Law firm websites should serve two purposes: (1) they should make it easy for potential clients to find the law firm; and (2) they should make a good impression so that potential clients become paying clients.
To do those things well, it pays to follow a few ground rules, whether you are working with a designer or going the DIY route.
The following are not hard-and-fast rules or biblical principles of web design. In fact, the first rule is . . .
No matter what you do, do it for a reason
There are no hard-and-fast rules, and the “best practices” that follow are based only on my experiences and opinions. If you want to do something else, go ahead, but be able to explain why. If you want a website with no graphics, fine. Why? If you want a website with no intake form, fine. Why?
As long as you have an answer that makes sense to you, give it a try and see how it works. With that in mind, here are my suggested best practices.
Flash is annoying, un-linkable, and un-indexable. Whatever you do, do not build your site in Flash. You will virtually guarantee your invisibility to search engines, which will make you invisible to clients.
What about lesser amounts of Flash? First, see if you can do without. If you absolutely must have a moving, fancy banner on your website, consider testing it against a non-moving banner. See which site converts more clients.
Balance text and graphics
A website with too much text is intimidating, and a good way to guarantee a high bounce rate. A website with too many graphics is slow to load and uninformative, leading to the same result.
Give your readers the information they need, but do not overwhelm them with information or choices, especially on your home page.
Tell visitors what you do
If a visitors to your website cannot understand what you do at a glance, you will lose them. Make your practice area clear in the first sentence of the first paragraph, so visitors know whether they are in the right place.
Make the first sentence something like “I represent small business” or “I file consumer bankruptcies.” Leave your mission statement for another page.
Tell visitors why they should hire you
Start paragraph two with the reason visitors should contact you and plan to hire you. What makes you the best lawyer for their case? Your unique rate structure? Your willingness to meet them in their home? Your firm’s full-service practice? Tell them up front.
Give something away
Whether a form letter, newsletter, or blank pleading, give away something valuable. Plaster your firm’s name all over it, of course, so they find their way back, but give it away with no strings attached.
Giving away legal information or tools allows you to help people before they hire you, proving your value before they even pick up the phone.
Make it easy for clients to contact you
After you have convinced potential clients that (1) you can help them, and (2) that they should hire you, make it easy for them to contact you to hire you.
Put a contact form or intake email address on every page. Clients who visit your website may prefer to contact you by email first, rather than make a phone call, but make sure they can easily find both.
Avoid being generic
Whether you are a solo lawyer or a 250+ member firm, your website should reflect your personality. Make it yours.
Skip the generic pictures of gavels, columns, or your office building, and include pictures of yourself and your employees, instead. Get away from the stock content and vanilla writing, and say something that shows who you are.