Setting up your own business as a solo lawyer is alternately exciting and overwhelming. No question.
After 15 combined years working with many small, solo business owners from lawyers, personal stylists, wedding florists and accountants to academics and consultants who want to sell books and do speaking gigs, we know how much work it is to branch out on your own, especially in the online space.
You’re bombarded with advice – including from us. With exclamation points! You NEED Google Ads! You MUST buy this SEO package NOW! If you’re not on INSTAGRAM, you’re doing it all wrong!
Where do you even start?
We’re all about simplifying this process. Here’s the first thing we recommend: Quit trying to learn it all.
Instead, start with your ‘gut feelings.’
Seriously. Slow down for a week and do some simple research on what other solo lawyers are doing. Take just 20 to 30 minutes each day to do this research.
(Or if you’re an all-at-once type of person, set aside 3 hours – with time for breaks.)
Before you begin your research, remember: pay attention to your likes and dislikes, stay focused and avoid the ‘rabbit hole’ of advice that may or may not be relevant to you.
What you’ll need:
- A laptop/computer (or even smart phone, but ouch on the eyes).
- A pencil and notebook.
- A timer – seriously, say NO to rabbit holes! Set it for 20 or 30 minutes and stop when it goes off.
Got 5 days or a 3 hour stretch? Let’s get started.
Day 1 – Pick 3 solo attorney law firm sites.
Choose at least 2 in your field and 1 in another field of law. Pick lawyers that aren’t in your city, so you’re not researching your direct competition. Make sure you choose law firm websites with a team of 1 or 2 people, max.
If you have time, do a quick glance through their website. Write down any initial impressions about their websites in your notebook.
Find relevant law websites on these review sites:
Day 2 – Go through each website and note down how many pages they have (that you can find easily).
What information is on each page? Ask yourself these questions:
- Do they just have a 1-page website – essentially a landing page with basic contact details – or do they have several pages on their site?
- What information do they put on their contact page? Is it easy to get in touch with this lawyer?
- Do they have a blog? Is it current? (And can you tell if it’s current?)
- What information do they have in their footer?
- How many ways can a lead get in touch with them?
- Is there a phone number up top in the navigation, or is there a ‘Contact’ button?
- Have they installed a chat bot?
- Do you have to fill in a contact form? Where is the contact form? On a contact page? On the homepage? Both?
- If they have a services page, what information do they have on that page? Does it look like a menu? Does each service have a description?
- What’s on their About page? Does it read like a resume? Is it conversational?
Note down anything else that you like or don’t like about their websites related to the text. Imagine you’re a potential client with a specific problem (and the stress that goes with it). Note whether it’s easy or difficult to find the information you need.
In this process, you’re not looking at fonts, colours or imagery. What’s important is the text, the navigation and flow from one page to another, and how easy it is to contact the lawyer.
Day 3 – Do the websites of the 3 lawyers you’ve researched help their business? (And is this easy for you to figure out?)
Does the website act like a personal assistant? Is it easy for people to get in touch? Do you think the lawyer’s ideal clients can recognize themselves in the copy? Does the copy encourage the ideal clients to trust and feel comfortable with the lawyer?
Write down your observations in your notebook.
In your opinion, how does each of these websites fit in with the lawyers’ overall business goals?
With this in mind, how will your future website help your new solo practice? What does that look like to you?
Much of this depends on how you currently get clients – or how you expect you’ll get clients.
Do you get most of your current clients from referrals and word of mouth? Or from networking with other lawyers at cocktail parties? Or thanks to fantastic Yelp or Avvo reviews?
Perhaps you want your website to help potential clients verify that you’re the right lawyer to work with.
If you get too many referrals that aren’t quite right, think about why that is and whether or not your website can help folks realize that you’re NOT the right lawyer for them.
If your website helps you cut down on these dead end inquiries, you’ll save yourself time and energy replying to emails or phone calls.
When you’re just starting out, it’s usually all on you to handle the flood of leads. You’ll want your website to do the job of filtering out the wrong leads so you’re not spending time replying with a “No, sorry, I can’t help you.”
Day 4 – Check out the social media of the 3 lawyers you’re researching.
Note whether or not they have an social media presence for their law practice.
Do they link to their social on their website? If yes, where? Which social media? Write that down.
Some lawyers link to review sites like Yelp, but we’re strictly looking at their own social media, not user-generated testimonials and reviews. So skip those.
If it’s obvious who their ideal clients are, does their social media speak to that audience or are they sharing articles, videos and posts that appeal to their peers?
If none of the websites you’ve chosen link to social media, reflect on why that might be.
Here are two examples of social media presences from our past Squarespace Design in a Day ™ law clients:
Day 5 – Find out what website platform or content management system the 3 lawyers are using.
All you have to do is plug their website address into BuiltWith, then scroll down to the ‘Content Management System’ section.
There you’ll find out if the site is hosted on Squarespace, Wix, WordPress or on another platform.
If you like the look, feel and flow of a website you’ve been researching, then this gives you a jumping off point for your tech research.
Once your 5 days (or 3 hours) of quick, focused research is up, think about how your website can help your new legal business.
Imagine your website is a ‘personal assistant’ who will help your business grow by attracting the right leads and making it easy for them to contact you.
If you don’t have a website yet (or your website is a simple landing page with a ‘contact me’ button only) pay attention to how folks are finding you right now and what questions they’re asking you in emails and on the phone.
Listen to your ‘gut’ – What do you like about your current process? What’s working well? And – what’s bothering you about your process? What’s wasting time?
Keep track of this in your notebook.
When you’re ready to set up your own legal website – whether on Squarespace or another platform – the answers to these questions will help guide you in what information you should include on your Home, About and Contact pages. This research will help you determine which social media to use and how to write a good legal social media bio, so that the leads you want to work with will reach out.