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Pitching to Lawyers, Part 2 - What can they afford?
Why are so many sites so basic? What can we do about it?
Undead Hunter

 2:07 am on Jan 24, 2003 (gmt 0)

I noticed in another thread that another member was successful in selling sites to firms with 3 - 6 laywers... at around $500 per site. Smartly, he re-couped his initial investment over time with a reasonable fee for hosting and with some residual software. Kudos for him, as he has so many that he's making $2k a month in hosting alone.

But we're talking to some right now who are prepared to spend 10x that for a unique, creative site around 20 pages. And really, even that is pocket-change for a firm with 3 to 6 lawyers, who must be generating more than $100k each per year, so $300k to $600k on the *low* end... honestly, their lunch budget is probably higher than that. (I think the firm we're looking at does over $1 million a year, easy.)

So where's the disconnect happening? I've seen sites designed by firms with 150 lawyers that must be generating $20 million a year in fees, that are just nothing at all.

Do laywers in general just not "get" how the web can help them?
Are they just generally resistent to change?
If so, are their strategies that people have found effective when dealing with them?

Or am I way off on this? Do other people find lawyers are great clients, that $5k - $20k+ sites for them are the norm?

(Now that I'm writing this I *do* remember a ColdFusion developer who created a database-driven law site for a firm that he charged $150,000 for... but it this as much of an exception as it seems?)

Thanks for any input and comments that you can offer, folks. There sure are enough of these folks out there that we could all work on their sites for the rest of our lives and never finish them all - 20,000 in the Chicago Yellow Pages alone, or something crazy like that...



 3:58 am on Jan 24, 2003 (gmt 0)

I don't think the issue is "What can they afford." The answer to that question is "Way more than many of our clients."

I think the issue is what ROI will the attorneys see for dollars spent on the web. Let's look at how attorneys bring in business:

Personal injury- they are spending their money on TV and Yellow Pages (unless it is mesothelioma - older crowd, good newspaper buy, and super-expensive PPC to grab the kids who are looking for answers to why dad is sick).

By the way, the top three Overture bidders for mesothelioma are at $50... drops down to $7 for number 4...

Corporate law or other B2B - their money is spent on networking, rainmakers, etc. - buyers for corporate legal services are not picking a law firm over the internet.

Other legal services (Title work, criminal defense) - Either a small group of decision makers (real estate agents and lenders for title work) or a very non-web-savvy client pool (criminal defense).

I agree the legal industry is a great market just waiting to be tapped - I'm just not sure we are today the solution they are waiting for. Make me happy - show me why I'm wrong :) I've got a couple of potential clients I'm ready to use your arguments on. :)

(that said, I have just picked up a title company as a client - so at least I am now making some money off of attorneys...


 4:14 am on Jan 24, 2003 (gmt 0)

Undead Hunter -
Can you give the link to that thread you were reading regarding the member who was/is doing well with law firms? I'd like to read it.

That aside, part of the problem with law firms is that they are restricted by certain ethical guidelines established by the Bar Association as to the manner in which they are allowed to advertise and/or solicit for their services. It makes some attorneys rather skittish about trying new media. They really don't know how to use those media without someone to guide them, particularly as they're trying not to violate their ethical requirements. If they do, they could be disbarred. So much for all that wonderful income! ;)

I also think Mardi-Gras brings up some excellent points on why they advertise the way they do.

I used to be a legal secretary working for several different firms with different specializations. Personal injury, medical malpractice, wrongful death cases usually came into our office because of recommendations of friends. Many of the clients were poor and probably didn't even have access to computers,let alone the Internet.

Recommendations from friends and/or co-workers were also how most clients chose the various firms for estate planning, divorce, and criminal matters.

Sometimes a firm was known by general reputation for a specific area of expertise. Either way, it's generally a very localized area of practice. Certainly not "world wide".

There are some firms and individual attorneys who don't even have email yet, let alone a website. Small wonder they don't know what to do with a website.

Perhaps this is a good place to get a discussion going on that very issue: What can an attorney place on their website?

If we can get Lawman to join in and help us out regarding the ethical issues, that'd probably be the best place to start.

If we don't have a good handle on the ethics of advertising for attorneys, there's no good way to try to sell the web to them as an advertising medium, since many of the "normal" methods might violate that code of ethics.


 4:26 am on Jan 24, 2003 (gmt 0)

If we can get Lawman to join in and help us out regarding the ethical issues

Advertising issues are not the hurdle they used to be before the Supreme Court struck down many such regulations in an Arizona case some time ago (have to pull out some old briefs to get the right citation :)).

Where any such issues remain, they are all state bar issues - there are no Federal laws governing legal advertising. Unless we're talking Georgia law, lawman may not be able to help out. And lawman has frequently pointed out the value of free legal advice - his or anyone else's ;)

<<added>> Bates v. State Bar of Arizona, 1977<</added>>


 4:45 am on Jan 24, 2003 (gmt 0)

If you're interested in landmark commercial free speech cases, check here [bc.edu] for info on Bates vs the Bar of Arizona. If you're interested in the case that made me an expert in commercial free speech ;), check here [supct.law.cornell.edu]


 5:37 am on Jan 24, 2003 (gmt 0)

In today's technological environment where: WYSIWYG are packaged with a graphics programme, animator, personal server, canned royalty free artwork & clipart -- a home-based hobbyist can develop a $500 site to a reasonable degree of certainty.

In reality this same person has little overhead and quite a comfortable buisness.

As you move futher away from this business model - a storefront, rent, insurance employees (with degrees in design), more robust programmes, more expertise and knowledge it understandable that there is a mark increase in fees.

Web sites $100 - $100 million and the more specialized you are, and the more niche your target, the greater the fees.

What will the market bear?

This is really the question - a single company is not a market, thus should you base fees on the financial resources of a specific client you should invest heavily on finding identical clients so the your pricepoint is consistent, particular if you don't advertise scalable designs.

A 20,000K job might seem like a cash cow... but only if repeated. One hit wonders are soon forgotten and defunct shortly after inception.


 8:18 am on Jan 24, 2003 (gmt 0)

>>Do laywers in general just not "get" how the web can help them?

i don't think it has anything to do with them being lawyers - it happens all over the world in all business sectors - it's the "freebie culture" - why pay someone to build you a website when you can build your own in frontpage?

2 ways to overcome this:
a) convince them with a lot of sales work - need to give good reasons for paying someone - give them good reasons why they should pay you more than the kid next door with a copy of frontpage
b) regulation by law - governments need to crack down on the internet to stop amateurs and cowboys "playing web design" - introduce qualifications, insist on compulsory membership of government run trade association, ensure all web designers / developers are registered as businesses and paying their taxes etc etc

you won't get b) but you might get a) if you put a lot of work in.

i do a) for e-commerce - like 101 reasons why they should pay my company to develop their e-commerce site. i make the pitch once, everything explained in plain english, no b*llsh*t. i either make the sale or i don't. if i don't. i walk. i never push for the sale, just move on to the next one - in fact, most of the info is on my sites so i don't even aproach them to make the sale, i let them read the info then come to me if they want to pay me. works well for me.


 1:10 pm on Jan 24, 2003 (gmt 0)

I was doing some "light" reading last night (The Law and Ethics of Lawyering). The limitations lawyers face is a question of state law without question.

However, there is a long-standing issue of lawyers not being allowed to advertise. The major changes to this issue have only come about between 1976 through 1988, and possibly after that. (I haven't finished reading yet.) ;) Still, where the law is concerned, this is all fairly recent legislation.

I think one of the reasons lawyers don't advertise more is that they just aren't in the practice of advertising. They have a long-standing tradition of not advertising. So, if only out of habit, they don't advertise as much as other businesses. They are simply used to getting most of their business through word-of-mouth advertising.

Also, many older attorneys don't want to "rock the boat". They don't want to be the ones to test the system to see if they can get away with doing something unique. They're waiting to see how it goes for the trend-setters, so to speak. They don't want to be the first to (potentially) get themselves disbarred.

I believe that part of the problem is that we're fighting against age-old traditions. Some lawyers can be very stubborn about traditions, and I don't just mean the older ones!


 7:11 pm on Jan 24, 2003 (gmt 0)

I am in the midst of selling seo to a lawyer right now. For years, he had one simple 5 page website and never did anything with it. Over the last year, 2 of his competitors recently went wild putting up 7 and 8 sites under different names, taking over 80% of the real estate on page 1, 2, and 3 between the two of them. They practice a small specialized kind of law, and have become fiercely competitive. His site first shows up around page 8!

This lawyer is willing to spend whatever it takes to get to the top of the search engines. (The backstory on this is covered in another thread). But the incentive did not come from any sense of marketing or that the web can bring in new clients. In fact, he knows so little about the internet that I spend much of my time explaining rudimentary concepts to him.

I'm not saying this is always the case with lawyers, but I think it is common. I have worked in many law offices (in a different field) and have noticed they are slow to change, and have a pitiful sense of marketing.

I do think the laws restricting them on soliciting clients is a big part of it, so they tend to depend on referrals. But I am really interested in this thread, since I've always considered lawyers a different animal when it comes to marketing.



 7:23 pm on Jan 24, 2003 (gmt 0)

In fact, he knows so little about the internet that I spend much of my time explaining rudimentary concepts to him.

I'm not saying this is always the case with lawyers, but I think it is common. I have worked in many law offices (in a different field) and have noticed they are slow to change, and have a pitiful sense of marketing.

I do think the laws restricting them on soliciting clients is a big part of it, so they tend to depend on referrals. But I am really interested in this thread, since I've always considered lawyers a different animal when it comes to marketing.

This is generally the same all over. Most people are experts in their chosen fields, and know little of other fields, thus can be guided down the wrong road simply because - they do not have, what we believe, know & understand in our chosen field - common knowledge.

[edited by: fathom at 8:50 pm (utc) on Jan. 24, 2003]


 8:36 pm on Jan 24, 2003 (gmt 0)

Realistically, the needs of a law firm aren't much different from any other company's needs. It should be a simple matter of laying everything out for them. Unfortunately, it's not that simple in reality.

I think part of the problem, too, is that the contact person is an attorney/partner and, therefore, an exteremely busy individual. S/He needs have billable hours in most cases so s/he can get paid. It may be that s/he really wants the site designed, but is having difficulty justifying the time that needs to be spent to get the job done.


 9:12 pm on Jan 24, 2003 (gmt 0)

I think part of the problem, too, is that the contact person is an attorney/partner and, therefore, an exteremely busy individual

This comment brings to light the glaring reality that attorneys just don't hire marketing people. Software companies, soda pop manufacturers, Hospitals, Insurance companies, even architects and race car drivers - have marketing personnel. I don't think I have ever met an attorney with a head of Marketing for the law firm :)



 9:33 pm on Jan 24, 2003 (gmt 0)

In the firm I worked for in Wisconsin, they hired their former receptionist to do all their marketing. :o


 9:51 pm on Jan 24, 2003 (gmt 0)

Well, at least they hired someone. What sort of things did she do?


Undead Hunter

 11:22 pm on Jan 24, 2003 (gmt 0)

Hi folks:

Thanks for your comments and thoughts. I did some more research, and I've been surfing around some sites "awarded" by Internet Marketing Attorney .com --- there are definite some big firms who do "get it", as their awarded sites, + their "nifty 50" do show.

Mardi_Gras, if you look at some of the sites listed above, a web site can absolutely support corporate law clients: I found several that offer email bulletins on the latest changes in laws that would affect corporate sectors - and that's just one example.

Or personal injury claims? You can have a few pages describing cases that the firm has won, you can provide an online form for potential clients to submit to their prospect attorney - and that would save both sides time and money. (That's a variation on what this client of ours wants to do, and sees value in.)

The ROI is definitely there. I do agree these people are generally too busy to consider it. Education will be the key. *sigh* Lecture circuit, anyone? I see legal conventions in my future...

Oh, Syren - JMBishop was the user doing well, $500 was his initial price point, but darned if I can remember what thread it was?


 12:59 am on Jan 25, 2003 (gmt 0)

Mardi_Gras -
She actually wasn't bad, considering she didn't have a marketing degree. She got them to put together portfolio brochures for new and prospective clients, gifts like mugs and pens, even got them to update their website and change the firm's image. I was pretty surprised. She's done a really good job, although I had my doubts when they first promoted her to the job. ;)

Thanks, Undead Hunter. I'll see if I can find the thread you mentioned.

The possibilities are definitely there, but the problem is that it seems the big design firms get the large corporate jobs. Who's getting the smaller and mid-sized firms? They're the hardest, it seems, and there are more of them out there than any other type of firm.


 8:32 pm on Jan 27, 2003 (gmt 0)

This is a link to the thread where I mentioned targeting law firms as clients.


My main focus isn't just on website creation for attorneys but also on developing tools that can be used by attorneys. Because these, once they are developed take very little time to install and maintain.

These can be applications you create from the ground up or scripts you download and modify or simply market with a slant towards the legal community.

I also have narrowed my niche within the legal community. I primarily focus on Family Law which deals with divorce, custody, child-support issues. I am currently though doing some work in the area of trust-planning and will creation.

Hope this helps...


 8:53 pm on Jan 27, 2003 (gmt 0)

Thanks, jmbishop. I found the thread the other night. You've got some great ideas and sounds like lawyers have been good to you.

Hosting the sites for the attorneys is an idea my husband had suggested to me. I'm not sure if getting involved with reselling is a good idea at the moment, so I'm looking for other ways to get my nose in the door. I'm hoping it'll help that I'm a former legal secretary. ;) At least I know who and what I'll be dealing with as far as workload, general personality traits, deadline conflicts due to trials, discovery requirements, etc.

Any other insight you'd like to share with others who'd like to help a few lawyers part with their money? ;)


 9:25 pm on Jan 27, 2003 (gmt 0)

Anything you want to know I'll try to answer. Because as mentioned in an earlier post; there are plenty of lawfirms to go around.

I generally target firms with 4-10 attorneys. Generally because they are big enough that you know you will get paid if they can keep that many attorneys and the supporting paralegals, office assistants on staff but also because they are small enough that your ideas and design don't have to go through a committee or be signed off on by every partner.

Regarding advertising. The only advertising I do is an ad every quarter in the state Bar Association magazine. This is the most targeted advertising you will find as every attorney in the state is required to be a member of The Bar and as a result get the subscription automatically. Not all states have Bar Association magazines but almost all will at least offer a quarterly newsletter you can advertise in.

Your main competition is going to be major legal websites like findlaw.com and lawyers.com because they can offer listings in their database and other perks. But they generally do just simple brochure style web design. So the trick is to find a online application that your attorney can benefit from. It could be something as simple as a mailing list program or an online poll to a complete document management system.

I also can't stress the hosting enough. Go to [superpages.com...] and just look at the number of people using Verizon's page builder system. I think the last time I looked they charged $149 a month for their top package. This is incredibly high for what they actually get at the end of the day. You could easily beat those prices.

Any other questions, let me know.



 12:46 am on Jan 28, 2003 (gmt 0)


1. Do you think it is wise for a law firm to have multiple sites for various types of law they practice, or best to cover all aspects of the practice on one site?
2. Would you say that website marketing efforts should primarily target their geographical region?
3. What is your opinion of on-line chat rooms where a potential client can chat live with an attorney or paralegal?


Undead Hunter

 1:17 am on Jan 28, 2003 (gmt 0)

I can offer some insight in this from our research, and from talking to my friend in the business:

1. Do you think it is wise for a law firm to have multiple sites for various types of law they practice, or best to cover all aspects of the practice on one site?

- they should list everything with basic contact info, but for maximum ROI they should *target only their most profitable clientele online*. Why? Because what scares serious laywers the most isn't getting nothing from the web, its getting a flood of useless clients! My friend the civil lawyer doesn't want people contacting him because their stubbed their toe on a doorstep - he wants clients with a serious injury and a serious case of neglegence on the part of the other party. Or they may get a lot of people wanting to do wills - which are basically a "loss leader" as my friend put it. The firm I'm looking at would rather put the time into getting 1 $10,000 case vs. 100 x $100 cases.

2. Would you say that website marketing efforts should primarily target their geographical region?

- as appropriate to the business. Divorce has to happen locally in most states (I think?) Other family law would generally be the same... Local firms can benefit because it can be used as a place to introduce the firm to people in full color, with as much info as they please, and they can even make it easy for them to contact them right there with email, etc. Would you believe this firm doesn't even have a brochure made up yet? 35 years in business, too.

The firm we're looking at has a strong local base, but one of their partners does business throughout the state with his part of the practice. So, various parts of the firm would be marketed in different areas.

3. What is your opinion of on-line chat rooms where a potential client can chat live with an attorney or paralegal?

- after doing a "best practices" look of the top 50 law firm web sites, I'd have to say this is a very cool feature, one that several of the biggest firms use - but a costly and possibly dangerous one in terms of giving out advise. Again, the concept unnerved my friend, and he's a young, hip guy. He thinks it's costly to staff, and time-consuming in a place already crunched seriously for time.

It's probably most appropriate for the biggest firms with the largest reach... for example one of the biggest immigration law firms has this feature upfront, and that makes sense (its a competitive market that's not just national but international in scope): saves people's phone bills from other countries, if nothing else! I would think it would also be very useful for firms looking to add plaintiffs to major class action suits. Still, while it may be too much for a local lawyer, it's easy enough (cheap enough from a software perspective) to impliment on almost any size client, and there's various PHP scripts to do it.

I plan to mention this in my upcoming pitch meeting, but I don't plan to work an estimate in. Just a one-off mention to get them thinking about it, show that I've done my research. ;)

(edited to remove the pre formatting that was stretching it across the page)


 4:21 am on Jan 28, 2003 (gmt 0)

Thanks Undead_Hunter. Very helpful indeed :)


 5:38 pm on Jan 28, 2003 (gmt 0)

I agree with Undead_Hunter on most of these issues with the following added;

1. Do you think it is wise for a law firm to have multiple sites for various types of law they practice, or best to cover all aspects of the practice on one site?

I think it's best just to maintain the one website. If proper keywords are used in the META tags there shouldn't be a problem with the clients being able to locate the site. Most of the clients that use the websites I've built already know the attorney they are just using the attorney website to find more info or to submit information or forms. If I did a search on an attorney and was returned with multiple website addresses for the same attorney I might get the impression that they were working on volume and were more interested in quick turn-arounds than learning the merits of my case.

2. Would you say that website marketing efforts should primarily target their geographical region?

Yes, most attorneys are only licensed to practice law in one state, possibly two depending on the type of practice they are in. So this isn't really an issue. However, as Undead mentioned there are exceptions such as immigration. I'm currently working on a site for an attorney that specializes in trust-planning which he can do nationwide.

3. What is your opinion of on-line chat rooms where a potential client can chat live with an attorney or paralegal?

This is actually one of the products I offer but it is more a peer to peer application rather than an open chat room. Similar to LivePerson or other CMR tools. Some of the attorneys that use this love it because it allows them to interact not only with clients but their staff as well while they are in court. Others though don't use it that much and prefere to use the phone but are glad they have the tool available. Regarding getting useless messages the settings can generally be set to "away" so if they don't want to entertain someone they simply turn it off.


 6:23 pm on Feb 6, 2003 (gmt 0)

not to sound like a jerk... and it's also my first post...

but here goes - i wouldn't even do a site for a lawyer.

you know why?

because they are the cheapest SOB's on the face of the planet. i'm working for a company that sells software to law firms. i'll say this - their IT staff are the poorest class techs i've ever seen because they pay their IT staff very poorly... and they are all like this. they all get paid very little.

they find legal ways to not pay you at the slightest chance that somethings is broke (keep all you orgininal bills etc...)

they intimidate

a lawyer sees that someone charges this, and they think every webmaster should charge the same. hey, hyndai is car... altough they all see the value in a mercedes...

i saw a thread about what webmaster should charge, and people are commenting about "chargeable time"... HA HA HA

you can't even look at a lawyer w/o getting a bill.

let me spell it out for everyone



 6:31 pm on Feb 6, 2003 (gmt 0)


The attorney I am currently doing seo for is one of the most generous clients I have. Recently I had to do some extra work that was not covered by our initial contract. Before I had the opportunity to tell him to expect a bill for it, he asked me to be sure and bill him for it...first time I ever heard that! I'll agree that in some cases, your comments are true...as they are in any industry :)


 6:50 pm on Feb 6, 2003 (gmt 0)

skattabrain - Welcome to WebmasterWorld.

I've worked for several law firms over the last several years, both as a temporary and a regular employee. Having received some extremely generous Christmas bonuses, I can assure they are not all tight-fisted. :)

Undead Hunter

 7:49 pm on Feb 6, 2003 (gmt 0)

Hi Skatta:

Yeah, I hear you and your concerns: lawyers have a bad rap. But there are always exceptions. I've worked with one guy for all 6 years we've been in business: he was one of my first clients. And we've never had a written contract, either. And never a hint of a dispute.

In fact, lawyers who *have* a basic understanding of the web are the easiest "sell" in terms of cost (as I'm finding out now, vs. when I first started this thread) because like us, "the only thing they have to sell is knowledge". Use their own language and metaphors back on them, present yourself as professionally as possible, and you'll connect.

For an excellent insight into the most modern thinking law firms, pick up a copy of Milton Zwicker's "Managing A Successful Law Firm". Then find some lawyers with a copy of it on their shelves, and you've got a deal... :)


 1:51 pm on Feb 7, 2003 (gmt 0)

good to know that others haven't had my bad experiences.

although i must admit, the bad experiences were not my web customers but my day job's customers.


 4:16 am on Feb 9, 2003 (gmt 0)

I have never had a problem charging lawyers with their own rates based on nothing but my knowledge. I got to love them for that, and nothing but.

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