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If You Build a Web Site,

Will They Come?
by Barbara Lewis MBA and Dan Otto MBA

While an increasing number of law firms continue to design and develop Web sites, the real question is whether or not these sites can accomplish their goals, which for many is to generate new clients. Although a few years ago the answer to that question was ambiguous, today an increasing amount of evidence points to the fact that law firms, including very large law firms, are able to generate new clients from their Web sites. Oftentimes, these clients are very large companies, as well as individuals.

In a technology seminar hosted by the American Bar Association at their mid-year meeting in Los Angeles, Gregory Siskind, who has had a web site since 1994, talked about the advantages of his Web site. Starting as a solo practitioner in 1994, with no clients and no business, he has grown his firm to nearly 20 attorneys throughout the country with about 6 offices. He attributes this strong growth solely to his presence on the Internet.

Siskind began his introduction to the Internet by reading an electronic bulletin board in his area of specialty, immigration law, and answering questions. He was able to obtain a number of clients throughout the United States and thought that the Internet might be a good way to grow his practice.

He designed his web site, which can be reached at www.visalaw.com, with the following six objectives:

  1. Potential clients.

    Although Siskind started five years ago with just individual clients, today his client list includes Fortune 500 companies who found him through the Internet and were impressed with his Web site.

  2. Current clients

    Siskind’s goal was to communicate with current clients. He designed his site so that clients could access information through the Internet and find out the status of their cases, as well as educational information, which might interest them.

  3. Government and Court Officials

Another objective for the Web site is to disseminate information to government and court officials before they are actually aware of the data that is available. This became a more recent goal when Siskind discovered that his site contained valuable information that is not readily available elsewhere. Today both government and court personnel call him with information that they think is relevant to site visitors…an added advantage that he never considered when first building the site. He carefully tracks anything that is going on in Congress and last year when there was a debate about capping the number of HB1 visas, the traffic on his Web site tripled each day the debate continued.

4. Attorneys

An important objective is to let other attorneys know about his practice so that they could refer business to him.

  1. Media

Another objective that became evident was to help reporters understand more about immigration law. Siskind is widely quoted in periodicals throughout the country.

6. Education

And the final objective was to educate attorneys and paralegals in his office, as well those in other law firms.

In looking at his site, you can see the reasons why traffic is currently about 30,000 hits a month. The site is heavy in content with information about immigration, in general, and links to other sites that are relevant to immigrants. He has an area for immigration law books, where books can be ordered from the Internet via his site. In addition to the traditional information about the firm and lawyer biographies, his site contains INS forms that can be downloaded. Purportedly, he was the first immigration attorney to work with the INS to develop forms through the use of the Acrobat software, so that users could download and fill out the forms directly on their computers.

He has an area that talks about what’s new with the site, so that if you access the site on a regular basis you will be constantly updated. He also has an e-mail response card. When filled out, you will automatically receive his newsletter. The newsletter began five years ago as just a few pages, but today contains as many as 50 pages.

Siskind devotes 100 percent of his time to maintaining and updating   the web site.  In the near future, he says the site will include advertising, which will generate revenue.

He continues to maintain an electronic bulletin board and may have as many as three or four hundred questions that are posted daily. Every day, with the help of his other attorneys and paralegals in the firm, he goes on-line to answer a number of the questions.

Siskind’s site is probably one of the best and most dramatic examples of a successful law firm Web site.

The way that we do business is changing rapidly. The firms that are prepared to develop and maintain Web sites will find their practice changing dramatically and, if Siskind is any indication, growing as well.

If you would like assistance putting together a Web site, please contact Centurion Consulting Group.

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