Mind Your Business

Can your law firm afford not to redesign its website?

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Lynda Decker headshot

Lynda Decker.

Just like an old and worn wardrobe, your website may need a major overhaul. But the idea of having to pitch everything and start over may be intimidating enough to keep you wearing embarrassingly outdated trends. Unfortunately, your prospects won’t be able to see past your old-fashioned choices. Instead, they’ll assume you’re just out of touch.

Modernizing your website isn’t superfluous to your business plan—it’s a key part of its success.

A really great website is of the moment both stylistically and technologically. But these two facets change rapidly. And that means even the shiniest new website’s shelf life is ultimately limited.

You may be tempted to hold off on investing in the look, feel and functionality of your website for as long as you can. Doing so may bring fleeting budgetary relief—but delaying the inevitable can mar your brand indefinitely.

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When it comes to your law firm’s website, looks matter

More often than not, your potential clients will first encounter your law firm by knocking on your digital door: your website. That critical interaction will influence whether those prospects eventually choose your firm to represent them.

More than ever, your potential clients aren’t just visually literate, they’re digitally discerning. If your firm’s website looks outdated or doesn’t accurately reflect your brand, your ideal prospects are unlikely to walk through your digital front door.

There may be times in the life of your firm when redesign is unanimously and enthusiastically supported. Your firm may want to signal the ascension of younger partners, change its general perception or highlight recent growth and success.

There may also be times when legacy partners fail to recognize the need for a contemporary web refresh—and “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” seems to be the oft-sung refrain. A years-old “functional” website, though, is not necessarily one that actually works. Your firm needs to acknowledge that:

    1. Millennials are now in leadership roles. Contemporary website design is expected, not an optional “extra.” When prospects peek in your digital front door, they will swiftly judge your relevancy by the look and feel of your site.
    2. Clean, organized and stylish websites are the ultimate business card. They set expectations for a premium experience.
    3. Websites must consider accessibility. Is your website design inclusive of those with physical and situational disabilities?

Your firm only has seconds to make a first impression—and intelligent, refined design can ensure it’s a good one.

Your firm’s tech should be as savvy as its design

By the time you’ve faced the fact that a website redesign is in order, you’re also faced with staring at the dusty technologies that hold your existing site together.

Technology and related cost structures are always changing. The tech you initially used to build and design your firm’s website may have been a great solution—to problems you had perhaps a decade ago.

Yesterday’s fixes are not today’s best practices. The wardrobe analogy holds up. You wouldn’t expect to fit into your high school jeans. And you certainly wouldn’t insist on wearing them to an important business meeting.

It’s crucial to be aware of factors that can lead to ill-fitting tech, such as:

    • Web workarounds that waste time and money. If you’ve cobbled your website together over time, you’ve likely spent more time and money than you really should have holding it together. Makeshift solutions, though, can cost time and money—and cause too many UX problems.
    • Proprietary CMSs (content management systems) that lock you into multiyear contracts. An open-source CMS (such as WordPress) is more flexible and adaptable than a proprietary CMS. While open source systems may not come with industry-specific extras, they are far more cost effective. The good news? Any developers worth their salt can build the custom functionality you need.
    • Built-in cyber vulnerabilities. Outdated technology is more prone to attack. It’s as simple as that.

When your firm’s website technologies become outdated or compromised, users will find it difficult to discover what they need on your website. Just like digital natives expect clean, contemporary design, they also expect an easy, intuitive site experience.

Keep Your firm’s website current with strategic design

From the home page to back-end tech, your website should be stylish and smart—and that requires a proven strategy. First, you must evaluate your brand’s strengths and weaknesses and assess the competitive landscape.

Next you must define your firm’s brand. Setting a firm apart from others is tough. The ability to do so requires conversational deep dives to discover who you are as a firm—and who you aren’t. Expressing your brand and differentiating yourself from the competition guides design decisions. Choosing fonts and colors might be fun, but those choices need to flow from an understanding of how you want to position your firm.

This important soul-searching work lays the foundation for everything that follows. Finally, you must bring your brand experience to fruition in all dimensions of your business, including coaching your team members about how to embody your brand.

Steady improvements, based on a personalized, comprehensive design strategy, can keep your website modern. You don’t need to toss everything in your digital wardrobe all at once. Decker can help you decide what can stay. We can also show you how to judiciously add or subtract elements to keep your website fresh and attractive to prospective clients.

Editor’s note: A version of this article was previously published on DeckerDesign.com.

Lynda Decker is a native New Yorker and the CEO and owner of Decker Design. She is a legal sector-focused brand strategist and multidisciplinary designer whose work encompasses high-level website design, interactive communications, publications and information graphics. With 26 years of experience in design, Decker comes to the table ready to transform law firm websites into identities that amplify expertise through compelling visual design, resulting in attracting clients by standing out from the mediocrity of law firm web designs. Decker is a graduate of Syracuse University and the School of Visual Arts and has multiple graduate degrees in design. She has won several major advertising awards. She has served as vice president of the AIGA New York chapter and most recently stepped down as national co-chair of AIGA Women Lead, where she worked for gender equity in the workplace.

Mind Your Business is a series of columns written by lawyers, legal professionals and others within the legal industry. The purpose of these columns is to offer practical guidance for attorneys on how to run their practices, provide information about the latest trends in legal technology and how it can help lawyers work more efficiently, and strategies for building a thriving business.

Interested in contributing a column? Send a query to [email protected].

This column reflects the opinions of the author and not necessarily the views of the ABA Journal—or the American Bar Association.

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