Some Domain Facts

Will a web site bring in more business?

     A World Wide Web site provides a non invasive medium of communications with the
non-legal community. Unlike other mediums for marketing firms like brochures, advertisements and television, the web requires the client to seek the information presented. It has long been the preference of attorneys to resist using dominant methods of advertising. Instead, attorneys have relied upon referrals and community involvement to attract business. 

     The web will not revolutionize the current system of attracting clients. With the exception of a few practice areas, the vast majority of clients do not locate their counsel through traditional mediums of advertising. However, as more firms are discovering, the web is an effective tool for disseminating information about the firm without having to spend the amount of money required to change an existing prospectus, newsletter, or

     Unlike printed material, the web gives a firm the ability to make changes to existing literature without having to reprint the material. Therefore, if a firm decides to expand its practice by adding an environmental section, a web site is the most cost effective way to inform existing clients as well as others of the firm’s expansion. The biographies of the new attorneys that the firm hires as well as a description of the practice area itself can all be added without having to redesign and print any written material.

     Recently at a seminar, the lecturing attorney’s web site address was part of the printed agenda. When one visited the web site, they could find a printed copy of the actual speech as well as other articles on the same subject. Hence, the lecture may have been the impetus for generating interest in the firm; but, the web site provided the means to furnish the user with more information. The more information potential clients can receive from the firm the more likely they are to enlist the firm’s services. Thus, legal web sites that are informative and updated can help generate business.

     While there may be some value in using a web site as no more than an advertisement, the odds are that fewer browsers will return to the site if it does not offer any new information. However, for the sole practitioner or small firm a simple web page may prove very beneficial. As more people begin “surfing” the Internet, the chances that a small web site will get noticed increases. 

     One thing is certain, a simple but informative web page will cost substantially less than advertising in the phone book, in newspapers, periodicals or on television. Furthermore, a web site will provide the potential client more information than all of these other mediums of advertising. Small firms and sole practitioners can then promote their websites by registering them with popular search engines or listing their web address in the local area phone book.

     Time will be the ultimate determining factor as to how big a role the Internet will play in attracting new clients.  But one thing is certain, no matter how small or large a firm is, a well designed web site will not detract from the firm’s business.

What will determine the effectiveness of my WWW page?

     A number of factors will determine the effectiveness of a firm’s WWW page:

How well the page is designed graphically 
The functionality of the page 
How easy it is to navigate 
The browser platforms used by clients 
The firm’s location and types of practice areas 
To whom the firm is trying to market 
The firm's approach to marketing itself in general 

     Many of the legal web sites are graphically very unimaginative. Whether this is a good or bad is dependent upon the firms and the audiences they are targeting. While most people agree that informative web sites are better than others to attract browsers to the site, this does not mean that the information has to be presented in an unattractive manner. 

     When designing a web site, a firm must keep in mind who they are targeting. If it is other lawyers, then by all means take away all the background color and graphics and just give the information. However, if the page is designed with he client in mind, then a nice graphical interface would be more appropriate. Again, a page that is designed for an entertainment law practice might need to be more graphic than a web site for a tax law firm. 

     The functionality of the web page will affect how frequently the page is revisited. If the web site offers the user the ability to get maps and directions to the law firm, local areas of interest, restaurant reviews, articles, topical newsletters, legal trivia games or the ability to alpha numerically page someone, then the page will be more likely to be revisited by the user. 

If the page is programmed using newer programming languages like Java, CGI Script,
Pearl or VRML, then it may be more functional. Movement of icons on the home page and real time sound are just a few of the features that higher end programming will bring to the web site. However, increased functionality usually costs more than standard HTML programming and, depending upon the needs of the firm, may or may not be beneficial.

     Along with graphics and functionality, the faster the user can access the information they want and the easier it is to navigate through the site, the more likely the user will frequent the web site. Not long ago 9600 baud rates were the standard for modems. Today, 56,000 is quickly becoming the norm and soon will be surpassed. 

     When designing an effective web site, the firm must take into consideration how long certain graphical images will take to “download” and appear on the user’s monitor. This is one aspect of design where more experienced web page designers have an advantage. Furthermore, the order in which the individual pages are laid out has an effect on how easy the web site is to navigate. If a client wants to access a particular
article in the firm’s library then it would be aggravating for the client to page through
six pages before reaching the library page.

     There are many different types of browsers that are available to the public to view each
individual web site. Each of these browsers format the programming language into their
“platforms,” and each of these platforms read the information differently. An effective web site must take into consideration the types of platforms used by customers and the rest of the web community and program accordingly. If a firm has a major client that has Internet access but uses a “text only” browser, then the firm might consider offering their entire home page or portions of it in a text only format. 
     A firm’s location and the type of law they practice will also determine the nature of the web page they will want to design. A small tax firm in Tyler, Texas will not have the same needs as a large multi-practice firm in Dallas. The small tax firm may choose to use their web page to better serve existing clients and not as a marketing tool while the Dallas firm might desire a highly informative site to assist them with attracting new clients. If the Tyler firm has no desire to generate business outside of Tyler then they will not need a highly functional web site. Thus, a firm's location, size and areas of specialization should be the determining factors in designing an effective web page.
     In conclusion, the effectiveness of the firm’s web site will depend upon who the site is programmed to reach, as well as the firm’s ability to utilize other marketing methods to promote the use of their site. If a law firm is interested in serving the bankingcommunity then it would be beneficial for the web site to include articles that target the client’s needs. 

     The firm must be willing to promote their web site by encouraging clients to visit their home page when sending e-mail and by placing the web site address on all printed material that the law firm releases including, newsletters, business cards and the firm prospectus.

Should I reserve a domain name and how do I do it?

     As more people and businesses join the Internet community specific “URLs” will become harder to obtain. A URL is the address used to locate specific web sites and each one must be obtained from a registrar. Unlike traditional addresses, the URLs are typically name driven and should be selected to help the user remember the site. For example, is the Internet address for West’s Legal Directory. The address “wld” is simple and easy to remember; hence, it is a good example of an Internet domain name address.

     Even if a firm has decided not to list a home page on the Internet, it would be wise to reserve a domain name now because obtaining a user friendly URL may prove difficult in the future. Many web consultants and Internet Service Providers offer to reserve a domain name for a fee on top of the fee the registrars charge to register a domain name.   However, the process is fairly simple and can be accomplished by following a simple 6
step procedure:

Step 1. Review the appropriate policies of the Registrar 
Step 2. Determine if your selected name is already in use by checking your firm’s whois database engine 
Step 3. Coordinate for primary and secondary Domain Name Service(DNS) for the name. This is to provide identification of your domain name to the computers and users of the Internet. This is a service usually provided by an Internet Service Provider(ISP).
Step 4. Input your information on the form provided. 
Step 5. Review the information before submitting. 
Step 6. Submit the template 

Once the registration applicatiojn is complete you need to pay for the domain.

Will A Web Site Benefit the Sole Practitioner or a Small Firm? 

     Small firms and sole practitioners may be able to benefit more from utilizing the Internet as a marketing tool than larger firms. Unlike large firm clients, many small firms serve the interests of parties who might utilize the services of a lawyer only a few times in their lives. These clients will probably not need the services of a firm on a
regular basis; therefore, they tend to be unprepared when deciding between one practitioner over another. These are the clients who thumb through the local phone book when seeking assistance with tax matters, personal injury, or other claims that might affect their personal lives or business. These potential clients are often intimidated by lawyers and reluctant to contact legal offices. As more clients begin utilizing the Internet to purchase goods, locate
apartments, reserve seats, and to choose their service professionals they will locate more information on the Internet than through any other media. Today, some clients look no further than the phone book to select their counsel, soon some will look no farther than the Internet.

"It is not cost effective to have a Web page."

     If advertising were not effective, then lawyers and law firms would not spend as much as $70,000 a year for an advertisement in the phone book. With an Internet site, a firm can relay to the client any amount of information that a firm desires and a firm is not limited as it would be with other forms of advertising. The web page can provide the client with recent accomplishments, biographies of the partners, and any other relevant information that might be beneficial to the client.  Furthermore the information is provided in a non-invasive manner where the client can choose what they want to read. Unlike printed advertisements, a legal web page can be supplemented at very little cost. The initial web page costs vary; however, the costs are going to be far less than what a firm would spend advertising on television, in newspapers or in phone directories.

"My clients do not use the Internet."

     A small firm’s potential clients do use the Internet. The Internet revolution is widespread and the number of new users is increasing at such an alarming rate that professionals in a vast array of markets are endeavoring to understand how to best utilize this new technology. According to the most recent non-Internet survey conducted by Nielson Media Research, as of October 1995 more than 17% of the US population above the age of 16 had Internet access and 11% of these users had obtained access in the past three months. Males represented 66% of the Internet users which was a decrease of more than 10% from the previous year. While 25% have incomes of over $80,000, the number of middle income users is rapidly increasing due to the decreasing
costs of Internet access and computer hardware and software.

"I do not have access to the Internet so a web site would be a waste of money."

     Law firms do not have to be on the Internet to benefit from the exposure. Since the cost of unlimited Internet access can be as little as $15 per month, it would benefit all firms that have a computer to begin utilizing the resources available on the Internet. However, just like traditional forms of advertising, a firm does not need to subscribe to the advertising source to realize the benefits.

     In conclusion, the Internet is the marketing and informational wave of the future. Like all media it will benefit most those who best understand and utilize its potential. However, unlike traditional media, small firms and sole practitioners can reach more people for fewer dollars using Internet technology than they can with any other form of