Your Website in 2016
There is an age old adage, often expressed by my grandmother, that "fish and relatives go bad after three days." While websites don't "go bad" that fast, they can become stale if left to vegetate over long periods of time. If, for example, your competitor's website simply looks better than yours, your content doesn't give clients information they can use, there are broken links, or the site is not mobile-friendly, it's time for a new website.
In 2016, a website and web presence is both a convenience and the standard by which consumers judge your business. If you can't be found on the Internet, you may be considered unprofessional by potential clients.
How can you make your website the best it can be?
First, consider the goals for your website and then look at which are working and which need help. Some issues will be technical and some will be content, which, for 2016, is king. Clients and potential clients want profiles that contain the most important and interesting facts about you and useful, informative online content. Next, while you can work out the technical issues yourself, it is often more cost effective and less stressful to consult an expert.
An effective lawyer website will have your profile, contact information, and the basic description of your practice. Include an online form to request an appointment and articles about new developments in your area of law that might affect consumers such as tax regulations, changes in immigration, or family law. There are endless topics in your practice area always remembering your ethical obligation to provide useful information, not legal advice.
Link your website to social media which includes LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. Social media is becoming increasingly relevant in the communications between lawyers and clients. Used wisely and carefully, social media can raise awareness about you or serve as a way to discover more about your practice. And, like Hansel and Gretel, your social media activity can leave a trail of breadcrumbs back to you.
Your website should present a clear message identifying your practice, whether it is a general or niche practice. Photos can help consumers understand the material on your site. For example, if you're posting an article about how the Frost Laws in Michigan affect truckers, a calendar with the effective date circled will help serve as a reminder for your readers. And, of course, your professional picture will accompany your profile.
Adding a video is an effective way to explain your practice. Readers can't resist the urge to push the play button; many would rather watch than read.
Be sure your law firm website is distinct to your practice. The design, font, colors, photos, video, and content should all reflect your brand and the message you are trying to convey. Remember to put the link to your new site on the SBM member directory. And, if you have ethical questions about any part of your website, contact the SBM Ethics Helpline at (877) 558-4760.
Roberta Gubbins has served as the editor of the Ingham County Legal News. Since leaving the paper, she provides services as a ghostwriter editing articles, blogs, and e-blasts for lawyers and law firms. She is the editor of Briefs, the Ingham County Bar Association e-newsletter, and The Mentor, SBM Master Lawyers Section newsletter.
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