Increasing Your Site's Exposure & Looking at Some Law firm Web Sites

Reprinted from Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly August 10, 1998

Should you decide to establish an Internet site, certain technical and marketing techniques will likely increase the exposure of the site and make it a more effective marketing tool.

Software permits "do-it-yourselfers" to create their own Internet site. While this is a comparatively inexpensive route, unless you have the computer know-how Boston attorney Martin P. Desmery advises hiring a consultant to establish your Internet site.

Costs of consultants vary widely, Desmery notes, so you must do your homework and talk with law firms and attorneys who have established sites to gather information on costs.

Boston lawyer K. William Kyros, who develops Internet sites for attorneys, urges law firms to comparison shop Internet site developers by insisting that consultants demonstrate examples of sites they have developed, particularly for attorneys.

Because Internet-site development is a new industry, Kyros says, pricing is in a state of flux such that a high price tag does not always result in a top shelf product.

Kyros suggests that the benefits of hiring a consultant are manifested in more appealing, interesting graphic designs, as well as effective use of Meta Tags, which are a "series of key words and phrases used by an Internet search engine to index a Web site on the World Wide Web," Kyros explains. In essence, effective Meta Tags will likely increase the number of visitors to your site by way of a word search.

Overall, Kyros suggests that an effective Internet site combines careful thought as to content, including effective Meta Tags, with dynamic graphics, and is personalized with photographs of attorneys.

Kyros says that a firm can effectively promote its practice via a search engine, but "you must get registered" in a search engine, and "you must constantly monitor your placement in the search engine."

For example, a bigger site with buzz phrases like "personal injury" or "ERISA" repeated early and often will likely help your Internet site to remain at the top of search engine's database of indexed words and phrases, Kyros explains.

An Internet service provider (ISP) hosts a site and is essentially a site's portal to the Internet.

Boston attorney Harold H. Leach Jr., who has established a company specializing in computer software for attorneys, suggests using an ISP that increases the exposure of your site, and increases the speed of visitors' connection to your site.

Dozens of ISPs are available in Massachusetts, according to Kyros, who says they are largely interchangeable. He suggests comparison shopping for monthly charges as well as unlimited access to the ISP.

As to the content of an Internet site, fancy, elaborate graphics are no substitute for excellent written content, Leach says.

He also advises against getting carried away with graphics because they can become a distraction, and can slow downloading.

Leach says that an effective Internet site is personalized, so you should carefully describe your practice to your site consultant. You may even want to write the copy of your site yourself, suggests Leach.

Updating the material in your Internet site is critical to effective marketing, Desmery says, because a stale site "loses the benefit as a marketing tool."

Kyros also urges lawyers to give some thought to the Internet address since it will appear on business cards and stationery. The sooner you get it registered the better, Kyros says, because an address is unavailable if some other entity has previously registered it.

Looking At Some Law-Firm Sites

A random sampling of a dozen or so Internet sites of Massachusetts law firms reveals some common features, none of which are particularly flamboyant or daring.

Internet sites typically contain essentially reworked Martindale-Hubbell biographical listings, the more elaborate of which are accompanied by photographs of the lawyers.

Many sites contain a listing of articles and books written by attorneys, a listing of newspaper articles featuring a law firm or specific attorneys, as well as significant cases in which the law firm or specific lawyers have been involved.

Under the rubric of client service, many sites have an "issues alert" section discussing hot topics of the day and suggesting that visitors contact a named attorney for more information.

A common feature of law firm Internet sites is "links" to legal research sources, and one local site has a section for researching reported Massachusetts bankruptcy cases.

One large Boston firm has an "Employment Opportunities" page.

Most of the sites contain an advertising disclaimer on the home page, although some do not.

One site was labeled as an advertisement and requests visitors to "sign our guest book" by providing name, address, telephone number and other identifying information.

As to presentation, the sites ranged from containing elaborate, arresting graphics to being little more than an online resume.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the Internet sites of large firms in Boston employ more conservative, staid graphics.

Regardless of the ultimate appearance of an Internet site, attorney Harold H. Leach Jr. stresses that an Internet site should accurately reflect the law firm and attorneys.

He suggests that attorneys "should write the site's copy themselves to have an effective, truthful site that represents your firm the way it really is. Include your own personality in the site."

Chris A. Milne, an attorney based in Dover, recently decided to take the plunge into cyber marketing [ with a lawyerViews web site].

His Internet site went "live" on June 1 of this year, and is an example of a "personalized" site that also uses interesting graphics.

Milne, a plaintiff's lawyer, says his practice encompasses many aspects of personal injury, but his Internet site focuses exclusively on child tort cases, in part because a specialized site containing information on a specific topic such as "child torts" will likely garner a greater number of visitors.

Milne says he wants his site to "communicate the firm's concept of representing children and our approach of assisting them."

On the site, Milne identifies educational plans and quality medical testing as critical components of any damages theory in a child tort case.

Milne's home page has graphics of a child's building blocks with letters of the alphabet that are the prompts to specific pages on the site.

"The building blocks are symbolic of a lawsuit providing success in life," Milne enthuses.

The top of the home page has the heading "Child Torts" written as if in the unsteady hand of a child, which further emphasizes the site's focus on representing children.

Milne's site does not contain an advertising disclaimer.

The lawyer says a disclaimer is unnecessary because the site is informational about his firm and about child tort issues.

"People will visit my site not because it's an advertisement. People will go there to learn about issues on child torts," Milne claims.

Milne is squarely in the camp that believes establishing an Internet site is "necessary marketing" for attorneys because "more and more people are using the Internet to access information."

Updating an Internet site regularly, Milne stresses, is a critical aspect of effective marketing. You should "give people a reason to go to your site to obtain information," which requires "keeping your eyes open" for new information to add to your Internet site.

Boston attorney Martin P. Desmery agrees.

Once a site is "up," a lawyer must be committed to updating the site, he says, noting that it is "very easy to forget about your site after you have established it."

In order to promote your practice effectively, you must not only update your Internet site, but you "must constantly monitor your site's placement in the search engine," advises K. William Kyros, a Boston lawyer who develops Internet sites for attorneys.

Kyros explains that an Internet search engine is essentially a database of indexed words and phrases that channels Internet users to sites by a word search.

For example, a visitor may reach your site not because of your name or your firm's name, but because of an article you wrote on a particular topic.

"Every page on a Web site has to be designed with the understanding that each page can be found independent of the home page," Kyros says. Therefore, each page must be effective and professional looking, he says.

As to an Internet site's placement in a search engine, repeating specialized words and phrases early and often (child torts for instance) will help a site emerge from the Internet's sea of information close to or at the top of a search engine's database, according to Kyros.

Article by Paul Boynton, an attorney practicing in Boston.

Reprinted with permission of Lawyers Weekly Inc.

Find a Personal Injury Lawyer | Find a Criminal Defense Lawyer | Marketing for Lawyers
LawyerViews Home

Legal Basics | Legal History | Massachusetts Courts

All contents copyright 2000 Voted the #1 Web Site development company in the 1999 Lawyers Weekly Readers Choice poll.