Start things off this year with a fresh look for one of the most public faces of your firm - your website.

It is easy to forget about your website after you first launch it. Many law firms have what is typically called a "brochure" site, which is just a few pages of marketing copy about their firm and what type of services they provide. With the web increasingly becoming an integral part of our daily lives, including locating products and services, your website may require some freshening up. This is not to suggest that you need to completely redesign your website, but there are several types of approaches you can take to update your site, ranging from easy to challenging projects. You will want to focus on updates that will help you bring in clients who are more informed about you and your firm, what you do, and how you can help them.

Easy

Don't have a lot of time to dedicate to updating your website? These easy updates are the ones you can make in the shortest amount of time possible, yet which can still improve your website by leaps and bounds.

Marketing Copy.When was the last time you looked at the copy on your website? Was it last year? When the site was launched back in 2003? By revising your marketing copy you can give your website an intellectual face-lift. One tip when revising marketing copy - remember that visitors scan, more than read, long paragraphs of copy. Break your copy up into coherent chunks, and use sub-heads so visitors can hone in on what they are looking for quickly.

Attorney Bios & Photos. Have your attorneys been published in the last year? Have they won significant cases or been involved in visible pro bono or public service projects? Make sure their biographies reflect these additions. Clients like to see more than an educational background for attorneys they may potentially work with. Plus, are you still using black and white photos of your attorneys? Maybe it is time for a new photo shoot where you can get color photos of your attorneys. These photos can be multi-purposed and also used for press releases, brochures, and publications.

Contact Information, Directions, and Maps. You always want to ensure that your potential clients know how to contact you and find your office. Having a main office phone number (or client intake line), detailed directions to your firm, as well as a map, is a great client service. Don't make them take the extra step to look you up on an Internet map service; give them one right on your website. A bonus to having this information on your site is that it will help your firm get picked up on local search results as well.

Moderate

Looking to make more of a change to your website this year? The following suggestions will take some more time to implement, but will nevertheless enhance your website offerings.

Add a Blog. It seems simple to do, but I put this in the moderate category only because your firm will have to find the right attorney(s) who you want to blog on the firm's behalf. Blogs are a great way to demonstrate that your firm and attorneys are knowledgeable about current legal topics in the sectors/arenas you support. By adding a blog to your firm's site, you can provide additional content in an easy to manage interface. Don't want to host this on your own? There are services available that will help you get one up in running in no-time flat. [example: Justia: Law Firm Web Site Design]

Add or Update Your Client Intake Form. An online client intake form is a great way to screen potential clients before they call. If you already have a client intake form, this would be a great time to review it. Talk to the other attorneys in your firm and see if they find they are missing important information that can be added to the intake form. The more you know before taking on a case the better position you will be in to serve those clients.

Basic Search Engine Optimization. It is important that firms have websites so potential clients can be informed about you and your services before they call you for the first time. Of course your firm's site needs to be found on the Internet for this to work effectively. There are basic search engine optimization techniques you can implement on your Website that will help with your search engine rankings. A couple of things to quickly look at include:

Difficult

Difficult also means very time consuming. Implementing the tasks here will most likely require a committee and marketing team to make crucial decisions as well as staff or an outside firm to implement them.

Accessibility Compliance. One of the most overlooked aspects of a website is accessibility. If you are a law firm who specializes in cases for the disabled, your website should be optimized to be read by screen readers (for clients with limited vision). Accessibility also covers viewing websites on other devices such as Smart Phones, TV, and BlackBerry devices. While these are not as critical as screen readers, with the increasing popularity of alternative devices to surf the web, taking proper measures may benefit your firm.

Usability Study. Are you sure your potential clients are finding the information they are looking for that is crucial to making their decision to use your firm? Sometimes a navigation structure or organization seems logical to you and your planning committee, but in reality it is not for the visitor. Going through a usability study can help optimize your site to convert visitors to clients in the quickest fashion possible. It is suggested that you do not do this on your own, but rather use an experienced firm to conduct the study.

Complete Website Redesign. If you are looking to do the two tasks above, you might consider a complete website redesign. This will allow you to build a more robust back-end structure that will accommodate multiple reading devices, screen readers, as well as to integrate a blog right into your design. Using proper Web Standards for coding and structure, you will be able to make adjustments in the future in less time and more efficiently. The other advantage of redesigning your website is that it will allow you to make sure you are incorporating your website into your firm's marketing strategy.