Should You Design Your Own Website?

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Free: 10 Things the Best Law-Firm Website Designs Have in Common

For seven years, Lawyerist has published an annual list of the best law firm websites. Now, you can find out what they have in common.

If either of the following are true, you might be okay designing your own website:

  1. You have a background in art or design.
  2. People regularly (and without prompting) compliment you on your fashion sense, decorating skills, or artistic taste.

Otherwise, please don’t.

While lawyers with some design skill should definitely consider designing their own websites, just because you can figure out how to publish a web page doesn’t mean you are going to be any good at it. Many lawyers have gone before you, leaving a trail of awful websites in their wake. Don’t add to it.

Your website is the first impression you make on nearly every potential client, networking contact, opposing counsel, judge, and anyone else who looks for you online (which is, probably, 90% of people who look for you at all). Despite the fact that it is quite easy to put up a website on your own, that doesn’t mean you will make the first impression you hope to make. Instead, if you don’t meet either of the above criteria, your website probably shows visitors that you are some combination of the following: cheap, sloppy, incompetent, out of touch, clueless … you get the idea.

If you don’t meet the above criteria and don’t want to spend money on a professional website, just use your LinkedIn profile or Facebook page until you get your priorities straight (and your bank account in line). A bad website is worse than no website at all.

Of course, I know this will fall on some deaf ears, and lawyers who have no business doing so will go ahead and put up their own website. That’s good news for the rest of us, because first impressions matter.

(Now that I think about it, the above advice goes for office design, as well. Shabby offices are a plague among lawyers.)

(photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/anatomist/247782663/)

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  • I love that you posted this. I think many people have the impression that because Lawyerist has so many great articles about how to put your own site together that the prevailing opinion is that you should. As evidenced in many of the DIY-gone-wrong shows, just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.
    I often suggest to potential clients to calculate their hourly rate x the amount of “trial and error” time on creating a website. Aside from the loss in all of that potential income (or at the very least firm-building time), they’re amateurs at this. It’s always better to capitalize on someone else’s expertise. After all, isn’t that what you want your potential clients to do?

    • Yeah, it’s important to distinguish “can” from “should” when it comes to building a website.

  • Suzie Easter

    Fortunately my husband is a web designer and photographer. I have learned a lot from him and have played around with Dreamweaver, Sothink, etc. Plus I read a lot about what I’m trying. I love it.

  • Alex

    Contrary opinion: squarespace is a good place to start. You may be able to get by with an internet presence for a few months with just that. I also just hired a web designer because I recognize my own website isn’t up to snuf