By Anna Johansson • March 01, 2018•Careers
In the competition that is big law, women are more likely than men to opt out and enter independent practice – and there are plenty of reasons for that. First, sexism is still a serious barrier to women’s inclusion in major firms and second, for those invested in maintaining work-life balance, independent practice is the place to be. If you’re going to break off from an established practice, though, you’re going to need to build your own online presence.
Building your professional online presence isn’t easy, but luckily, plenty of lawyers have been there before. Take a few cues from their experiences and start making a name for yourself.
Claim Your Name
A great website starts with a great domain name. If you don’t choose an appropriate name, or select one that’s too hard to spell or remember, clients won’t come to you. So think hard about your domain name and then buy it – don’t opt for the free subdomain. You’re a lawyer and can afford to spend a few dollars on a domain and hosting. It’ll pay for itself in a single consulting session.
What do you do about choosing a domain if you have a hard to spell name or can’t settle on the right domain name? Domains are inexpensive and you can set alternative spellings to a redirect so they all go to your main page. It’s a less expensive option than losing clients to spelling errors.
Keep It Simple
Being a lawyer isn’t like selling cars or accessories; people aren’t interested in flashy websites and animations. Rather, your professional website should be simple and clean with clear content outlining your practice area, testimonials, and a contact page. The color scheme should be muted and restricted, and your blog can help you position yourself as a thought leader, even though you don’t have a large firm’s reputation behind you.
Though there are plenty of easy to use site builders online, this is your career that’s on the line, so it’s best to get professional help designing your page. As SEO consultant Aaron Rains notes, “When building your website, you’re the content expert but you’ll need consultant support to identify potential SEO penalties and maximize ROI.” This support will help clients find you easily and truly make your website worth the investment.
Social media is a touchy subject in the legal perspective, but it can also help you connect with clients more effectively than a website alone. The problem comes when mixing business and personal content. For example, when you work for an established firm, you can be fired for inappropriate social media posts. Obviously, you can’t fire yourself when you’re in private practice, but you can damage your reputation by posting off-putting or unprofessional content on public accounts.
One way to boost your profile without struggling with the blurred lines common to traditional social media is by making a profile on Avvo instead. Avvo is a law-specific directory and offers many of the same advantages of a full website, but doesn’t require potential clients to know who you are already. They can peruse profiles, read reviews, and choose a local lawyer. It’s an ideal middle-ground to mainstream social media and more reputable, as well.
It can be scary going out on your own as an independent lawyer, but the internet has given you the tools to do it effectively, building a client base via a polished website. You aren’t beholden to the institutional support of Big Law.