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Creating Web Sites for Small Firms
-- An Introduction With Examples

Introduction

There are two types of products on the market for creating web pages.

The first is typified by Lotus Notes/Domino or Microsoft Normandy. These are huge products designed to support hundreds of users and huge databases.  This sort of product can cost thousands of dollars and is definitely overkill.  The average cost for setting up a high-end site with a tool of this sort is $221,000.00 (see InfoWorld, January 21, 1997 at page 57).

The second product is the sort of thing you might buy at your local CompUSA or computer store.  It will create a garish or gaudy web page that is great for a local graphics store or a  grunge rock band, but that does not fit a law firm.

Almost every guide  for web page design on the market takes a similar approach, either fitting large businesses and superfirms or being fit for a graphic artist or a musician -- but being much too loud for an attorney in a small office.

This article is written to fill the gap.

Creating Web Sites for Small Firms


A "small" law firm has four reasons for a web site.

  1. As a listing on the internet just like a listing in a telephone book.
  2. As a firm brochure for potential clients.
  3. As a contact point for potential clients who are using internet search engines (computer tools that help them find "the right" web pages).
  4. To provide content.

All of these reasons are related and in all four of these reasons it is important to realize that a law firm's web site or home page needs to meet those goals.

Because of the nature of the Internet, it is possible for the same site to contain areas that meet all four goals and for each area to attract or be the entry site for individuals who are looking for that part of the site.  

Rough Outline of a Model Site

The model site has four parts, as shown in the table below:

"Splash Page" or telephone listing
Firm Brochure                            
Search Engine Summary             
Content                                      

A "Splash Page" is the name for the first page that comes up when the address for your site is typed in.  A page address is typically something like http://www._your_name_.com or http://www._your_name_.com /index.htm.  The splash page is best thought of as a cross between a telephone book and a firm's business card.  If your site has a great deal of content, it may even be simpler than that.  [Sample Splash Page] [Alternate Sample Splash Page].

The firm brochure portion of the site should contain a short description of the firm and should connect to resumes of the attorneys in the firm, each resume on a separate page.  If the firm has five or more attorneys, pictures of the attorneys might also be considered.  It should also link to a concisely written professional services or professional statement.  [Sample On-line Firm Brochure].

Especially for solo practice attorneys, it is possible to condense features into fewer pages or steps. I have several simple examples. [Sample One] [Sample Two]

Sample One, Jane Doe's page, combines the splash page, the professional statement and the firm brochure into one page, and has several content pages.  Any one or two person firm could use that format with minor changes -- and by using on-line versions of the brochures available (free and without copyright restrictions) from the State Bar Association.

Sample Two, Tom Allensworth, has a simple splash page that links directly to everything that a potential client or search engine might be looking for.  The one thing that Tom should add to his site, perhaps, is an index of briefs he has written.  That would provide substantial content but isn't necessary.

Neither site fills up even half a megabyte.  With thirty briefs on-line, in HTML format (the format web pages use), Tom's site would still be under a megabyte.

Other issues

The type of web site detailed here can be put together using products such as AOLPress (one of the four best overall products for small web site design and authoring) or designed and executed by a professional for under a thousand dollars -- about the price of one year's listing in Martindale-Hubbell.

The basic principles of a basic, inexpensive web site for a small firm are met by the design criteria and format provided above.

For the broader picture, see Basic Web Sites for Lawyers (1/15/1997), the Updates file or Web Site Design for Small Firms, An Initial Primer.  


Copyright 1998 Stephen R. Marsh

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