In March and August of each year, hundreds of lawyers gather in Sydney for The New South Wales State Legal Conference. More than thirty sessions are offered over three days covering current issues in law and legal practice. There is the option to attend as few or as many sessions as desired. It is also an opportunity to fulfil continuing education requirements.
Michael Bach – conference director since 1999. The first conference was held 24 years ago when the event was known as Lexpo.
In our first article about the conference, we report on the presentation entitled The New Client Enquiry. This was prepared by Jane Oxley and Hunter Steele from LEAP Legal Software. Hunter Steele presented on the day.
LEAP Website, a division of LEAP Legal Software, has set up websites for hundreds of law firms. LEAP’s 900th law firm website is likely to be set up sometime in the coming months. The following is a brief summary of the the 90 minute seminar. Be sure to attend this very topical presentation the next time it is offered, especially to gain a deeper understanding of search engine optimisation.
Hunter Steele and Jane Oxley
In today’s internet connected world, prospective clients expect to be able to obtain useful information about a law firm before making personal contact. The proposition was put forward that potential clients will now google the name of a firm or its lawyers before contacting the firm. Hopefully, what prospective clients will find is a website that contains at the least the basics outlined below, which are considered to be the essential elements for creating a successful online presence.
Clear and Distinctive Branding
A brand is what makes you different in the eyes of the client. An example was provided of a conveyancing practice that promotes itself as ‘an all girl team’. The firm uses a clever slogan ‘take the right steps’ alongside a picture of a stiletto shoe.
The Our People Section
As well as the expected information about qualifications and experience, it was suggested that including some personal information, such as interests and hobbies, helps to create a connection with a prospective client. Providing some personal information can present your people as being more approachable.
The Basic Basics
This starts with an intuitive means of navigating the site. There is something to be said for creativity but if it makes navigating the site confusing then it will be counterproductive. The design elements of the site are an opportunity to reinforce your brand rather than to show off your artistic tendencies.
The URL (web address) should include the name of the firm or at least part of the name. It is no longer good enough to use a free URL that starts with the name of the service provider.
Other basics elements recommended were ‘Why Choose Us’ and ‘Contact Us’. It was suggested that contact information such as a phone number should be included on every page because a prospect might make a split second decision to contact you. If the phone number is not in sight, the prospect might get distracted and it only takes one click to leave your website.
Getting Found on the Web
It is possible to appear on the first page of a Google search result without spending money on internet advertising. Examples were provided of small law firms who use search engine optimisation without also spending money on Google AdWords / sponsored links.
Hunter Steele informed us about the results that some LEAP Website clients have been achieving. For example, one family law firm has been achieving 30 to 40 visits per day. Another, in the migration field has been achieving 90 visits per day with 19 online enquiries generated per week. Neither have been spending money on Google AdWords / sponsored links. These results are being achieved with search engine optimisation. Further explanation about these techniques was provided at the seminar.
It was also pointed out that Google Places is becoming more important. These are the search results that display alongside a map and usually appear near the top of a Google search results page. Go to www.Google.com/local/add to add your free listing.
Analysing and Refining Metrics
The importance of monitoring your website’s statistics was emphasised. Search engine optimisation is not a ‘set and forget’ activity. Keep an eye on website visitor numbers and sources of new client enquires. Ensure that your website statistics are provided in a form that makes sense for a law firm. The type of business and the goals of its online presence will mean that not all statistics have the same importance across different industries.
Extending your Online Presence
Once you have the basics covered, there are other online services that can help bring visitors to your site and even generate direct enquiries. Examples are LinkedIn and Twitter. You might have heard the statement ‘content is king’. Add content to your website such as articles. This is a means of showcasing your expertise.
The next NSW State Legal Conference is scheduled for 28th to 31st March 2011