Online, everything starts with the website.
It’s the first impression people get of your law firm.
It’s your online real estate.
Whether you are working out of a high-rise, home office, hostel, or hovel, none of that matters when it comes to your website.
A firm with an office in a beautiful building in the center of town can still have a website that makes it look like the firm is doing poorly. Or, a firm could have a beautiful, impactful web presence even though it does not have a brick-and-mortar office.
The beauty of the Internet is that anyone, from solo practitioners to big firms, can have a web presence that impresses prospective clients.
Getting that beautiful web presence starts with your web designer. Who is building your site? Are you doing it yourself, or are you hiring a freelancer or an agency?
Before we get into the details of choosing a law firm web designer, I want to take a minute to go over the do-it-yourself option.
For most firms, we do not recommend the do-it-yourself option. Why? A few reasons.
D-I-Y vs. Web Designer
Here are reasons we do not recommend the do-it-yourself option when it comes to your law firm website design.
Often, with a do-it-yourself option on a website-building platform, you are locked into one of their templates with little room to modify it. If you do not have enough content, or enough images or videos, the site can look unfinished or awkward.
One of the first websites I built for myself, years ago, it was with a template that looked great. But, after I tried to customize it, I realized that I did not have enough content to fill the space. Ultimately, I had large blank sections of this website and it looked very unfinished.
Designing a good website for a law firm takes a lot of time.
If you have a lot of time and can invest in building a website yourself, that’s great.
But, what’s the opportunity cost?
How many billable hours and how much potential income are you missing out on by spending the time to build your own site?
Beyond that, the time investment required to build a website is not minimal.
At JurisPage, a lot of our clients have come to us after trying their hand at building a site for themselves. And all of them, without exception, underestimated significantly the amount of hours it was going to take. Many also overestimated their web design skill…
“This Doesn’t Look as Good As I Hoped it Would…”
Designing a great website is not so easy that anyone can do it.
Just because there are tools that are available to everyone to use to build websites does not mean that everyone is skilled to make a great website.
As a corollary, when you find yourself in court, how skillful do you generally find the representation and trial advocacy of pro se litigants?
Same idea here.
Building your own website is like representing yourself in court.
It can be done – sometimes masterfully – but that is not often the case. It often takes much more from a time investment perspective to get to the same result. Working with counsel, or a web designer, ensures that you are working with someone who has been through the same situation before and knows how to get the best possible outcome.
Ethics in Law Firm Websites
Do you know what you can and cannot say on your website?
What does your jurisdiction permit or prohibit? Texas, for example, requires you to submit websites to their ad review board either prior to or contemporaneous with a new site launch for their review. Every state is different. It’s important that you know what you can and cannot have on your site. Any law firm web designer that works specifically with lawyers knows the right language you can use and will advise when there are issues.
Choosing a Law Firm Website Designer
How can you evaluate different law firm website designers and find the right one for your project?
When it comes to choosing who is going to design your law firm website, what do you need to know?
What experience does the designer have working with law firms? And, what about law firms in your specific practice area?
Designing a website is not one-size-fits-all. Designing a restaurant website is not like designing a lawyer website.
Experience will affect a few things. For one, turnaround time. if the designer has limited experience doing lawyer websites, your project will take longer. Experience will also affect the quality of site you end up with.
Speaking of experience, what is the customer experience like? Anyone can tell you how great they are and how customer-focused they are, but the important thing is what it’s like from a customer perspective. Ask for references. Any good web designer should have them.
Make sure your law firm web designer is aware of the ethics rules in your jurisdiction. Though you are ultimately responsible for the contents of your website and ensuring they are complaint with the ethics of your jurisdiction, it is important to ensure you are working with a company that understands what you can and can’t say on your website.
For example, you can’t say “Best Personal Injury Lawyers” in most every jurisdiction because it is a comparable characteristic that cannot be backed up. You can say something like “Compassionate Family Lawyers” though.Where this often gets dicey is with online advertisements in particular. I have come across a lot of ads for lawyers that say “Best [Insert Practice Area] Lawyers.” That’s a big red flag and could get you in trouble with any grievance committee. The unfortunate part is, many firms would probably be unaware that they are violating ethics rules.
But every state is unique. In New York, every webpage needs an “ATTORNEY ADVERTISING” disclaimer.
In Texas, screenshots of the website need to be sent to an ad review committee.
Web designers with extensive experience with law firms should know of the ethics requirements and be able to design a beautiful website that complies.
Before you even hire this web design company, are the team members answering your phone calls? Are they promptly following up with you?
How you are treated from before you are even a client is a preview of things to come. You should get prompt responses from your inquiries and requests for pricing or other materials.
How long does it take for them to respond to your emails or calls?
Good communication on a website design is critical to ensuring you wind up with a website that you are proud of.
What does their previous work look like?
Any good law firm website designer will have a portfolio of their work that they can share with you.
You will need to get a sense, before hiring your website designer, that they are up to the task of building you a website that meets your specifications.
Any web designer can promise you that your site will be made to your exact specifications, but does their prior work suggest they can do it?
Having a portfolio of quality websites is a must.
Reviews, Testimonials, and References
Anyone can say “My company does amazing work for our clients.” But ultimately, the clients are the judge of that.
What is it like working with this law firm website designer? The companies you look at should have reviews, testimonials, and references available for you to check up on.
Also, consult Google. Aside from the testimonials on the agency’s website, you should be able to find other reviews online as well. Great reviews will be able to give you a sense of what it’s like to actually work with this web designer.
A red flag is if there are no references you can look into. An excuse I’ve heard for an agency having no references is, “Our clients value their privacy.” Sure, we all do. But, any agency that does good work for its clients should be able to produce one or two clients willing to be references specifically when asked by a prospective client.
When will this project realistically get launched?
60 days? 6 months? A year?
Turnaround time is important because if you are looking to get your website launched soon, you don’t want to be waiting for it.
A good law firm website designer will have a solid process for building their websites and be able to give you a reasonable timeframe for the different steps of the process, from first draft to launch.
Conclusion – Next Steps for Hiring a Law Firm Website Designer
Not every law firm website designer is right for your firm. Companies and freelancers vary widely in terms of experience, responsiveness, and quality.
These tips can help you best evaluate the options out there and find the right partner to help you build your law firm’s website.
So, what should you do next?
Take these tips, and keep them in mind when evaluating your prospective law firm website design partners.
Also, feel free to check out this related article on 10 questions to ask a law firm web designer.
Good luck. And if you have any questions at all on how to evaluate or compare web designers, you can reach out.