Your Small Law Firm Really Does Need a Website
May 7, 2018
Despite the role referrals still strongly play in Small Law Firms getting new clients, an online presence with a good marketing website is becoming just as important these days. Here’s why:
Without a Website, You’re Invisible
We expect almost everything these days to be found someplace on the net - and lawyers are no exception. If your small law firm or solo practice doesn't have a website, you're essentially invisible online and might as well not exist for a huge number of potential clients. In this sense, a website makes you “real.”
Credibility and Trust
Before someone can trust you, they’ve got to get to know you, and a small law firm website that provides pertinent information about your practice, helps someone do just that. The better your content and the way you present it, the more credible you become - and the more chance a potential client will contact you. This is exemplified in a finding from the Google Legal Services Study, in which 74% of consumers visited a law firm’s website to take action. In this way, you can think of your website as not just your calling card, but as the “closer” in a prospect determining to call you.
The Millennial Trend
If there is one demographic group that bucks relying on referrals for legal services, it is millennials. In a study by the law firm, Moses and Rooth, participants age 18-24 said they would search primarily for legal services online. You could argue they don't know many friends who've already hired a lawyer, but remember most millennials have been using computers since about age four, and online is the primary go-to for most information they seek. These are your not-so-distant future clients, and you may want to stay ahead of that trend.
Keeping Up with Jones, Jones & Jones
We really hate having to do something just because others are doing it, so we can’t blame anyone for disliking this point, but, as a recent survey by Clutch showed, more and more small businesses are increasing their online presence with a website. Specifically, 71% of small businesses had an online presence by 2017, with an additional 21% planning to launch a website through 2018. A marketing website has become really necessary to competing in today’s marketplace.
But What About…?
Yes, referrals in general still hold the edge in small law firms obtaining leads. The Moses & Rooth study mentioned above showed 34.6% of survey participants would ask a friend for a specialty lawyer vs the next highest ranking of 21.9% who would search Google, Bing or Yahoo. That said, however, a survey by TRiG showed that 76% of U.S. consumers at some point used online resources to search for an attorney vs 73% who asked a friend or family member at some point for a referral.
So how do we explain this discrepancy between both studies? The answer may lie in the key phrase “at some point,” indicating an overlap of those potential clients who do both. Think about it: You’ve just been given a referral for a mechanic. Do you call right away or do you do a little online research before you entrust your car to them? We want to feel safe before spending potentially a lot of money on something important to us - and a website that provides good information is a very safe way to find out more before we call.
It could be argued that Social Media is the online equivalent of a referral - or, at least, good word of mouth. Let’s look at two of the most prominent forms of social media that may apply to a small law firm:
As of end last year, Facebook had over 2.2Bn users. That’s a lot of talking. Or a lot of noise - depending on who’s talking and who’s listening. And that’s just it: we can post to Public but it will be mostly those who have friended or have been friended by us who will take note of our posts. For a personal page, that’s great: it’s wonderful seeing pictures of our friends’ dogs. You, however, are looking to build business, not show that five-foot leap in the air to catch the frisbee; and that means 1) creating a separate Facebook Page for your practice; and 2) getting people to Like your page. Unfortunately, 2.2Bn just became a lot smaller. And while you can join or even advertise to any number of Facebook groups or demographics, most people still do not search for legal services via Facebook. In fact, the above Moses and Rooth survey found only 2.1% of people seek out legal help via social media. So while lead generation could potentially come from joining or advertising to groups, the primary benefit is usually networking.
Ditto for LinkedIn, which being essentially a B2B platform (vs Facebook being B2C), can be great for connecting to other law firms or groups, but is less likely to attract consumers; and it may be best to think of it more as a networking tool for building a reputation as a trusted legal source.
Issues with Facebook and LinkedIn
Online Searching. While people can, of course, search within Facebook, Google does not index Facebook - and most people will first search on Google - effectively making what you post invisible via online searches. LinkedIn, on the other hand, is Google-indexed.
Terms of Service. Most of us typically scan, rather than read, the Terms of Service of almost anything online, and we may not even scan since we know that if we want to use the service, our option is essentially to “Agree.” Yet we are bound by these terms - and the periodic updates to them - and they can affect whatever content you post.
Content Ownership. Some of these terms involve ownership of your content. Presently, you do own your own content, but keep in mind “fair use” of that content can be very broad and you will lose some control over it. For a more in-depth article on this, please see here. The content on your own website, on the other hand, is not limited by these social media Terms of Service.
We don't think a quality small law firm website should have to cost that much. Just because you’re a lawyer, doesn't mean you should be fleeced, and one of the best ways to keep down cost is to know what you want from your marketing website. The following questions can help you decide:
- Who are my potential clients?
- What elements of a website will represent my small law firm? Are these my bios, my practice areas, intake forms that allow for easy client contact, etc?
- What am I willing to spend on the initial cost of developing my website?
- What might be the typical ongoing costs of keeping my website up-to-date? (These can include monthly web-hosting fees, support, etc.)
- How often may I have to change the content, including Latest News, Latest Wins, a Blog, etc?
- How easy and fast will it be for me to change this content, and will I have control over that process?
- What website elements will boost SEO?
- How secure will my website platform be? (e.g., WordPress has had many security issues)
Shop around, but we feel you should be able to get a good marketing website in the range of $5,000-$8,000 for a solo practitioner site.
To Sum It Up:
- A website can improve the likelihood of a referral calling your small law firm.
- Not having a website makes you invisible to the increasing number of those who search the web for legal services. Even if only 20% were to search for your services online, can you afford to dismiss one-out-of-five potential clients?
- If you do choose to have a website for your firm, please make sure it is done well. If a good website can build your credibility, think of what a bad website will do. To get a sense of what is good or bad, start looking at other small firm websites and take note of what appeals to you.
- Good websites shouldn’t cost you much or take much time to maintain. This might have been harder to attain in the past, but these days there are reputable web developers - including AttyHub - who can bring high quality within reach. Do your due diligence.
Have additional questions? Contact us. No pressure - we’re happy to help!
~Your Friendly AttyHub Team