How many law firm websites have you seen which are little more than a quasi vanity site, which really serves no purpose in addressing the clients' matters? Worse yet are the sites so basic, bland or old that the visitor feels like they're at an Internet basement sale, looking at the "left-over" websites. In both scenarios the websites fall short of communicating the wonderful talents, competencies and skills of attorneys at the firm. We now live in a world of tech-consumers or "tech-sumers." Expectations have risen. Everything needs to happen now, faster, better and more than the day before. Why? Because technology gives us tremendous tools. It's these tools which have elevated expectations. Life is about choices, and YOU have a choice in how you will use technology to your advantage.
A View From a Potential Client
Consider the following scenario, not as a legal professional, but as a client. You live in Dallas, TX and your son attends the University of Miami. You get a phone call at 11pm on Saturday night. This can't be good. As the knot in your stomach tightens up you hear your son's voice on the other line explain that he's been in an accident. As his voice cracks on the other side, you start to feel helpless. He's ok, but needs medical attention. As you hang up the phone, you know you must do something! This situation will demand an attorney. How do you find one? Do you phone a friend? (Not if you want to keep em!) As you sit at your desk you turn to a familiar friend -- the Internet. Why, you were just on e-bay looking for that new special golf club. While online, you find Law firm "A" which only has a phone number listed. Law firm "B" has an expanded listing with not only a phone number, but they have a website too. It's just one click away. This is your choice.
The homepage of the site has a clear layout, with a group shot of the attorneys, simple navigation and a brief explanation of the kind of issues the firm handles. Not only do you see a clear example of your matter, you read further to discover this firm is very successful in handling similar cases, and has a link to "recently settled cases." And, this is all "above the fold," no scrolling or searching necessary. Additionally, you have the option of clicking on a button that takes you to a FAQ page, which answers your questions in depth regarding your son's accident. As a matter of fact, you see a resource page listing services your son may need to ensure a speedy recovery. Lastly, there's an online client form inviting you to share your issue and engage the firm. You leave all the necessary information including your son's contact information, insurance company and related data.
Poof! You're a lawyer again. What's happened here? Your website has now turned into an online tool and resource for both your firm and your client. Monday morning comes and you review the client information and start the ball rolling. Your client's stress has been reduced, his son has been contacted, his issues and concerns are being addressed.
What would have happened if upon clicking on this site your client would have seen nothing more than a bullet point, laundry list of "our attorneys" and pages filled with nothing more then, "Oh, by the way, sign our guest book and come again"? Or even worse, an opening page that refuses to open! Given your potential client's state of mind, he or she would bounce off and click to another site quicker than a rebound shot at a Knicks game. Understand though, visitors do expect engaging features and navigation that holds their attention and enables them to navigate intuitively. Whistles and bells, when applied functionally, do work. More importantly, these types of features give your site an individual custom look and feel, enabling a "sticky" site.
Tips for Your Website
Balance your site with creative yet simple design, easy navigation and most of all content! Content that most often is residing electronically in your office already. There is relatively little to no additional expense to add content to a good site. The difference between a great site and bland site isn't always the dollars, but the commitment to provide your client with valuable information.
Ensure that you are visible to your clients. I know, I know, you're saying "We get our clients by word of mouth." Well, most often when someone refers your firm, you're one of three or four choices. The decision to engage your firm may just be the difference in what lies beyond that mouse click. Search engines are still the tools of choice when someone is looking for information. Directories are rapidly become easier and more preferred due to the crush of information and vague search results. You may want to have a professional manage your search engine initiative. Leave the submission and monitoring to professionals. Why? Because that's their business. Yours is practicing the law.
Become the client's legal information portal by answering and providing information which answers questions and resolves matters. Bottom line, this is what you do best. Now, do it 24-7 at the clients', the tech-sumers' convenience and schedule.