You make sure nobody knows how to contact you!
Last week, I had a little bit of free time at the office and decided to update my contacts (yes, I actually do this). Several contacts, as happens, were missing phone numbers, email addresses, and other information. Some were literally nothing more than a name that I’d saved to remind myself to follow up about something – the fact that they’re blank indicating that the reminder to follow up didn’t work.
So as I looked around online for updated information on a bunch of attorneys I know, I ran into a problem I’d experienced in the past, and found remarkably frustrating – the information I was looking for was NOWHERE TO BE FOUND on the law firm website.
“Ah, now I remember,” I thought to myself, “why so many of my contacts don’t have full information.” I also remembered exactly how frustrating it was when what seemed like such basic information was unavailable.
Imagine how your prospective clients feel.
Basic Contact Information is Nowhere to be Found on your Law Firm Website
I mean NOWHERE. Sure, several of the bigger firms had downloadable vCards (extremely helpful, thank you), and some had the slightly less helpful listing of phone numbers and email addresses on attorney bio pages. However, the MAJORITY of law firm websites I visited did not list the email addresses for individual attorneys. Many also did not list direct phone numbers.
A disturbingly large number of them also didn’t provide a phone number, and only provided a contact form on one page of their site. Once someone is on your site, contacting you should LITERALLY be the easiest thing they can do on your site, regardless how the do so. If you’ve only given them one way to contact you, and it’s not obvious, they won’t contact you.
This is a problem. You need to fix it now.
The Essential Contact Info for an Effective Law Firm Website:
- Your main phone number (on every page);
- Your direct phone number (for every attorney, on their bio page);
- Your email address (for every attorney, on their bio page);
- A downloadable vCard (for every attorney, on their bio page);
- Social media information;
- A basic contact form;
- An updated professional headshot (for every attorney, on their bio page)
1) List your main phone number on EVERY page of your site.
That same 2014 study found that 49% of law firm websites didn’t display a contact phone number on their home page.
Unacceptable. Period. Your website needs to list your law firm’s phone number on EVERY page of your site, for a number of reasons.
Most people don’t enter your website through your home page – attorney bio pages, usually accessed directly from a search engine query, is the most common. The odds of anyone making it to your “Contact” page just to find your phone number? Slim.
Your phone number is tied to your local business profile by Google and other search engines. As a result, the more often you list your phone number, the stronger your website’s Local SEO rankings are. All you have to do is make sure your local business information includes your primary phone number, and Google will automatically correlate that number to the number of times it appears on searchable web pages. Failing to put your phone number on every page is essentially the same thing as turning down free marketing services.
2) Every attorney’s direct phone number should be listed in their attorney bio.
When someone is attempting to contact you for immediate help, they’re looking for an answer (or at least to leave a message) quickly. Only providing your main office line when you have a direct number forces anyone who is calling to go through at least one additional step in their attempt to get their problem solved. At LEAST one additional step.
Only providing them with your main number means they’re calling a number that’s not directly relevant to their problem or need.
Providing your direct line allows users accessing your website to feel they have a stronger connection to you. Even if they never use the number, the simple knowledge that they will be able to reach you if they should ever need to can be quite reassuring.
3) Every attorney’s email address should be listed in their attorney bio.
A 2014 study indicated that 93% of law firm websites did not display contact email addresses for attorneys. While it is likely that this number has decreased since 2014, due to the adoption and implementation of more modern website designs in many law firms, I can tell you from personal experience that there are still WAY too many law firms that just don’t want you to have their email address.
I’ve heard some attorneys claim that they’re concerned about having prospective clients email them right from the start about their problems. Among the concerns are the relative insecurity of email vs other forms of communication for confidential information and the possibility of accidentally forming an attorney-client relationship. Those concerns are, in my opinion, overblown.
First, regarding the security of online communication, it’s true that email is not as secure as an online portal or in-person communication. However, if your client is willing to divulge confidential information over email, they likely would have done the same in an online contact form as well – which is likely entitled to even LESS protection than an email sent directly to an attorney, because the form itself isn’t actually run (or likely even viewed) by an attorney in your office. Moreover, the level of security your email account enjoys is actually more directly related to your overall cyber security measures than some vulnerability specific to email transmissions.
Second, if you’re paranoid about accidentally forming an attorney-client relationship, know this: I’m not aware of a SINGLE ethics opinion that has found the existence of an attorney-client relationship based solely on a single communication made by the client. If that situation DID result in an attorney-client relationship, how would what the prospective client put on your online contact form be any different. Come to think of it, if establishing the relationship was really that simple, wouldn’t a voicemail do the trick too? How about a handwritten note slid into your law firm’s mailbox?
Relax. The attorney-client relationship is created by YOUR actions, not the prospective client’s.
4) Add a downloadable vCard to every attorney bio.
Ok, so there are some reasons that you might not want to have your email on your website, including wanting to prevent spammers from easily obtaining your email address and, of course, ethical concerns*. In my opinion, they’re crap, and are dramatically outweighed by the benefits you and your clients receive. However, I’m perfectly willing to accept that others might not be as willing to accept the tradeoffs. If you’re not willing to post your email address, you ABSOLUTELY need to have a vCard with your contact information available.
Some people suggest that nobody ever downloads V-Cards on a website. Bullshit – I certainly do. Your audience isn’t entirely your clients or prospective clients. Other attorneys want complete, updated contact information, and existing contact management systems are not exactly the most intuitive system to enter full information into. Help a fellow attorney out!
Offering at downloadable vCard means that people won’t have to navigate back to your bio if they need to speak to you.
5) Include Social Media information for both your law firm and your individual attorneys.
Social media profiles and company pages are another way for people to stay in contact with your law firm, and they’re steadily increasing in importance. Make sure you can be found directly from your website!
The attorney bio pages of your law firm website should also include social media links, where appropriate, for your individual attorneys. My personal recommendation would be to include your attorneys’ LinkedIn profiles, and encourage your attorneys to keep their profiles professional and updated.
You may elect to include profiles such as Facebook and Twitter, but be VERY wary of allowing links for individual attorney accounts. Most people, including attorneys, view their personal profiles as specifically non-professional networks. Also, be aware of any ethical requirements your state sets for social media accounts.
6) Include a Basic Contact Form on your law firm website’s Contact Us page
Yes, you should have a basic contact form available on your website. Even if it’s not on every single page (although I would recommend including it, if you can), it should at least be in your “Contact Us” page. Why would I recommend including a contact form after going on this rant about other methods of contacting you?
First, because a contact form is universal. Many prospective clients will land on the bio page of an attorney they were searching for directly. That’s fine, and your website handles one of its two main jobs (two jobs: 1) serve as an online directory for people searching for a specific attorney or law firm, 2) serve as the home base of your online marketing efforts) well if this happens frequently. The second job, however, is going to be capturing leads looking for representation, but not necessarily for a specific attorney. It’s quite likely that those visitors won’t feel particularly comfortable emailing random attorneys, so you should give them a more general way to contact your law firm if they’re interested in your services.
Second, online forms offer an excellent opportunity to track how successful your online marketing efforts have been. You’re able to analyze every part of the responses on your contact form, and the responses are all identical (based on whatever forms you choose to include).
7) Make sure your attorneys have an updated photo.
Yes, you need a professional photo. No, this isn’t technically about contact information, but I’m going to give you two good reasons to keep a professional headshot that are directly related:
First, it means you’re giving your website’s visitors an idea who they’re talking to when they do call or email. Never underestimate the value of establishing a connection with someone before your first converstation, particularly when it takes virtually no work on your part!
Second, more and more contact management systems are emphasizing the inclusion of a photo for each contact. Without a quality headshot available on your law firm’s website, your network might be forced to rely on your social media photos for your entry. Let’s face it, nobody needs that.
Now all you have to do is fix every other problem your website has. But at least your contact info will be updated in my system!
About the Author
Brian Focht is a civil litigation attorney and technology enthusiast. In addition to being the author of The Cyber Advocate, he is also the producer and host of the Legal Technology Review podcast, and co-founder of B&R Concepts, a small business technology consulting company.