While building my law firm’s website this year, I looked at quite a few law firm sites to learn what works and what doesn’t. In the process, I learned how hard it is to design and construct a site for a law firm. I also learned that many firms’ sites have some major turnoffs.
In my opinion, these are the top five offenders:
- Filling every inch of the homepage with 10-point type. No one is going to read all that verbiage. Prospective clients are going to skim the page to see if you offer appropriate legal services, and if they like the feeling they get from your site. You will be better off having a clean-looking page with concise messages that are easy to read. And please, add a few relevant graphics or photos.
- Using only stock photos of gavels or flags and your attorneys in front of law books. Speaking of relevant photos, if you use cheesy stock photos, you will look like every other law firm that uses cheesy stock photos. Select photos that are unique to your firm and your community, ones that differentiate you and give prospective clients a glimpse into the culture of the firm. Are you ultra-professional and conservative, or are you more laid-back and approachable? And unless you have a law library in house that lawyers actually use, find a better background for those profile photos.
- Adding music or video that plays automatically when your homepage loads. If you do this, I will close the website without looking at it. This is beyond annoying. It’s okay—actually good—to have video on your website, but let the visitors decide when they want to watch it.
- Neglecting to provide lawyers’ email addresses. Every lawyer’s bio should have a phone number (at least the number for their receptionist if not their direct line) and an individual email address. Having only a “contact us” email form on your site doesn’t cut it. Some law firms may have an online intake process they want prospective clients to use, but someone may be trying to reach you for other reasons. Don’t make it a challenge to contact you. You could miss valuable opportunities.
- Having boring lawyer profiles. Every lawyer’s bio lists law school, area of law, and maybe the fancy awards they’ve won or the legal publications they’ve been in. If that’s all your profile says, it suggests you’re really boring and have no personality. Read your bio and ask yourself if everything in it is something you’d talk about at a cocktail party. If it’s not, take it out of your bio and considering adding some information about your personality, values, hobbies—and perhaps what made you become a lawyer or choose your practice area. Clients often hire individuals, not their firms. Your profile is a way to market yourself, so put your energy into it.
Ruth Carter is a lawyer, writer and speaker. Her virtual practice, The Carter Law Firm, focuses on intellectual property, social media, First Amendment and flash mob law. Named an ABA Journal 2012 Legal Rebel, Ruth is a 2011 graduate of Arizona State University College of Law, a co-founder of Improv Arizona, and she blogs weekly at UndeniableRuth.com. In “Nothing But the Ruth,” she writes about lessons she’s learning while building her virtual practice.