August 6, 2011 was the twentieth birthday of the first website being launched. For the hundreds of millions of hourly web users across the world, the day came and went without so much as a piece of cake or a candle. As Mark Giangrande noted in his August 10 Law Librarians Blog post, the anniversary “didn’t have enough impact to justify a Google doodle.”
Tim Berners-Lee, a physicist or engineer at CERN, the European organization for nuclear research, started the “WorldWideWeb Project” in 1989. I believe that the first known law firm website was Greg Siskind’s VisaLaw site that he launched in June 1994, although, according to Wikipedia, Heller Ehrman launched the first law firm website in 1994 (no month noted). Heller Ehrman is gone, but visalaw.com is alive and growing with more than 1 million hits per week from 150 countries. If not the first law firm website, Visalaw.com was the first immigration site – and likely the first “boutique” or specialty practice website on the Internet at the time.
Greg Siskind wrote the ABA’s first book about the Internet, called “The Lawyer’s Guide to Marketing on the Internet, published in the late 1990s. Greg, Rick Klau and I co-authored the second and third editions of this book, the latest being published in 2007 (and we’re pleased to say, it’s still selling).
Am I feeling sentimental about this anniversary? A little. What strikes me is how astoundingly far the web industry has come in these few years – especially with the now-ubiquitous Smart Phones – yet how many law firms are still doing the equivalent of tipping their toes in the water.
Content Pilot publishes a new list of Law Firm Website Ten Foundational Best Practices each year, a list of attributes that we started in 2005. These are must-have characteristics and functionality, not the late-breaking, trendiest features that would only be embraced by early adopters. In 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2010 we analyzed the AmLaw 100 websites, based on these Ten Foundational Best Practices. The last research we conducted was in the fall of 2010 – I’ve posted about the results several times on this blog. Read more about the results here:
Given the following breakdown of total scores, America’s largest law firms have a long way to go to fully exploit this now-twenty year old web.
Remember, these are foundational best practices. Here is how the AmLaw 100 scored:
- Excellent – a score of 86-100. 1% (One law firm)
- Good – a score of 71-85. 52% (52 law firms)
- Fair – a score of 51-70. 46%
- Poor – a score of 26-50 – 1%
- Unacceptable – a score of 0-25. 0%
As we enjoy the dog days of summer and anticipate fall budgeting, take a fresh look at your website and how you can make it more compelling and consistent, and how you can create messages and stories about your firm that are more dynamic, relevant and engaging.
The tools are all there.
If you are planning a site refresh or redesign, consider a Ten Foundational Best Practices audit of your website. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 214.351.9690. You’ll have a detailed roadmap for practical and actionable improvement – a critical first step in your planning process.