Rather than starting with the question “how much should a law firm website cost?”, let’s consider the purpose of the website. If you’re simply looking to have a single page website that validates your existence as a business, then there are many low-cost or “free” options – Wix and Squarespace are both good options for those without coding or web design experience.
However, if you’re looking for website to be the cornerstone of your online presence, then you likely want to consider a more robust solution.
As an agency specializing in legal website design and development, we have this conversation with attorneys frequently. The truth is, website development is no different than many other services. You get what you pay for, and there will be a noticeable difference in a free templated website you build in an afternoon and a custom-built web experience.
One mistake we see many law firms make is viewing their website as a one-time project. Your website is one of your law firm’s most important business development drivers, so treating it as a marketing investment can help you set the right budget.
Realistically, a small to mid-size law firm website can cost anywhere from $3,000 to $80,000, or more, depending on level of customization and the assets that are used on the site. Keep in mind, even if you want to use a website software like Wix.com, you still need to have content developed. In this blog post, we’ll cover some of the services and features that are often included with a higher price tag on a website.
Consider the following two websites, both for criminal defense attorneys in Columbus, Ohio.
These photos illustrate the difference between legal website budgets. We may be a bit biased since we built the second one, but we think you’ll agree it has a more modern look and feel, high quality photography and technology that makes contacting the firm easy. Behind the scenes, a robust SEO strategy is in place.
You can build a website for your law firm with any budget. However, the cost difference is generally a product of service, functionality, custom design work, and SEO features. Let us elaborate.
As we mentioned earlier, a website is not a “set it and forget it” strategy. If you want your website to attract new clients to your firm (as it should,) ongoing maintenance and optimization is crucial. Often when you work with a team, you’ll get a higher level of service that you can rely on to keep your website running successfully. Your website should be an ongoing engagement, which means you will need to work it into your monthly budget.
Law firms who pay a one-time fee for someone to build their website without an ongoing engagement often run into problems. For example, if your website goes down, you need to be able to call someone who can assess and troubleshoot the situation quickly. If you don’t have an ongoing contract with whoever built your website, this can be difficult.
The other issue that often arises is access and the ability to update. We often work with law firms who cannot access their own website, so they’re unable to make updates when they’re needed, such as adding information about a new attorney or office location. In many cases, this ends up costing more in the long run, as firms have to start from scratch and rebuild a website.
An ongoing relationship with your website agency will get you access to reporting and analytics. This is absolutely vital to the success of your firm’s digital marketing efforts, and it’s not something you would get using a very basic website software.
It’s important to understand how your website is performing, audit for any technical issues and optimize accordingly. If you’re working with someone on your law firm website, it’s important to ensure these are included in the cost and you have a clear understanding of how monthly maintenance will occur.
Website trends are constantly changing, and you don’t want to give the impression that you’re behind the curve. With an ongoing relationship with your website provider, your website should stay at the forefront of design and technology trends.
Your website is often a potential client’s first impression of your law firm. While they’re researching your business, they’ve also likely got a few other browser tabs open with your competitors’ website. Their impression and experience will determine whether they’ll call you or the firm down the street.
A lot of law firm websites look the same. The more yours stands out, the more likely you are to appeal to potential clients as they’re researching law firms. The more you want to customize your website, the more it will cost.
To build a custom website, high quality photography is needed. You’ll need headshots at minimum, but a truly custom website often involves professional photoshoots of your attorneys in situations that depict your work, such as in courtrooms or meeting with clients. Video is also an extremely effective way to help potential clients get to know your law firm. Budget allowing, we always recommend that your law firm develops video for your website.
Custom design work also adds cost. This generally includes logo development, branding and helping your law firm choose color palettes that work well on the web and help you stand out.
If you’re okay with stock photography and a more templated solution, this can help keep your website development cost low. It’s important to understand that the more you customize a website, the higher the price tag will be. The end result will be a website that tells the unique story of your firm and allows clients to easily contact you, but a truly custom website isn’t feasible with a shoestring budget.
Not all websites are inherently SEO-friendly. If you want your website to appear in Google search results, you need to ensure your website’s CMS has the features you need. Many content management systems will tout their SEO capabilities, but these alone are not enough to ensure your website is poised for success.
It’s important that your website developer understands the ins and outs of SEO and can work with an SEO expert. What is your URL structure? How will you build XML sitemaps? Does your website follow Google’s guidelines on both desktop and mobile?
Web development and SEO are two different skillsets, so it’s not common for someone to have deep working knowledge of both. Some law firms will hire a web developer to keep costs low, and even if they are happy with the end result, the website does not have core technical and content components needed to rank well in search engines.
SEO is what helps give you a return on your investment. As your website gains visibility in Google, you will bring in more cases to your firm and increase your profitability. When SEO isn’t incorporated into your strategy, your website functions much like a digital brochure. It will receive very little traffic and won’t act as a means to bringing new business.
Most people expect to be able to visit a law firm website and easily contact the firm. These technology integrations are another differentiator between working with web developers and trying a DIY solution. When you work with an agency, they should know what technology integrations are important in the legal industry, such as Live Chat, contact forms, or client payment portals.
For a low budget, you can list your law firm’s contact information on your website. But what if someone calls after hours? Where do your email inquires go? In today’s world, people expect business websites to provide a fast and convenient way to contact you, and they don’t want to wait until the next business day for an answer. Some of the more advanced functionality that will set your legal website apart include:
The number of pages on your website will affect the overall cost. If your website is simply a homepage and a contact page, it’s unlikely to have strong SEO visibility, and your potential clients may not be satisfied with the lack of information provided.
Before a website is built, your team should have a content plan, based on your competition and the unique needs of your law firm. How many pages do you need? How many blog pieces should you be publishing each month? How are your potential clients searching for legal information and what content do you need to develop to address their needs?
This content strategy takes careful research by someone skilled in SEO, content marketing, and legal writing. This is often a portion of the total cost when you use an agency. When you use a free or low-cost website software, you’re not going to get any strategic planning or content support.
The other cost is the actual development of the content. Even if you want to write content yourself to save costs, it’s still a good idea for someone skilled in website writing and SEO reviews the content. At minimum, you should have a strategy and plan in place for the following pages:
Think of your firm’s website as an investment. Sure, your colleague’s son can build something while he’s home from college next summer, but that could end up costing you more in the long run.
It’s never smart to spring for a website you really cannot afford, but cutting too many corners could also hurt your business development efforts. It’s about balance, and there generally is no “one size fits all” solution. If you’d like to discuss a solution that will work for the unique needs of your legal practice, let’s talk.