INTERNET:How to make your website pay its way
The majority of law firms have a website - but too many sites do not effectively promote a firm's marketing strategy. Charles Christian shows how to avoid the most common pitfalls in web design
Leaving aside the large provincial practice that threatened to sue me for libel last year for daring to describe their feeble website as feeble, the relationship that most law firms have with the internet is best summed up by the recent actions of one London firm. On hearing that there had been complaints that it was taking staff more than a week to respond to e-mail messages sent by prospective clients interested in the services promoted on the firm’s website, the firm resolved the problem by having the website re-designed to eliminate all e-mail contact details.Given that most law firm website projects appear to be the offspring of an unholy trinity of talents: a lawyer who knows nothing about marketing or the internet; a marketeer who knows nothing about the internet and not much more about legal practice; and a website designer who knows nothing about anything – is it really a surprise that so many law firm websites are so dire?But, as Richard Susskind noted at last year’s Legal IT Forum ‘Glenlegal’, when it comes to the internet, the majority of City law firms “still do not get it”.Or, to use a recent joke: what is the difference between the BBC television series Walking With Dinosaurs and the attitude of lawyers towards the internet? Answer: One is a sad tale about the inability of once-proud creatures to evolve and their slow march towards extinction – and the other is a high-tech television programme.So here is my selection of five of the better law firm websites. If you are wondering why your firm’s site is not mentioned, perhaps that is because it tried to inflict unwelcome ‘cookies’ – these allow a website to store bits of information such as user ID so the site owners can check who is visiting the site – and lengthy registration procedures on me; crashed my computer; told me to change my browser; denied me access because I was not running the right flavour of Java – a program that means you can run the same application from any computer – ; appeared to have its web servers offline on the day I tried to visit; or was still ‘under construction’. And as for the West End firm that suggested I return at some indefinite date in the future because the site was ‘undergoing an exciting redesign’ – when it comes to the internet, you really do not get it.
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