How to Create an Effective Law Firm Web Presence

Most first generation law firm websites are primarily attractive firm brochures and have little or no interactive functionality. However, as law firms come to realize that most of their clients and potential clients use the Internet to research firms and evaluate legal counsel, there has been a substantial increase in the level of sophistication and interactive features used on law firm websites.

Personalization

Some sites allow for visitors to customize the content on the firm's website so that on subsequent visits, the visitor is greeted by name and can bypass the introductory pages of the site. This functionality is especially relevant to firms with a large number of practice areas or several industries in which they focus.

Secure Access Sections

Secure access sections provide the firm with the opportunity to enhance client relationships and maintain contact with existing clients. While both extranets and secure access sections are password protected, secure access areas are unlike extranets in that they do not allow for collaboration.

Secure access sections of the site simply provide the firm with the opportunity to educate clients and become the client's source of information. For example, a firm with a strong construction law practice can up-sell and cross-sell to their clients by providing clients with information about trends in litigation, such as the growing number of lawsuits alleging injuries and or damages caused by toxic mold. Information can focus on mold related litigation, including the types of claims being asserted, insurance issues, the science of mold, and the importance of making an appropriate response to these types of claims. Contact information for a specific attorney should be included, as should on-line forms for inquiries.

Online Forms

Visitors can use online forms to register for newsletters and seminars and to request information about a particular practice area. Therefore, online forms provide firms with the opportunity to collect information about site visitors and their interests which helps the firm tailor site content and marketing materials. The firm should carefully monitor the information received via online forms as it may help when responding to Requests for Proposals and client meetings.

Live Chat

One law firm, Miller Nash, provides visitors the opportunity to conduct live chats with employees from the firm's Client Services Department. While many of the communications Miller Nash receives via live chat are requests for directions and other easy to answer questions, Aaron Douglas, Director of Client Services at Miller Nash, noted that the firm has attracted new clients using this feature. One word of caution is staff responding to live chats need to have a sophisticated understanding of the legal boundaries when responding to inquiries and excellent customer service and writing skills.

Optimize Content

Many firm websites provide only minimal information about the firm, do not effectively establish the firm's credibility, and/or do not encourage conversion from visitor to client.

Website content should be directed towards a specific audience. If your firm specializes in business litigation, the content should be directed towards business audience and focus on information relevant to Corporate Counsel or other business decision makers. Conversely, plaintiff's attorneys looking to attract individuals as clients should emphasize their personalized client attention, and their understanding of the real-life issues and questions faced by individual plaintiffs.

Each attorney biography should have sufficient information to establish confidence in the attorney's expertise. At the very minimum, attorney biographies should highlight the attorney's specific subject matter expertise (links to practice areas are recommended) and provide contact information and office location. I also recommend including a photo of each attorney, as it furthers familiarity and fosters relationships. Attorney biography information should be updated on a regular basis.

Practice area information should contain links to relevant subsections and contain specific experience information. A link to attorneys with expertise in a particular Practice Area should appear on every page relating to the practice area in order to ease navigation and encourage visitors to become familiar with an individual within the firm as a subject matter expert. Additional links to case studies or recent victories are suggested, but it is essential that this information be updated regularly. Practice areas are also a good place to allow visitors to register for your firm's newsletters or seminars.

Developing Community and Building Relationships Through Content

Developing community requires clients and visitors to return to your site on a regular basis.

There are several ways to attract clients, one way is to regularly update content regarding the firm, attorneys and industries. Allowing visitors to customize news and information will further establish your firm as the source of information on specific areas of the law.

If your firm regularly publishes newsletters, allow visitors to register for newsletters online and obtain delivery electronically. Newsletter registration allows the firm to collect information about the visitor, gauge site activity and disseminate information about seminars and recent victories. It is also a good idea to archive past newsletters and link the contents to related sections of the site.