With a growing percentage of new enquiries arriving via solicitors’ websites these days, online is undoubtedly a law firm’s most valuable marketing tool.

Whether you are starting a new practice and planning your first website, or contemplating an upgrade to your current site, it can be easy to underestimate the amount of time involved. Most parties involved (solicitors and designers) expect the design phase to take a long time. Solicitors tend not to work visually and so may find it difficult to brief a designer, but they know what they like when they see it, so this can involve a lot of trial and error.

The design process is ALSO complicated if a number of people need to be involved. How do you balance so many personal and subjective design choices without reaching a bland compromise? But this is not the hardest bit!

Once the design is signed off, programming begins and this can usually be accomplished in a matter of weeks. This is the period when the law firm needs to be working on the content, ready to be dropped into the beta site when it is delivered.

And this is where the project timetable can really fall apart. The reason is that because a website is such an all-encompassing representation of your firm, it forces you to think through big strategic questions, such as:

  • Who are we and how do we want to be perceived?
  • Who are our target clients and what do they need from the site?
  • What is our range of services and how might this develop in the next few years?

In the current challenging economic environment, these questions are even more challenging than before.

There is little point in populating a newly designed website with out-of-date material which, if written a few years ago, probably did not have search engines in mind. Therefore there is often a substantial amount of content needed for new services sectors and new team members.

For anyone starting a new law firm, you need to convey your vision whilst giving the website room for your practice to grow.

Whilst partners often comment that it was helpful and useful to go through this thought process again when building a new website, it was rarely planned for as part of the process and it always takes longer than you think it will!

Sue Bramall is managing director of Berners Marketing and advises law firms in the UK and overseas