Keeping a specialised website up to date

In the last issue, we discussed the pros and cons of setting up specialised websites with contributions from two firms who are doing this (Bonallack & Bishop and Douglas Silas) as well as two specialists in legal marketing (Sue Bramall and David Gilroy). One of the points made in the article was that keeping specialised sites up to date can be a heavy task.

After that article, I received comments from two providers of specialised content who believe that they can help a firm keep their website up to date without undue effort or indeed cost. Here are their contributions, together with comments which I requested and obtained from some of the users of their respective services.

LegalRSS – instant legal news

By Joe Reevy

Law firms are at long last learning the value of marketing their services by specialism and many are now creating worktype-specific websites or microsites dealing with a specific issues which allow them to show expertise in a single area or group of areas.

The issue that immediately arises is that as well as the increase in set-up and maintenance costs, such sites have to be kept up to date. The most inefficient way of doing this (on a cost basis) is to spend hours of specialist time doing site administration and creating content in-house.

One approach is to make use of a specialist provider of content which will allow the website to be kept up to date through newsfeeds (Atom or RSS). One example of this is the employment law newsfeed supplied by Emplaw, described separately, below. RSS is also offered by Conscious Solutions.

Another way to do this is to use a system such as the Words4Business LegalRSS, which is designed for firms who want content but not a new website. This allows firms to administer microsites using a single content management dashboard. It works by generating customised newsfeeds, which are then dropped onto each microsite. So, for example, if a firm wished to have a website dealing with high net-worth client issues, they might choose to create updates based on the trust wills and probate, business tax, family and private client tax categories plus a further category that they create. These updates would keep each site’s specialist content up to date, also allowing the firm to add their own material (such as notices of seminars etc) as and when they wish.

The same material can be fed to the firm’s main website by the feed customisation (this is a matter of ticking boxes) and then the allocation of content to the appropriate sites is automatic and requires no further input. Addition of firm’s material (articles and news, pictures, file downloads etc) takes only moments using the content management system provided.

Creating specialist sites means that users of the subscribe button (provided) for the e-mail marketing module can be pre-categorised automatically, which radically simplifies the creation of targeted newsletters and e-newsletters. This is done via a link to the Fusion Express e-newsletter engine. Content can be also added to social networking sites with a single mouse click. Simple!

The essential point is that specialist sites and microsites can be an effective marketing tool which can operate effectively without detracting from fee-earning time. Examples of firms adopting such approaches are:

Joe Reevy runs Words4Business which creates many types of copy for law firms (including over 700 articles a year) and offers web-based solutions such as RSS feeds and e-newsletters.


Comments from users

Elaine Hurn of Taylors has been using LegalRSS (and its precursors) for two years. She says, “We use the service via our external website designers – it took a bit of setting up but is now automated very efficiently. The style of the RSS feed content suits our client target market and we don’t have to chase fee earners to write articles or train them in how to make the articles interesting for the client and non legalistic in style. We are launching an even more dedicated IP website soon and we will be using articles from Words4Business to populate that site with articles that are IP specific to our clients.”

Kate Teasdale of Parry Law has been using the service for nearly two years. She says, “The system is easy to use and it demonstrates that we are up to date with legal developments (a bonus with clients) and dare I say it – it keeps us up to date too! We receive many compliments upon our website from prospective employees and clients; I have no doubt that the RSS feed (and the availability of up to date newsletters) contributes significantly to the favourable perspective. We do not have the time or budget to employ someone in house to do the job; the service is cost effective, value for money and genuinely beneficial to our firm.”

Bernard Stotesbury of Batchelors has been using the service for about a year. He finds it easy to use and likes the effect it has on the web site. He says, “The RSS service does what it says on the tin”.

Chris Strutt of Strutt & Co says that the service combines good articles (short and punchy), an effective infrastructure (it just takes him five minutes to check the articles each morning) and a good price.

A complete solution for employment firms

By Henry Scrope

The purpose of a specialised sub-website is to encourage clients and potential clients to come to the firm. A problem is keeping the site up to date.

Newsfeeds can help. They can be useful marketing tools but they are limited to letting clients know “what’s new”.

What is the ideal solution? We think it would be an inexpensive sub-website with basic, well-structured legal content, automatically updated and backed up with a newsletter and/or newsfeed. This is what emplaw offers in the field of employment law.

The emplaw marketing package for solicitors is a spin-off from our full blown professional standard employment law service. It consists of three elements: a customised employment law information sub-site integrated into the customer firm’s main website, a monthly (actually ten times per year) employment law e-mail newsletter and an RSS news feed. Each element is available separately.

The important point is that because the service is a spin off from our professional employment law service, quality is high while cost can be kept low. Here’s how it works.

emplaw has its own free employment law website. Law content on the free site is basic (the sort of thing which can be easily accessed on the web or in a public library) but is extensive and carefully structured to make it useful – but not too useful! It is designed so that content can be fed not only to but also in customised form to the websites of others. As the law content comes direct from emplaw’s servers, the frequent updating for the client is automatic – no fee earner time is involved.

The emplaw service can be arranged so that the material looks as if it is coming direct from the firm’s site, with no mention of emplaw, or (in a simpler and cheaper version) that the material is still branded as emplaw, but is available from the firm’s site.

The customised email newsletter goes out ten times a year and covers recent important employment developments. If the firm uses the customised sub-site service described above, each item in their newsletter automatically links to the relevant part of their customised sub-site.

The newsfeed consists of headlines taken from the professional e-PSL e-mail newsletter we provide each week for subscribers to the professional version of the emplaw website. This can also be useful for the firm’s fee earners, especially if the firm does not subscribe to our professional employment law service.

A key point about this service is that a marketing package as described above is commercially viable only as a spin off from a full blown professional online service using purpose built IT systems. Other providers of marketing tools do not generally offer professional law services and so cannot offer an equivalent package; other providers of professional law services do not generally have appropriate editorial and IT systems and so they cannot offer an equivalent package either.

Of course, emplaw covers employment law only; there must be room for others to offer similar marketing services in other branches of the law. If any are interested I’d be pleased to show them in more detail how we have done it.

Firms using one or more of the emplaw options include these:

Henry Scrope is a solicitor and is joint author of the Law Society’s Employment Law Handbook. He founded in 1997 and is editor-in-chief of that site.


Comments from users

Jon Curtis of Ironmonger Curtis LLP says, “I like Henry’s service very much, the newsletter is great and clients like it. The copy is well written and informative without being too (overtly) legal. The updater service is also very good.”

Jonathan Golden of Golden Leaver says, “It is easy to set up. I like the way it looks and functions, and I am confident in the quality of its content. Although I do not get much direct feedback from clients, I do get the feeling that it adds an element of credibility to the firm and provides sensible and relevant content to a website which might otherwise be uninteresting to the prospective client. It provides back up and reassurance. To date we have not sent out newsletters in the form they are received as we produce our own newsletter with a briefer commentary and try and take a viewpoint individual to the firm. However, this is currently under review as we may just revert to using emplaw’s excellent newsletter without change.”