Making the most of online marketing

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Lawyers know the importance of first impressions, and a client’s initial interaction with your firm may be through your website. That’s why savvy law firms have begun devoting more resources to presenting a polished online image.

andy perkins Perkins

“I think that as a firm, if we didn’t have a web presence – or perhaps even worse, had a web presence that is poor – to me, it’s no different than someone walking into our office and seeing the floors don’t get vacuumed, or seeing that the cleaning services don’t do their job, or that we don’t care enough to type our pleadings on something other than a 1983 dot matrix (printer),” said Andy Perkins, a partner with Peterson Waggoner & Perkins, in Rochester.

Perkins, who doubles as the firm’s webmaster, and other like-minded attorneys say that people expect law firms to have a website. And what firms do with those websites may be the key to winning clients.

Eye-catching content

Leah Potter, business development director for Harden Jackson in Carmel, said that photos are an important component of the firm’s online presence.

leah potter Potter

“We try to do professional photos once a year, to keep the content fresh,” Potter said. “We feel like getting the attorneys’ faces out there is really one of the most important things we can do for marketing.”

Even more important, Potter said, are the firm’s video segments. While the firm has been producing those since 2008, a few months ago, Harden Jackson began filming segments that feature its attorneys explaining some of the most common questions clients have about family law.

“Our thought behind that is that people are going to develop an automatic trust when they see someone on video; it’s a lot different than just looking at a picture of someone,” she said.

Harden Jackson owns the rights to the photos and videos on its website. Perkins said his firm also owns the rights to the images on its website.

Before redesigning the website, Perkins said his firm identified photos as being an important marketing tool.

“We read up on things that are useful for the site, and we wanted to have some nice ones done so we could use them not just on the site but for some other things here and there,” he said.

Jennifer Walker, chief marketing officer for Bose McKinney & Evans, agreed that having uniform, professional photos on the website creates an overall impression of consistency, as do the attorney biographies, which the attorneys and marketing staff write together.

Getting people there

Lawyers know that nowadays, most people find information through Google searches. So if you want to compete with other firms, your site needs better search engine optimization – or SEO. That means picking the right keywords and “tags” so that people searching for lawyers, or services your firm offers, will see your firm in the top search results.

While some lawyers feel comfortable performing their own SEO, others hire companies to do that work for them.

Harden Jackson hired Visual Blaze to perform SEO for the site.

“We are in constant contact with them, optimizing our SEO,” Potter said. “We make sure we’re up at the top with keywords. We have approximately 1,000 visitors a month, I would say, and they come to us from different sources.”

Miles Design optimized the SEO for Bose McKinney & Evans. While Walker was careful to avoid revealing any inside secrets, she said that some clients have reported finding their way to the firm because of a blog an attorney wrote, so keywords and tags in blogs may help drive client traffic to the website.

Perkins said his firm is already seeing returns on the investment in its website.

“We are getting feedback more frequently from clients who saw us via a search-engine search. In the past three months we’ve gotten three to five clients who have originated from out-of-state who would not have known us by local reputation and were able to come to us just by web presence,” he said.

As firms begin focusing more on their online presence, they may be increasingly shifting budgets away from traditional advertising.

Seth Buitendorp, a bankruptcy attorney for the Merrillville firm Genetos Retson & Yoon, has designed his own webpage using software made by The Modern Firm. Genetos Retson & Yoon has a static webpage that provides basic information, but Buitendorp’s individual page provides him a forum to explain in detail the services he officers.

Since 2010, Buitendorp has cut back on his phonebook advertising. He used to advertise in both major phone books in Lake and Porter counties. But he’s dropped advertising altogether in one phone book in each county, sensing that his clients will increasingly turn to the Internet to find him.

buitendorp Buitendorp

“I’ve had some bankruptcy clients – younger to middle age – they may not even have Internet at home, but they have a smartphone,” he said.

What people want

Google Analytics, a free service that tracks interaction with websites, allows firms to determine how visitors find their website, how long they stay on the page and what kind of content they’re viewing.

Walker said that analytics tells her that people visit attorney profiles frequently, along with event pages. Recently, more people have been visiting the firm’s blog landing page.

“Blogs provide value by having an immediate forum for people to access the latest news,” Walker said. “Blogs tend to be very immediate and factual, yet engaging, and sometimes even a little more informal.”

Peterson Waggoner & Perkins includes on its website an online survey for clients to provide feedback about the firm’s performance. Another feature allows clients to make payments online. But the website is designed to be straightforward and user-friendly.

“I think the priority for us is not the technological capacity of a website, I think for us it’s more important that it look nice, that it’s professional, and that the information on it be current and show prospective clients what they need quickly,” Perkins said.

DIY design

Firms don’t need to spend a fortune on a good website. Buitendorp said he paid an initial set-up fee of about $1,500, and he maintains the site himself, paying only a modest monthly hosting fee. And his professional-looking headshot is courtesy of a friend – Buitendorp posed for the portrait in a garage.

Perkins uses Squarespace software, which is easy enough to use that the firm does not need an extra staff member to administer the website.

“The kind of person who’s comfortable updating their Facebook page probably can – with a little bit of exploring and training – be comfortable with managing a website,” he said. “I think what they’ve put together is a real game changer in terms of being able to manage content, because it no longer needs to be filtered through someone who speaks HTML as a second language.”•


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  1. I think the cops are doing a great job locking up criminals. The Murder rates in the inner cities are skyrocketing and you think that too any people are being incarcerated. Maybe we need to lock up more of them. We have the ACLU, BLM, NAACP, Civil right Division of the DOJ, the innocent Project etc. We have court system with an appeal process that can go on for years, with attorneys supplied by the government. I'm confused as to how that translates into the idea that the defendants are not being represented properly. Maybe the attorneys need to do more Pro-Bono work

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  4. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  5. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.