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What constitutes a successful small firm Web site? Assuming you are not a legal behemoth, is it necessary or practical to maintain a Web site that may take potential visitors a half an hour to peruse? The Webmasters recently surveyed three central Illinois firms, Belleville’s Kassly, Bone, English & Weilmuenster, P.C. (www.kassly.com,) Springfield’s Feldman, Wasser, Draper & Benson (www.feldwass.com) and Champaign’s Meyer Capel P.C. (www.meyercapel.com). And what I found is that, sometimes, less can be more. Especially in a small town environment, potential cyberclients cannot be expected to just “click and hire” an attorney. But, the right information, presented simply and succinctly online, can be a great way to start the attorney-client relationship. I started with the premise that there are four must-have categories of content that serve as the foundation for any firm’s Web site: Firm history, practice area, attorney profiles and contact information. Moreover, in a page or less, a Web site should reflect the firm’s attitude and personality. What do they believe? What have they done that’s noteworthy in the past? Can they do the same or better for me? Feldman Wasser’s firm history may be too brief. An explanation of the firm’s creation is informative, but it lacks personality. And it does not give the viewer a sense of what ground these attorneys stand on. Partner Carl E. Draper, whose son Brian is in the process of redesigning the firm’s Web site, spoke of his vision of the new site, falling “somewhere in between the busy mega-firm site and the bare-bones Yellow Pages format that we have now.” The firm wants to spruce up the site’s personality while adding some additional features such as practical legal help and links to other legal resources. Draper said the current site has attracted business, but thinks that with improvement, the site can be even more valuable as a marketing tool. Draper’s son recently designed the Sangamon County Bar Association’s Web site. Kassly Bone’s site, designed and maintained by West Group, comes close to hitting the nail on the head. In five short paragraphs, the potential client knows where the firm is located, what it’s tackled or achieved in the past, the standards its attorneys are held to, and what the firm means by its personal approach. Similarly, Meyer Capel, whose Web site is maintained in-house, provides similar information-in 12 paragraphs. On most firm Web sites, practice area typically follows the greeting and firm history. I suppose it is polite and the standard. But it seems inefficient. From a potential client’s viewpoint, it is unnecessary to read about “old man Capel,” if the firm cannot provide the legal services one is seeking. Of the three firms, only Feldman Wasser presented their services first. Who is going to represent me? Kassly Bone and Meyer Capel allow the browser to put a face with a name. Feldman, Wasser attorneys are not pictured. All three sites provide academic background, career and personal information-which, if time permits, is useful for comparison purposes. Email hyperlinks are included for each attorney on Feldman Wasser and Meyer Capel’s sites. To e-mail attorneys on the Kassly, Bone site, you have hit the “email button” on the homepage. Contact information is a “no-brainer.” At the bottom of each homepage are typically found the necessary addresses, telephone numbers, email addresses, etc. — pretty standard stuff. The basics being covered, the gears turn toward the extras. The Meyer Capel firm offers site users a “Newsletters and Updates” section. Various items are found under this heading. Client news, two Mayer PowerPoint presentations regarding changing technology issues, even a manual for paralegals on Internet research strategy. The Kassly site offers a “Newsletter” and “Resource Links” page. The links found on the site are the usual suspects — bar associations and legal research sites. Simple and direct, these sites work. They may not have the ornamentation of the Sidley & Austin site recently reviewed by The Webmasters, but all the necessary pieces are in place for a potential cyber-client to take the first step in deciding if one of these firms is a good fit.

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