News & Updates from the Maryland Association for Justice, Inc.
Thursday, October 25, 2012
LegalTech – Do-It-Yourself Law Firm Websites, Part II
This post is Part II of LegalTech's 2-part series on "Do-It-Yourself Law Firm Websites." Read Part I here.
Creating Your Own Website
So how do you create a new website? If you do not need a website right now, and are simply creating one as part of your long-term plan (or back-up plan), then you do not need to pay a company thousands of dollars to do it. This is a DIY project that is much simpler than changing a car’s oil. The total cost can be as low as $100.00 per year.
Choose a Domain Name
A domain name is the website’s address. Choosing a domain name is a largely a matter of personal preference, though it is important to comply with the Maryland Rule of Professional Conduct. Lawyers often choose names that reflect their firm name (www.johncordlaw), or specific practice areas, often combined with a geographical location (www.marylandcollisionlawyers.com). Importantly, you can also choose different top-level domains, such as .net, .info and .org (though, .org might imply a connection with charitable organization, in violation of the MRPC).
There are a number of services that can help you to find free domain names. One such site is GoDaddy.com. The home page allows users to input potential domain names to determine availability. Several domain names are available for around $10.00 per year, and the site offers discounts with the purchase of multiple domain names. You can purchase the name for as little as one year, or as many as ten years. Users who intend to use the site actively should purchase the domain for the maximum amount of time, because the search engines give more credibility to sites that appear to have longevity.
Choose a Web Host
Users can purchase domain names and hold them without doing anything with them. When the user is ready to create a website, the next step is to select a web host. Again, there are a variety of possibilities, but many sources of domain name purchases also provide web hosting. GoDaddy.com offers hosting for around $5.00 to $10.00 per month. For users who are just starting out, the smaller amount, which includes less data, is likely fine. The web host may provide options, including Wordpress or other platform-friendly websites. Those will help to make website creation simple, even for the novice.
Design The Website
When a website is linked up with a platform, such as WordPress, Blogger or Typepad, the user can easily select a theme and organize the website by creating menus and adding widgets. Widgets are applications that customize the site, and include, for example, links to other websites or blogs, an image to be used on every page, a list of recent blog posts and a search bar. These widgets can be modified to a degree within the theme to create a unique website.
Add Some Content
Users can create content—web pages and blog posts, though the usually simple interfaces of the platform. When creating a basic website, users should focus on providing at least five to ten pages of content (a minimum of one page per practice area), a biography page, a home page, and a contact page.
To be sure, a basic, DIY website will not be particularly effective in attracting potential clients. Remember—the goal is to create a placeholder website that can be leveraged down the road, when or if needed. When compared to other just-created websites, these older websites will have the advantage of age. Of course, with a little bit of work (even a few hours a month), a DIY website can grow over time and may become a tool for bringing in new work. When the time is right, the website can be handed over to a professional website company for fine-tuning and more sophisticated design.
About the Author John J. Cord (John Cord Law, LLC) graduated from the University of Colorado School of Law. He concentrates his practice on automobile negligence, medical malpractice and workers' compensation. He provides a wide range of technological services to law firms, including blogging and trial presentation. Find his firm on Facebook and Twitter.