Bloomsbury Law Online

Articles filed under Website development

Many solicitors provide free legal information on their websites. Is this good marketing or just giving away valuable information?

I maintain a section on my website called Free Legal Information for Individuals provided by Firms of Solicitors at www.venables.co.uk/individtopics.htm. This covers accidents, benefits, business, car crime, consumer, conveyancing, crime, divorce, death (probate, wills etc), debt, dental claims, discrimination, disability, education, employment … and so on, listed alphabetically.

When I recently carried out a major check of these entries, I found that many previous free legal resources have been removed or seriously reduced in scope. It seems that many firms of solicitors, having originally been keen to be part of the new and exciting World Wide Web have eventually decided that it was not really worth the effort.

HACKER_by_Clive_Goddard_for_Berners

Recently, I met a barrister who was handling a case where a website project had gone badly wrong, losing significant sales for the customer who had commissioned it. After comparing war stories, we concluded that a lot more websites go awry than one might realise and that it might be worth sharing some of the horror stories to highlight potential pitfalls and help others to avoid them.

In a profession where only a minority of law firms have a dedicated or experienced marketing manager, the role of project managing the new website often falls to the marketing partner or practice manager. Having never had to commission a website before, they may not be entirely sure what work is involved, how to write an effective brief or how to compare proposals from web agencies, and so it is easy to see how problems might arise.

Given that a law firm website might account for as much as 50 per cent of new business enquiries these days – equivalent to having another office – it can play a critical role in a firm’s business growth.

One of the decisions that website owners often need to make these days is whether to allow people to add comments or other content to their website. Of itself, this isn’t a legal issue, but a decision to allow comments or other user content on a website does give rise to legal considerations. These considerations may be relevant to you if, for example, you run or are thinking of setting up a legal blog or forum. They may also be relevant to you if you act for clients on website-related matters.

If you allow others to post content to your site, three broad issues arise:

  • whether you need to obtain a licence to re-use content posted to your site by others for purposes other than reproduction on the site itself (eg you might want to publish helpful comments in an ebook);
  • whether to moderate content and, if so, when; and
  • how to protect yourself from liability arising from material posted to your site that infringes third party rights.

Creating a website for your firm or chambers demands time, patience and persistence. You have to get the right structure, with easy navigation, straightforward calls to action and compelling content.

Even when the site is fully operational, it is no time to sit back and enjoy your handiwork. You need to know if the site is doing its job properly by enticing readers in, keeping them engaged and encouraging them to make contact. How do you do this? Analyse, test and refine.

And not just once. It’s a continual process of improvement because what works well one month, may not work as well the following month due to seasonal trends, legislation changes or industry developments.

Use statistics to guide you. Many tools exist to perform this task but we recommend the hugely popular application, Google Analytics.

Landlord-Law

I have been working on the web for a long time. I set up my first website in the 1990s and my membership site, Landlord Law, which I set up in 2001, is my main source of income now.

So what have I learned over the years? And how can my experience help you?

As the number of people who own smartphones and tablets rises astronomically, law firms should be thinking about implementing a mobile site, creating an app or at least ensuring that their web site is responsive. If they do not, they risk frustrating users and losing valuable business.

Recent studies have shown that more and more people are using a variety of devices to browse the internet and that they’re using specific devices at specific times of the day, eg a smartphone during their commute or a tablet in the evening.

Google has also indicated that it will be giving priority to mobile-enabled sites in search results delivered to smartphone and tablet devices, thus ensuring that users see the most useful set of results.

For law firms, word of mouth continues to be the principle generator of work. Firms historically tried to leverage its power using “thought leadership” marketing, through “offline content” such as newsletters, white papers and articles. Today, however, this is no longer enough.

Target audiences have moved online, expanding the reach of word of mouth to the multitude of web channels. The challenge this presents firms is that they need to do more than just have an online presence. They need to be active, contributing content to the right online space, at the right time, to be consumed by the right people.

On 30 April 1993 CERN published a statement that made World Wide Web (“W3”, or simply “the Web”) technology available on a royalty-free basis. By making the software required to run a web server freely available, along with a basic browser and a library of code, the web was allowed to flourish. British physicist Tim […]

(with Chloe Dennis)

How many types of device might you view a website on during the course of your week?

We are becoming used to accessing the internet anytime and anywhere on whatever device we have to hand. Our choice of device at any time depends on personal preferences, availability and the ability to use the device in various situations.

Online t&c’s are long and complicated. The challenge is to make the complicated elegant and the obscure accessible.

Having launched free legal content websites for Jordans, I can offer some advice for anyone thinking of embarking on a similar path for their organisation’s website. The advantages are increased traffic, search engine ranking and brand awareness.

Comparing website proposals can be rather like comparing apples with pears. What questions should you ask and how do you know whether the quotes you receive are directly comparable?