This blog post is a follow up to my video, Every Lawyer Should Have a Website.
If you do not have a website for your firm, you are missing out on the best and least expensive way to market to potential clients. Today, in the time of COVID-19, lawyers need websites more than ever.
Potential Clients are Looking for Lawyers Online
For years now most people in the US have been using the web to identify products and services. This includes choosing attorneys. In addition, if a potential client learns about you through a referral, they are likely to look you up online to learn about you. If you do not have an online presence, or that presence is negative, the potential client may decide to look elsewhere.
Your Website Needs be Well-Designed, Work Properly, and Correct
If you have a website but it is outdated, does not work properly on phones and tablets, or has errors on it, people will think poorly of you. Every page should work, there should be no broken links, contact forms should work properly and your office should respond to messages quickly. There should be no typographical errors or grammatical mistakes in the content. Your website should be easy to navigate and follow modern design conventions. In short, you want to put your best foot forward.
Make Sure Your Website Explains Who You Are and What You Do
The two most important pages on your website are your home page and your biography. Take the time to craft a biography that is compelling. Tell potential clients who you are, your philosophy of practice, and why they should retain you. The credentials that we lawyers think matter rarely mean anything to clients. List your credentials beneath your biography. Consider making a short video to introduce yourself. Always include a recent, high quality picture.
Write Appropriate Content
Unless your clients are lawyers, do not write your website for lawyers, write for your potential clients. Explain the practice areas you handle and why you are uniquely qualified to represent the people reading your site. Focus on educating potential clients about you and the law. Do not focus on salesy content but make sure you include calls to action on every page. Ask people to call, email, or use the contact form to reach you.
Each page should focus on one major issue. For example, if you practice family law, you should have a general family law page, and then separate pages for each specific area: divorce, custody, child support, and so on. This helps Google for SEO (search engine optimization) purposes. It also helps you organize your site and provides the information potential clients need.
If you have time, consider writing blog posts monthly, or if possible, weekly. Pages tend to have your practice area content blog posts tend to dive more deeply into a topic. For example, this article, would not be a very good page, but it would be a good blog post. Blog posts are a good way to show that you are knowledgeable about the law, update your clients and potential clients, and develop an online reputation.
Your Website Must Be Secure
Your website needs to use correct code and have a properly installed SSL certificate to be secure. Every URL should have a lock on it. The lock shows that you have an SSL certificate that is working on the page. You have probably noticed that some sites have a URL that begins http and some have one that begins https. Think of the S as standing for security. Essentially, what it means is that the data being sent to and from the website’s server is encrypted and difficult to hack.
Website ranking is directly impacted by the security of a website. In most cases, when you conduct a search on Google, the top results will have proper security. This means if you do not have a secure site, even if you have excellent content, your site may not rank well in search engine result pages. (SERPs).
Ethically speaking, failing to have a secure website can be a violation of Pennsylvania Ethics Rule 1.6 = Confidentiality, if you are asking clients or potential clients to send confidential information through your site. Your contact forms should be secure, and you should have proper disclaimers on your site. This means a disclaimer at the bottom of every page, a full disclaimer page, and a disclaimer connected to any forms.
Reviews Matter – Seek Them Out
Studies show that 97% of people use online reviews to inform their purchasing decisions. Positive online reviews can make a big difference in your success in obtaining clients. You also do not want to be playing catch up if someone decides to be negative about you online.
Consider sending out an email to happy clients asking them to review you. The email should include links to sites where they can review you and instructions on how to do so. Google Business, Yelp, your Facebook page, these are all good places to ask for reviews. If you need to choose one, pick Google Business. Once you get reviews, you can put them on your website as well. Make sure your clients are ok with this. Obviously, it is critical to follow the ethical rules when asking for reviews.
If you get a negative review, it is important to respond appropriately. Getting angry and attacking the client is just going to make potential clients think poorly of you. Revealing confidential information is not allowed and is an ethical violation. Threatening to sue those who write false reviews rarely goes well. It is best to respond politely by encouraging the person to reach out to you to discuss any concerns (if they were a client). If you prefer, you may respond that you are unable to fully discuss the issue due to attorney ethics rules, but you disagree with the review. See PBA Ethics Opinion 2014-200 for suggestions on how to properly respond to negative online reviews.
How to Get a Website
The easiest way to get a website is to hire someone to make one for you. This may or may not be expensive, depending on your perspective and the complexity of your site. Make sure the person who writes your content understands attorney ethics rules and review all content to make sure it is appropriate. In the end, the company that wrote the content is not responsible for ethical violations, you are.
I recommend that attorneys have websites created on the WordPress platform. The platform is free, and it is easy to work with. This means you can add pictures, add or remove pages, make small edits, all without needing to pay someone to keep working on your site. If you want to create your own website, WordPress is a great choice. You will need a host to work with your website. My current recommendation is WPEngine.
Two other (relatively) quick options are Squarespace and Wix. Both companies are proprietary in nature. By this I mean that if you decide you no longer want to be with them, you will need to create a new website. You can take your content, but that is it. There are many other proprietary drag and drop website options as well. Some easy to use, some not so much.
Regardless of what platform you use to create your website, you will need a domain name. Stay away from .law domain names, they were a swing and a miss. You should try to get a .com domain name if you can. Virtually any registrar will work. I like GoDaddy because it plays well with other services. I also have used BlueHost, HostGator, and others. You should keep your website host separate from your domain name registrar for security reasons.
You also should not let someone else put your domain name or your hosting in their name. It is very easy for someone to take off with your domain name or website if they have them in their accounts. While you certainly can sue to get domains and hosting accounts back, your website will be down, and your domain name could be redirected during that time. You can lose access to your email as well. It is easy enough to go online and buy what you need. If you need help, the business working with you should be willing to assist you while making sure you maintain ownership of everything. Your contract with your website designer should make clear who owns the site, including the content, the domain name, and everything else.
If you do not have a website, this is the time to create one. Websites are the best way for clients to find you. Whether you hire someone to make your site or create it yourself, make sure it is properly designed, well written, works well on all types of devices, and follows attorney ethics rules. Your website may well be the first impression potential clients and other lawyers have of you. Make sure that impression is a good one.