In 1998, LISI was founded to design and develop compelling websites for forward-thinking law firms. A lot has changed since then, but the importance of having a well-designed website as the cornerstone of your digital marketing strategy has only increased in importance. In the past 23 years we have been asked a lot of questions about how (and why) to build a successful law firm website. I recently sat down with Founder and CEO Jason Lisi to get some answers to our most frequently asked questions. (This is the first post in a six-part series on Law Firm Websites – Frequently Asked Questions.)

What type of website does my firm need?

Jason P. Lisi: The function of a website is dependent on the firm. Regardless of whether it is used as a lead-generation tool or one that merely validates the law firm in the eyes of people who already know the firm’s name, the site is a reflection on the firm and can bring in – or turn away – potential new business.

A validation website is one that is mostly for firms that get almost all their business from offline means, such as referrals from other attorneys, being on an approved provider list, or educational/networking conference participation.

These websites should primarily set a ‘tone’ for the firm online, establishing the brand promise for potential and current clients. Developing this type of website should focus on impactful imagery and compelling copy to express what makes the firm different from its competitors, locally or nationally. Finding this proper ‘tone’ is one of LISI’s greatest skills and takes place through discussion with firm stakeholders, such as partners, associates, staff, clients, and others.

A lead-generation website is one where the site’s main function is to attract leads for more business. Tone is important here, too, but the goal is more laser-focused. Search engine optimization and other inbound-lead campaigns are the driving force behind design and development of these sites.

Law practices that need this type of site include personal injury, family law, criminal defense, employee-side employment law, and anything else where (most times) an individual needs legal help and turns to the internet to find it. This type of website, then, is all about solving an identifiable problem, generally for a person who is unable or unwilling to ask friends or relatives for lawyer recommendations.

And, if in either case, the firm leaders think, “I’ve had my practice for 35 years without needing to get business from the internet,” well, consider what is going to happen when those veteran lawyers retire or otherwise exit the firm. Will the younger lawyers have the same level and volume of referral sources ? Is losing a rainmaker without creating viable contingencies really sustainable for future growth?

Can a new website really play a role in our growth?

JPL: Without a doubt! A website, especially for a law firm, can contain as much content as a paperback book. Pages with extensive attorney bios, histories of the firm, representative matters, recruitment materials, and diversity statements can be written at nearly any length, providing much more opportunity to express the marketing message than any other medium.

Consider if your firm takes on a new lawyer who practices in a legal area not previously covered by your firm. The website is the place to promote this fact, alerting current and potential clients to this new practice area. The website can encourage the viewer to pick up the phone, send an email, etc. to engage the firm in a discussion about representation.

With imaginative graphics and compelling text, the firm can show (as opposed to tell) potential clients about this new capability of the firm and why the firm is ideal for helping clients with the particular legal issue. Add in a well-thought-out content and search engine optimization strategy, you can drive prospects to your website and lead them to proactively reach out to your firm for their legal needs.

What’s more is that a website should serve as the ‘hub’ of all marketing efforts, be they social media, radio, television, etc. Driving users to your website allows you to encourage communication with your firm, which is key to obtaining the user as a client.

When do I know it’s time for a new website?

JPL: The shelf-life of a website is not as long as one may think. Functionality and technology improvements are advancing every year, and a site as “young” as three or four years can quickly seem like an antique. Consider things like web accessibility, lead capture functionality, client relationship management system integration, virtual event broadcasting, other marketing operations and technology components that a website from five or more years ago will likely not include. And then think of what will change in the next five years!

But functionality isn’t the only thing to consider here. Design preferences evolve over time – both individually and as a society. Things like dark mode are popular now, but for how long?

Law firm websites are where your clients and prospects go to validate who you are, connect with you for a specific need, and learn about your firm’s services, culture, and place in the market. Stay tuned for the next part of our FAQ series where I talk with Jason about the nuts and bolts of building a new site.