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How You Can, and Why You Should, Get a Free Website

A surprising number of solo practitioners and small law firms are still debating the value and usefulness of a law firm web site. In fact, a large number of attorneys and law firms appear to have no email address listing at all, let alone a website. Recent studies and trends now support the need for a web site more than ever before.

This article discusses the importance of web sites and the internet for attorneys and contains links to useful related articles, along with a web site address where you can obtain and set up your own free law firm web site with a very professional appearance. Yes, it really is free.

Why You Need a Website

For about 15 years, we have kept track of the way our consumer clients come to us for help. Up until the late 1990's, about 90% of our clients were referred to us by other attorneys and previous clients, and only about 10% came from other sources (including the yellow page ad’s that we had run for years, in one form or another). In the absence of wide spread internet use by consumers, those numbers made sense and were probably typical of much of the profession.

Much has been written about the value of building a referral network, and attorney and former client referrals are still important but it has become obvious that wide spread consumer use of the internet has clearly changed everything in the last five years.

With ever increasing consumer use of the internet, it is no wonder Google, Yahoo, and MSN are such a big deal in marketing legal services on the internet (and everything else). Together, 81% of all internet searches flow thru these three search engine sites.

The viability of the phone book yellow pages, for a broad-based serious marketing effort by attorneys is under serious question, although the practice of using big yellow page ads has been a frequent target of professional disrespect, even though it had obvious merits. Now even the Yellow Pages have gone to the internet with their own web site and numerous imitators.

Studies and articles now show that consumers are shifting from using the phone book to using the internet as a source for locally needed information and assistance. That pretty much means that every attorney needs to think very seriously about having a professional web site, no matter how many pages of depth you make it.

Researchers now wonder aloud if the internet is the new yellow pages and for good reason. More than 80% of America’s homes have a computer (almost all of them use on the internet) and over half of those have broadband (i.e., high-speed) ability. And the numbers will be even higher in the coming years because over 98% of US schools are equipped with computers and 2 out of every 3 school children have a computer at home.

In an increasingly online world, the offline law firm will very likely soon be left behind.

The unknown cost of getting a website set up and maintaining it, to say nothing for the trouble of actually trying to create one “in house” or deal with the cost of having it done by an “outside” professional, was a major stumbling block, when our firm first started out. Now, our budget allows for the outside professional firm we use, but that was not the case in the beginning stages.

The idea of designing a law firm website was intimidating, too. We did not know “html” or any of that other “code stuff”. Like most busy attorneys, we did not want to learn it either. We still haven’t.

Also, we didn’t want to have a web site that was just a “billboard” sign; we wanted to give useful information to consumers that would let them help themselves too, where they could, while still letting them know who we are and what we do. We wanted “2-way web site benefits”, i.e., to benefit consumers and potential clients and to benefit the firm.

Our first website was primitive by comparison, no doubt, but at least it got us “on the internet map”. Hundreds of evolutions later, we are more convinced now than we ever were: for the solo and the small law firm, a web site is not an option — it is a necessity.

While the cost of creating a web site is a major inhibitor for attorneys, so is the lack of “mechanical” knowledge on how to do it ourselves, even for those who have the time. However, if you want an easy-to-create web site for free, or near free, you can still find it.

How You Can Get a Free Website

Many domain name registration sites give you the ability to put up a small, low cost website yourself using templates and forms that are basically “fill in the blank”, such as Register.com and NetworkSolutions.com and GoDaddy.com and many, many others. However, you generally have to buy a domain name first for about $10 to $30, more or less.
Hiring a professional to construct and post a professional web site can run into the thousands of dollars and involve huge amounts of time that a busy solo or small firm does not have to spare. Still, a website can be had for free with a little work and digging on the internet.

We found a web site that helps you produce a remarkably professional-looking law firm web site, for only about three hours of your time. You have to write your own content but it is incredibly easy to put your content in place and launch a very polished site with very little time and effort.

Justia provides website solutions for law firms, which fits from small to large budgets. For those who are just getting started, you can actually build a rather sophisticated-looking website yourself, using Justia. The cost? It’s absolutely free. As an experiment, I used their program last night and it took me just three hours to create a web site.

The process is remarkably easy.

Starting out you select from three different law firm templates, all of which look extremely professional. In a simple step-by-step process, you add your own content for each page.

Pretty soon you end up with a very professional looking site, which includes a Home Page, a Law Firm Profile Page, a Location Page, Practice Area descriptions, Attorney Profiles Page (with your photo), Web Resource Page (where you can set up links to other web sites that your visitors might find useful), a page where you can post Weblog links or info (“blogs” as they are called), and a “Contact Us” page.

The final product is a complete web site with all its internal links in place, quick and easy. You could easily spend $4,000 or $5,000 to have a professional do the same thing from scratch.

You can put a lot of website content up, to really enhance your internet image, with nothing more than a few hours of own time and work. You can spend as much time as you want and make the finished product look as good as you want. You can even insert a graphic or a photo into your text content. If you aren’t careful, it could get to be fun.

It could not get cheaper, either, since Justia does not charge anything to host your new website and you are providing all your own content. Justia even does a small amount of limited search engine optimization for you, although you can purchase more optimization effort if you wish, along with a whole host of other website services, when you are ready for it.

There’s a “menu” of their services and costs on the Justia website. Optimization is available as a standalone service from other service providers also.

Justia has done a remarkable job of making it extremely easy (and how much more affordable can you get than free?) to set up your own website. Any attorney who does not have a website now, really has no excuse.

We highly recommend that solo’s and small firms take a few minutes to check out Justia (we have no connection with Justia or the people behind it). After that, you can get a website up in only a few hours, and then add the website address to your business cards and any other promotional, advertising, or marketing effort you might undertake.

Just remember, the internet is where the marketplace really is as far as many people are concerned nowadays. The legal profession is more competitive now than ever and the people who would be your new clients are on the internet looking for you. If they don’t find you there, they’ll find someone else.

In some geographic and practice areas, internet marketing of legal services may not work as well as other areas. However, in a large city or a very competitive marketplace, the internet is a valuable necessity for solo success and small law firm profitability. Even in a less urban market, a web site can significantly enlarge your professional appearance in what is already a more regional profession.

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