In February of 2017 I got a tweet in the middle of the night congratulating me on my firm’s website making the Lawyerist 10 Best Law Firm Websites of 2017. I was completely surprised and delighted.
Unlike a lot of law firm websites, I didn’t spend thousands and thousands of dollars, and I didn’t hire a company to do the whole thing from start to finish. That’s because I didn’t want a website like most other law firms’ sites. We all know what they look like – minimal graphics, one headshot for the attorney, and a whole lotta beige. I wanted a website that actually conveyed my personality and spoke directly to my ideal clients. So, that’s what I made.
Do you want to do the same? Read on to find out how I created my website.
Coming up with the vision
I wanted my website to reflect my personality and my values, and I think I can do that better than anyone else (plus, I’m pretty techie for an attorney!). But a big factor in deciding to do it myself is that I really enjoy branding, marketing, and design. I’m a total entrepreneur at heart. Before even before getting a start on the website itself, I did a lot of thinking and planning and testing and searching to find what kind of a message I wanted to send and how I could do that.
If you’re like me and want to do this thing yourself, there’s no sense in reinventing the wheel. Look at a bunch of other sites to figure out what kinds of things you like and will work for you. Find something you like and try and make your own version.
Working with a web developer
I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted my website to look like, but I knew I couldn’t do it alone. I think it’s really important to know what you can do yourself and what you should delegate to an expert. Coding is beyond me, and I didn’t think it was worth it for me to learn. So, I found someone to help me.
I worked with a web developer named Chris Ryan, and I still work with him on updates and add-ons to my current site. Chris is a freelancer, so the first step was to write a project brief. I basically wrote up what I wanted out of the site, my budget and timeline, and so on. (You can find a ton of sample project briefs for web development online if you’re new to hiring a freelancer.)
I knew I wanted a single navigation theme (the kind where you just keep scrolling and scrolling, not where you have a bunch of dropdown menus), and I looked around on ThemeForest to find possible WordPress themes. He and I went back and forth over emails, trying to nail down a theme that fit my needs for the site.
Once we figured that out, we worked on developing the actual space. Chris hosted a private test site on his end where he could try to implement the vision I had in my head. I would describe an element I wanted, and he would make it and send me screenshots. We went back and forth slowly as he built the site, which gave me control over each step in the process. This went on for weeks, mostly because I was still doing client work – I’m sure Chris could have finished it up much quicker than that!
Creating the content
This is the fun part (although to be honest, I thought all of it was pretty fun ?). As I’ve said, it’s really important to me that Birken Law’s website reflects who I am and what my values are. I put together the branding, media, and copy to try to represent me and to appeal to the clients I want to have. Seth Godin talks about how you should market to the smallest group possible. The content or your page should reflect the kind of person that you want to attract, right? So, don’t try to appeal to everybody.
My website isn’t trying to reach every non-profit under the sun. People in higher ed or big hospitals are not going to hire me. The people that want to hire me are entrepreneurial, they’re staring something. Or they’re growing something. They want to make a change in the world right now. They want to connect with someone who is a real person and not a big corporate entity. So, I poured my real self and my real personality into the content of Birken Law’s site. Clients know if they’re part of my tribe when they look at my site because I’m aiming at that small group. I can’t please everyone, and I wouldn’t want to.
I did the branding of Birken Law on my own, with the help of this company called Tailor Brands. You start with creating a logo, and you can get a bunch of other branded materials from there. Essentially, you’ll answer a few questions, write a sentence or two about your company, look at a bunch of fonts, and pick things you like and don’t like. Their algorithm spits out seven or eight different logos for you to choose from. Then you can just keep doing that over and over again until you find something that you like.
I found my logo that way, and then I made decisions on colors, fonts, and so on for the rest of the site. Choosing those elements matters, but you don’t need to break the bank to do it. By the way, I chose hot pink not because I’m into that color but because it says something about what kind of lawyer I am, I’m different. What will your branding say about you?
Photos and Video
Having good photos is super important. I worked with this photographer named Kelly Loverud. I found him because I work with the Minneapolis Beard and Moustache Club. Kelly took all these really cool, artsy portraits for them, so I got his info and worked with him on the photos of me (again, branding…I’m not your average corporate headshot). See something you like, find a way to make it your own. And I can’t stress this enough, you may not understand what your actual brand identity is. Let’s face it, lawyers aren’t usually into this stuff. That’s ok, you can get help figuring that out!
Google really likes it when there’s a video on your website, too. That’s definitely one reason to have video. But another is it also makes you seem like a real person. Having a video on my homepage gives potential clients yet another way to get a sense of me as a person. It helps them decide whether they want to get to know me.
I worked with a phenomenal videographer named Gordon Bird on that video, he had a package deal that was under 1k. You don’t have to blow 10 grand and have some big production crew. I work with non-profits, right? I’m not in the most lucrative area of law, and we still made something that I’m really proud of.
Photos and video are obviously really important to the final product, but they don’t have to be super intimidating or super expensive. They do need to be well done and not put the viewer to sleep. So get good help. Make sure the person helping you makes quality videos that are engaging.
I think a lot of people are intimidated by writing copy. And, I think a lot of lawyers write like lawyers 100% of the time. Copy that sounds super formal and lawyerly wouldn’t really fit with the vibe of the rest of my website, so that’s not how I wrote it. Pssst, let me tell you a secret: nobody wants to read your lawyer speak. So if you haven’t heard your real human voice in working since before law school you might want to get help with writing the text.
When I was starting the site, I knew the About Me page and the Home page were the most important. They’re like your calling card on the internet. So I spent the most time on those pages, making sure that the copy is speaking to my clients and not about why they should hire me.
If writing copy isn’t something you want to do, that would be another thing that you could easily work with someone else to get it written. Part of creating a great website is knowing what you can do and what you should outsource to others who know better!
So, is that all?
That’s the basic outline of how I created www.birkenlaw.com, yes. BUT, creating a website isn’t just a single project! Since then, I’ve added on new pages and content, fixed things that didn’t work, made the whole thing more accessible, and so much more. Maintaining a good website is an ongoing project, and it can grow with you as your practice grows.
Are you looking to redo your website and amp up your online presence? I can help with that! I really love learning about other lawyers’ practices and helping to find the best ways to bring them online. Book a consult, and we can get started on planning your new website!
Want to learn more? Check out this episode of the Lawyerist podcast!