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.
Isn’t that the truth? —Ed.
Sam Glover may have his finger on the pulse of technology, run a successful law practice blog, and write PHP code in his sleep, but lets be realistic. We have all learned many lessons the hard way, such as the “time is money” lesson, and the “stick to what you know” lesson. As a result, we are all painfully sympathetic to newer shows like Renovation Realities , Rescue Renovation, and Disaster DIY that often feature homeowners getting in over their heads.
Likewise, I have had a few too many experiences recently with clients who attempt to tackle website design only to have it explode like a homeowner hitting a sewer main. In the same way you do not want DIY legal clients, I prefer not to have DIY marketing clients.
PHP is Not Taught in Law School
You spent a lot of time and money in law school. Those of us non-lawyers who do this website stuff for a living have also spent a lot of time and money figuring it out. How about we shake hands and agree that you do your lawyer stuff, and we’ll stick to the PHP coding? First ask yourself why you are spending this time on learning about websites. Is coding something that you will be able to replicate and monetize? If not, it is a waste of time, and something you should be hiring someone to do for a few bucks an hour while you spend time starting your firm, fine tuning your business plan, and supporting your real expertise. You know, the one you went to law school for.
Sam is the Exception, Not The Rule
Sam Glover is one of the rare exceptions that can understand code, can also make things look good, and enjoys both aspects. Within the world of people who create websites there are generally two groups, those from a design background and those from a programming background. Generally speaking, the websites done by each are usually lacking in the opposite area. So designer’s sites are usually great to look at but weaker on the technical and programming and vice versa. While this might seem like a simple ability, it is like an albino panda born in the wild. Do not expect to be able to do this on your own, and why should you? You are a lawyer.
The Value of Your Time
There are close to a million articles (give or take) on this site discussing the importance of time management, being organized, and valuing your time. Read those, determine what your time is worth, then realize how much you are spending when you waste a few hours here and there on your website. If you don’t value your time, why should your clients?
Focus on what you’re known for and the advice your friends seek from you. I’m guessing it is not creating websites. You only have so much time and while a programmer is putting together your website you should be finding new ways to establish yourself within your chosen niche.
The First Step: Asking for Help
Asking for help is not a weakness. Putting together a website seems like something you should be able to do on your own, but should you? My clients often start by apologizing for not being extremely tech-saavy and my response is always the same: “Don’t worry about it I’m not a good lawyer, either. You are a lawyer, you are not supposed to be good at making websites.” If you have no background in websites or comfort level with coding it is probably better to recognize your limitations.
As my former CEO used to say, “I am no genius. I just surround myself with the smartest people I know and they make me look good.” I know my limits and realize there are times when there are much more informed technical guys that I could just reference rather than trying to figure something out myself. Often times, half (or more) of the battle is knowing where to find the answers and sometimes it’s with someone else.
Your Blog Will Not Be Lawyerist or Caveat Emptor
The Lawyerist website has taken years to achieve their level of traffic, in addition to a pursuit of advertisers, multiple promotion methods, and a seemingly tireless Sam Glover. Even CaveatEmptor.com, the blog that more directly feeds his practice, does better than average. Over at the LAB, a few members have shared the details on the traffic to their blogs and websites most of which average around 200-300 hits per month (as compared to the 7500 hits Sam had for the same month). Don’t get me wrong, having a blog is a great idea. However, my philosophy is that it should be approached as a long-term branding activity, not a quick road to fame and fortune. Your blog should support your expertise and offer value, improving your overall reputation. So stop trying to make it look or function like Sam’s blog and do something that reflects your own style and practice area.
The Parts Versus the Whole
Relying on expert assistance means that you are capitalizing on their institutional knowledge. You are not just receiving the bundle of code that they are writing, but the knowledge that that bundle is more effective than a bundle they created last year that did not work. You are getting all of their learned mistakes, all of the awareness they have of the entire industry (the internet industry, not the legal industry) and all the lessons they have ever learned.
I have requests for assistance from DIY attorneys all the time asking for help in the code of their site. I do not mind pointing people in the right direction (within reason). Not every bit of your technology, website or blog needs to be setup by an expert, however you will not succeed in attempting to emulate an expert’s practices by piecing together a chunk or two of their code. Grabbing some source code is not the same as getting the source of their success.