7 Key Tests in Choosing your Web Site Firm

June 30, 2002

Most legal firms now have a Web site and are starting to evaluate the return on their investment. Broadly speaking there are two areas to look at:

  • Is your Internet strategy correct and realistic?
  • Is your implementation effective?

Both areas are crucially affected by the quality of your Web site firm who should advise you on options, and implement efficiently so that you can concentrate on serving clients and managing the business. One of the main reasons that legal firms are not benefiting from their investment in the Internet is that their Web site firm was chosen a few years ago, and the in-house knowledge of how to select the best firm to meet their needs was still being developed.

Many will be satisfied with their existing supplier, but in our experience a significant minority report that the relationship has not worked out with slow response time and cost over-runs the major issues. Based on our experience, here are 7 Key Questions to help you make the right choice.

1. Look for a company that combines technical skills and business experience

  • Your Web site should achieve business goals such as increasing sales, cutting costs and making it easier for your staff to communicate.
  • Your Web site firm needs to understand your firm, your customers and what’s important to them, so that your Web site engages your audience and motivates them to do business with you.

Ask: Do staff in the company have commercial as well as technical experience?

2. Look for a company that offers excellent customer service

  • You want to know that you won’t have to chase after the Web site firm to make sure new material has been updated, or that technical matters have been resolved.

Ask: Do you have an independent client survey?

3. Check that the Web site firm is committed to developing AND proactively updating your Web site

  • A Web site needs to be updated and maintained on a regular basis to give the best impression. You want a firm that acts promptly and which, if required can be proactive in helping you to solicit relevant material from your firm and others.

Ask : Will your account be handled by the person who you’re speaking with, or will it be passed later to a ‘backroom’


4. Make sure the firm has a proven track record and a good portfolio

  • Look at other Web sites created or managed by the firm, and consider if the sites are (a) easy to use and (b) have a visual style that might appeal to you.

Ask: Can we look at other sites created by the firm?

5. Look for a company with both a breadth as well as depth of skills

  • To maximise the value of your investment you need people who understand a range of technologies so for example you can link your database to the Web site if that is a benefit for your customers or staff.

Ask: Which sites have you worked on that let customers or staff access internal records with a password?

6. Make sure the firm can deliver work on target, in budget and to specification

  • Delivering a Web site requires good project management skills, otherwise you’ll end up paying more for a Web site that takes much longer than you planned.

Ask: Will the firm give you a project schedule with estimated completion dates so you can check progress?

7. Ensure that you will enjoy working and feel comfortable with the Web site firm staff

  • As your Web site develops you’ll be working with and relying closely on the staff at the Web site firm. You should feel happy to communicate with them on any aspect of your Web site that matters to you, and they should share your enthusiasm to use this powerful medium to its maximum.

Ask: Would we be happy if the Web site staff were representing our business to potential clients? Are they ‘our type of


Other Factors

Other matters to consider when selecting your Web site firm include the following:

  • Keep your IP rights – In case things go wrong make sure that in your contract you retain the IP rights to the Web site domain name, should it be originally registered by your supplier. This precaution is particularly appropriate if you decide to change supplier at a later date.
  • Costs – A basic Web site which has all the information that you need to communicate to potential clients will cost between £1,500 and £3,000 from a reasonably established firm. A more advanced Web site with extra functions, such as a content search facility, will cost £3,000 to £8,000. A yet more advanced Web site that offers selected clients and partner organisations access to your internal database, so that clients can check up on progress on their case, or access your billing system – or one that allows you to start selling legal services online – will cost from £8,000 to £20,000.
  • Updating – Web sites are dynamic systems and you’ll want to update them. Find out how much the Web site firm will charge to update information you supply to them. Costs should vary from £500 per year if you change very little, to £2,000 per year if you’re planning to add a lot of new content. Or you can ask the Web site firm to construct an in-house content management system that allows you to update the site yourself, which can be more cost-effective once staff have been trained. (If you choose this option you’ll save money, but your staff will have to learn how to use the system, and they’ll have to allocate enough time on a regular basis to keep your Web site current.)

Legal firms who build solid partnerships with the right Web site firm will start to pull away from the competition in winning more business from existing and new clients, and increasing the productivity of their staff. n

James Tuke is Marketing Director of Intendance, a Web site firm that builds and develops Web sites with a special focus on professional services firms. The firm has published two free reports “Solicitors Web sites: Who’s Winning and Why?” and “Barrister Web sites: Who’s Winning and Why?”. For more information please call James on 0208-7885604, e-mail mailto:james.tuke@intendance.comor visit www.intendance.com